Change is a given, teaching our kids how to manage it, is important

From birth it is important to allow our children periods of transitioning. Transitioning in this context is moving from one thing to the next. We as adults do it daily and usually fairly smoothly. We move from one activity to the next with very little thought as we power through our day. Infants and children are still learning how to do this. Very few people actually talk about this or even think about this as a skill to be acquired. However, just like learning to walk and talk, our kids need to learn how to transition from one activity to the next without experiencing anxiety.

There are certain personality types who are slow to transition and others who love the pace of fast transitions, however even though there are personality traits involved, the skill of how to manage, prepare for and embrace transition is still a skill to learn. When parents engage it as a skill to be taught, it creates the opportunity for the person who is slow to transition to experience less angst whilst going through a transition and it teaches the fast transitioning person to slow down a bit and think before moving over to the next thing or activity.

Why is this skill so important? Everyday tasks and life in general, is filled with transitions, there are minor transitions like waking up and getting out of bed and major transitions, like changing one’s career path. Teaching our children how to manage this will enable them to find their rhythm in life and also ease the adjustment period for major transitions in life.

So how do we teach them to manage transitions?

  1. Communication is the key: Talk through the changes with them. I.e. it is morning now, we are getting up and out of bed. Then we will change into our daytime clothes. Literally step by step verbal cues. There will come a time where you won’t have to be so focused on detail, but in infancy and toddlerhood, it is best to focus on the details of every transition and preparation for the next step. Knowing what comes next allows us to better manage life in general.
  2. Inform them what the “daily plan” is. Initially just focus on the major highlights, up to the first nap/sleep period. For example, we are getting up and will complete our morning routine, then we will have breakfast and we will play outside. After we have played outside, it will be time for your nap. Obviously as they get older, they will drop their naps, so what is planned for the awake period will have more information. Do not expect your child under the age of 4/5 to remember every step or detail. The aim is to help you plan your day and for them to have some idea of what to expect for the day ahead.
  3. Allow for time to transition between activities. This is such an important aspect of transitioning. In this space there is room for the slow and fast to complete their task or activity and then move to get their minds ready to focus on the next thing. Making use of timers can be helpful. Give a warning that the transition is coming and how much time they have left to focus on the task at hand. Remember you don’t want them to transition immediately, but only when the allocated time to prepare for the transition has been completed. Think of how it affects you when someone interrupts you and expects an immediate reaction. It gets mentally and emotionally exhausting to make the transitions so quickly and it increases our frustration levels. Knowing that you have a transition preparation period, also helps us as parents to plan ahead and rush less. It will help you as a parent to remain connected and present, but it will also teach children the concept of the need to wait for us to complete a task before we can engage with them.
  4. Remember that what kids are doing is not any less important because they are children. So many times adults tend to only focus on what is important to them and we dictate the flow of the day. We plan our days around our own needs and responsibilities and our kids just have to tag along and do as they are told. This is very problematic at its core. The moment kids feel like life is happening to them and who they are and what they do does not rank on the list of priorities, they will start pushing back. They will start acting out, because they feel invisible and disconnected. They also have priorities and plans for the day, so respecting what they are busy with is important. 
  5. Plan the day with your kids: Not all people like to plan, they prefer to take the day as it comes, however, there are some things that must be done during the day and can be fit into a day plan or routine. Eating is one of these, going to the shops or school is another. These are big disruptive transitions that has an impact on our kids. So find a space in the morning routine where you and your child can have a discussion of what has to happen during that day and plan it together.
  6. Prepare your kids for big events or transitions. If there is something like a big event/ holiday/moving or even a parent going away for work or holiday, it is important to discuss this with the kids beforehand. Here, having a calendar they can mark down works wonders. It creates a continuous conversation and space for you to check in with yourself and them about the coming change. It will also help your child prepare as much as they can for the transition. For the slow to adjust kids, when moving or going away on holiday, it really helps to have pictures of where you are going to. It helps them envision what to expect on a basic level.

Not all situations have space for transitioning periods, now what?

Life happens, so it will not always be possible to give transitioning periods before hand, however this should be the exception to the rule. The reason parents may believe that this is more the rule than not, is because we as parents get so wrapped up in the day to day life and ourselves that we forget things, and that places us in a rush or hurry and then we rush our children. So make use of timers for yourself as an adult as well. This may seem excessive, however having alarms set on your mobile device, enables you as a parent to have a less rushed transition yourself. In our home the alarms or timers are usually set to go off 5 min before we actually have to transition. That way we as parents can give the kids a heads up for the coming transition and they have 5 min to ready themselves. Since we have implemented this, our life is less stressed, and we are less flustered when we need to leave or go somewhere.

When there is an emergency and we need to leave immediately or stop an activity immediately, the kids are more likely to comply as they can sense the urgency in our behaviour and they know that this is not the norm. So they are more likely to absorb and manage the transition with ease. 

One of the most practical skills, besides learning how to manage transitions, that grows from this process, is the ability to plan the abstract of a day. This skill will also be able to permeate into school and work life. We all have the same amount of time, but we do not all have the same amount of energy, so learning from infancy how to plan a day or schedule and how to manage transitions, enables us to manage our energy spend and anxiety.

In course 1 – We look at how we do life with our children in deeper detail. Click here for more information and dates on when the next course will be presented. Follow us on Facebook for great videos and other information regarding parenting.

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I opened my mouth and out came the parent I never wanted to be!

I was so angry, fuming! Close to losing the plot completely. I opened my mouth and out she came, the parent I did not want to be. I screamed and ranted, threatened and had to use all my will power not to pick him up and give him a good smack. I found myself reaching over to him and at that very moment I caught sight of the look in his eyes, it wasn’t defiance, it was fear. He was scared of me! The anger drained out of me and regret set in. I never wanted my child to look at me that way, but there we stood, me a grown adult facing down with a toddler over a car seat. I dropped my arm and went down on my knees, my face filled with sorrow, regret and probably my own fear reflected. I was scared that I had reached the point of no-return.

That this was the moment the trust finally was blown to smithereens, but thankfully it wasn’t. I apologised for my reaction and for losing control. After a few minutes of hugging it out and mending our broken hearts, he got in the car seat and off we went. We have had a few more moments like this since then, moments where the parent I don’t want to be, suddenly slips out of my mouth. It happens and it happens because my focus is on the wrong goal.

We often have moments in parenting where we are the opposite of who we want to be. We often as parents have regrets of how we handled a situation. We see the mistakes our parents made and the mistakes others made and we vow not to make those same mistakes. Then in a blink of built up frustration, exhaustion and loss of control, we become what we vowed we will never be. Why does this happen? Why can we not break this cycle?

It all lies within the triggers of our own pain (experiences) and where our focus is.

The pain, is the things we were taught while growing up. The way we were raised to see the role and place of a child in society. Most parents were raised in the belief that kids are ‘lesser than’, that kids are the property of their family. Children are expected to jump at every command, because “well mother/father knows best”. Their identity is shaped by how well they fit into the family, they are expected to adjust and deal and understand far beyond their years and even beyond what is ever expected of adults when they have to accommodate themselves. The “do as I say and not do as I do”, mantra echoed through many a childhood, and here we stand as a result. Looking at our own children, clambering for control over them and struggling to see past the boundary between humans and objects to find an almost blind obedience.

So often it is stated that before having kids, “you may as well talk to the wall”, that is the best way to get used to being blatantly ignored. Ironically they are not ignoring you, they are distracted and probably not really even hearing you in the first place.

Oh, but then what about when they are looking into your eyes and not doing as was told. Surely that must be blatant disobedience, tendering for punishment. Blatant disobedience has to be punished right? Not at all. Before you stop reading, please, indulge me for a few more paragraphs.

Blatant disobedience is a sign that your kid is feeling insecure. Yes, you read that right. They are feeling insecure, and disconnected. They are trying to see if you actually, really care. Contrary to popular belief, they are not testing your resolve, they are measuring your level of care. If you explode and punish, they will be scared of you and not feel connected, actually quite the opposite. Punishment is experienced and interpreted by the brain as an attack, thus they go into fight, flight or freeze, or otherwise stated survival mode. The physiological reactions here actually close the ear canal as it shuts down their brain. So no, they learn nothing except fear and disconnection from the whole ordeal. Blatant disobedience is a cry for connection that has been missing in action for a while.

How do we parent it without punishment? Will they then learn that they can do what they want and never face the consequences of their actions? Not at all. We can parent blatant disobedience with connection. A person who feels connected will be open for correction.

Here lies the challenge for us as parents. It has to come from us. We have to parent ourselves first and we have to work on our own expectations and perceptions.

  • We expect our children to respond immediately when we address them – yet we don’t respond immediately when they talk.
  • We want our children to listen attentively when we ask them something – yet often we have glazed over eyes or tell them to hurry up when they engage us.
  • We expect our children to be honest – yet we love telling them little “white” lies because we feel out of our depth engaging with them.
  • We want our kids to answer us immediately – yet we need time to think and process and expect them to give us that space.
  • We expect our children to respect our time and what we are busy with – yet we make plans without their input and expect them to drop everything immediately and do what we want them to do on our own timeline.

We cannot expect our children to do life differently than us, they model what they see, hear and experience. They do not exist in a vacuum of orders, commands and jumping through hoops. They think, breathe, work, listen, play, do and watch everything we do, they have to, because that is how they survive life.

The reality of these moments, especially blatant disobedience, is that they feel invisible to their parents. They feel like they do not matter and as though they have lost a part of their humanity in the process. Blatant disobedience is a child asking if you still care. Do you still see them? Do they still matter?

When our children do not respond the way we want them to, we lose ‘control’. We experience that loss of control in a defensive way. We feel they are the adversary and we are being attacked, questioned and downright disrespected. We believe that we are in crisis, so we respond as such. We shout and scream, we dole out punishments and make idle, unrealistic and shaming threats. We become the parent we never wanted to be. We think the control we lost was over our child, but that is not the reality. Firstly because children are not objects to be controlled, you will never have control over a person. Secondly the control we lost, was the control over our own emotions and rational thoughts. We were raised to believe that adults control children and when we cannot control our own children, we feel like we have failed and that spins us into even further into the downward spiral. This is the pain of our own childhoods that rears its ugly head.

Our focus. In life when we focus intently on something that is where we will end up. Any biker will tell you that when you go through a bend on the road, you do not look at the bend, but instead you look at the end of the bend while leaning into the turn. Why? Because you will go where you look. So looking straight into the bend guarantees an accident. In the same way, when we start focussing so much on who we don’t want to be as a parent, we accidentally become that parent.

Where we invest our energy is where the output will come from. If we focus on who we do not want to be, we will become that person, because we are not investing energy and time into the person we do not want to be. The irony of this is, that if we focus so much on who we don’t want to be, we struggle to bounce back and move past the mistakes we made. That mistake starts to look like a mountain and this makes us feel even more ashamed and scared. This fear then becomes the driving force within your relationship with your child. This is when you start to fear every tear your child will shed when they do not get what they want. This fear will drive you to become a permissive and extremely punitive parent, because you will start to feel abused by your child’s behaviour and responsiveness to your input into their lives.

Parenting with the focus on who you want to be as a parent, opens you up to invite your child in. It opens up how we look at our children’s behaviour, it becomes easier to ‘read between the lines’ and respond in the way that matters to them. It opens us up to respond with connection first and correction second. It creates opportunities for us to have WOW moments with our kids. Most of all, it opens up the door for us as parents to break the generational cycle of guilt, shame, fear and punishment.

In Course 1 we spend time on how we were raised to view the role and place of a child and how to heal that. Contact us for more information regarding this course.

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Tips to help our children adapt to a new sibling

This is our third instalment on adjusting to growing a family. The first was; why kids take so long to adjust (click here) for the blog and the second one was tips for parents regarding adjusting. (click here) This blog will focus on things to look out for and what to do to help our kids adjust to a new sibling

We are aware that families do not just grow with adding babies, therefore we have focused on the addition of a new sibling in general, whether a baby or an older sibling, however there are things that will be specifically directed at a baby, but it is very possible to adapt those tips and pointers towards older children.

Thank you OA Kridge for this amazing photo

”Kids are resilient and adaptable” a phrase that is uttered to comfort parents when crisis hits the family or when their kids go through a difficult stage. It has become such a common anecdote that it is almost impossible to raise a child and not have heard this phrase said to you at least once. This phrase is true, BUT what everyone neglects to say is that, while they are resilient and adaptable, it takes time and the adaptations they have to master, if not handled with care and wisdom, may become the very reason they need to heal from their childhood trauma as adults.

The reality is that adding a sibling to the family is a form of stress and trauma for a child of any age. How we handle this, will determine how our children experience trust, connection, challenges and relationships in the future. Will they develop abandonment and trust issues or will they thrive and easily make new bonds with people they meet?

Naturally, there are children that seem to “bounce back” faster than others. There are also highly sensitive kids who will need support for a long period of time and loads more patience with the adjustment. That is the reality and nothing a parent can do will change that.

Why do we call it trauma? Trauma is classified as a life event that has a dramatic impact on your life circumstances, which sends it in a different direction. Adding a new sibling changes everything for a child. They used to be responded to almost immediately, now they have to wait. Their parents’ are more tired, thus their patience seems to be less. They now have to take turns being the point of focus for everything and they have to share everything. Add to that the developmental leaps and changes they are also still going through, it becomes messy, emotionally taxing and can quickly spiral into resentment, anger and fear. This is not a change like going away for a holiday where there will be an end to this new adventure, this is a lifelong adjustment and could possibly be a threat to their survival – as a child they perceive it as a direct threat to their well-being.

A kind mother of three shared this stunning anecdote with me when I was pregnant with our second child. She was kind enough to warn me that the adjustment may be tough on our eldest and the way she shared it has stayed with me. When her second was born, their eldest doted on the baby. Lovingly played with baby. When the baby was about 3 weeks old she casually turned to her mom and asked when the baby’s mother is coming to get her, as she would like to have her mommy back now.

Such innocence in that one summary of how she viewed the situation, but such a big reality check. To her this new sibling had taken resources from her and she would like it back now, the problem is, she won’t have the abundance of resources she had before ever again.

Before you ask, you will not ‘not’ have enough love for all your kids, but when helping our kids adjust and adapt, we need to understand that for them, this is a perceived threat, that somehow they will become less important to you when you start dividing your resources between them and a new sibling. Honestly stated in the beginning it is not even a 50/50 division, but rather a bigger chunk of resources will go to the most vulnerable of the family especially in the first few years. The older sibling feels it and experiences it.

How do we navigate this? There are amazing ways to help your older child navigate this and a few things that we as over tired and thinly spread parents have to keep an eye on, if we want this adjustment to happen with as little stress as possible. It may seem like an impossible task, but it is quite possible if you know what to look out for and how to manage it.

What to look out for:

1 .Watch your expectations of the older child/ren.

When the new sibling joins the family, your older child/ren did not suddenly mature beyond their age. They did not have a software update that suddenly enables them to take on more responsibility. They are still the same age they were the day before the new sibling joined the family, they are just now a day older. Keep that in mind. We have often had to field comments from well-meaning friends and family making comments to our eldest like: You are a big brother now, so now you need to do ‘XYZ’. Actually no, he does not have to do anything except be himself and his age. Why is there an increase in expectations regarding behaviour and responsibility from a child just because they are now the oldest? It is not just unfair to the child, but also creates additional unwanted stress for everyone in an already stressful situation

2. Be aware that when life gets going that they are still as part of life as they were before the new sibling arrived.

Try to keep them involved and in mind and not make them feel as though life is happening to them. They already feel very insecure due to the change, pay attention to how often you make them part of what life is – and no, that does not always mean making them help with a diaper change.

3. They will need more reassurance from you, keep track of how often you acknowledge them in kind and loving ways

Try to catch them in the moments where they are doing ‘good’ and reward or praise them for it.

4. Watch out for over compensating

The rules of the house remains the same, but create space for missteps and regression to be met with kindness, understanding and love. They are asking to be seen and recognised, they are not asking for trouble.

11 Tips for helping your child adjust:

1. Create Time:

Create time where you can spend one on one time with the older sibling/s without the new sibling. If the new sibling is a high needs child, invest in a proper baby carrier (you can contact us and we will send you the number of a carrier consultant) – expect the older child/ren to feel like they have not had enough of your time and be teary or clingy when the dedicated time is over, it is normal.

2. Ask them if the WANT to be part of taking care of the new sibling’s needs:

Ask them if they want to be part of taking care of the new sibling’s needs, like changing the diaper or playing or fetching something for the new sibling – If they say no, accept it and don’t push the point. They will find their own ways to bond with the new sibling. Not all people like to bond in the same way, create opportunities for involvement with no string attached. They are not the parent, so taking care of their sibling is not their responsibility.

3. Give them room to just be!

They do not have to love the new sibling from the get go. They WILL love their sibling and contrary to popular belief, the less you as parent involve yourself in their relationship, the stronger their bond will be.- obviously in the beginning you will facilitate opportunities for them to bond – keeping both children safe – but it is their relationship, let them build it for themselves.

4. Catch them when doing ‘good’, not just with the new sibling, but in general.

Kids wants to feel accepted and loved. When we recognise and praise their good choices it creates a positive connected bond with all who are involved.

5. Invite them in

This idea is often related to the ‘give them things to do for the new sibling because kids like to feel helpful’, but it goes further than that. Allow them to say what they feel about the new sibling. You may not always like what they have to say, but don’t judge what they say. Accept what they say and thank them for sharing. Never contradict what they are saying when they express their feelings. It will only lead to suppressed emotions and more fear. They may even say they hate the new sibling, you know that they do not really, but they are limited in how to express themselves and at that point in time, they are actually just stating that they dislike the change in the home environment.

6. Busy boxes

This is a life saver especially in the early weeks and months of having a baby in the home. Have a busy box for every room. This box may only be opened when you are busy with the new sibling and in that particular room. This adds something special to the moment. Add one toy for the new sibling into that box to facilitate bonding, that toy is for the older sibling to use to engage the new sibling with.

7. Special books

We had a variety of books, one in each room and when we were busy feeding or rocking or having to sit for an extended period of time with the youngest, we had books to read for the oldest.

8. Be present

You can sit with the new sibling in your lap and still watch your older children play. Be a sideline commentator while they play, making positive remarks or narrating what you are seeing playing out in front of you i.e. I see you picked the red block, where would you like to put it. That way the older sibling feels acknowledged and loved and in less of competition for survival

9. Hug it out

They feel the stress you feel, so hug them often and hug them long.

10. Laugh and play loudly

It is difficult for a young child to be quiet and often that is what is expected of them when there is a new sibling in the home. Create space to play loudly and laugh and just be. We live in the age of baby monitors, so if the new sibling is sleeping and is okay with not being in your arms, take the monitor, go to the other side of the home if possible and just be silly and loud with your older child/ren. The beauty of laughter and being loud is it releases stress the same way a good cry will release the stress. So all of you will benefit from it.

11. It takes time, and taking time is okay

Some older children (usually age 5 and up) will seem to adapt quite easily to the new normal, do not be fooled by it. Check in with them often, they may just be afraid or feel guilty for not really being okay with the change. They may think that because you as the caregivers are extra stressed that you cannot deal with their negative feelings as well, so they believe they must just be okay. They may also take 6 to 8 months to finally feel that they are out of the woods and then begin to act out. The acting out may come as a perceived over-reaction for something small, but they have been under stress the whole time and the ‘small thing’ is just the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back. It can come through as obstinate disobedience, being more challenging than usual. Be prepared that acting out because of the new normal may only manifest long after it seems that things are finally settling down. When this happen, before scolding or accusing them of deliberate disobedience, talk with them and get to the bottom of it.

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Tips for parents when growing your family

Kids need support when adjusting to change, so do parents, especially when we add another sibling to the family. In the previous blog (see here) we have discussed why. How do we ease the adjustment for us as parents?

We will discuss a few tips and pointers in this blog regarding the adjustment period.

First things first

If the only thing that you as a parent take from this is to remember that it takes a long time to adjust, that all emotions are valid and every person has their own way of dealing within their own time span of how long it will take them to adjust, then it becomes easier to manage our own expectations of this adjustment period.

Adjusting as parents:

Adding a new member to the family is tough on any relationship and often parents shift into survival mode without realising it. The reason is that adding a child to the family creates stress, and a whole new level of stress at that. As parents we often doubt ourselves, generally more often than not. We have to contend with yesteryears’ ideas of raising children and new research that gets released almost daily. From food to development, to emotional and societal health. It becomes a smorgasbord of information and it can become overwhelming. Here is the truth though, parents become ‘parenting fit’. You will grow with your kids. You will make mistakes with your kids and you will do things differently as each child joins the ranks. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, learn from it, correct it and move on.

Very often parenting support focuses on the child, and what to expect from your child, we will go into detail regarding that in a different blog. For now we will look at what to expect from our parenting journey during this adjustment period.

One of the key factors is that the jump from one child to a second is usually overwhelming and very difficult. The most obvious contributing factor of this is that the older child is usually under the age of 7, thus still in an age group where their primary needs are being fulfilled by their parents or caregivers. Just because we added a sibling, does not mean their needs have changed or that they will need us any less. There is an anecdotal belief that after adding a second child, adding more children to the mix is not as big an adjustment as going from one to two. However, it is undeniable that adding any number of children to a family creates its own emotional stress and an adjustment period where every single member of the family needs time to acclimatise to the new normal.

This is a learning curve and a steep one at that, for all parties involved. Some of the things we hoped other parents would have told us when we made our family bigger were:

  • It is okay to feel overwhelmed, you will feel it often.
  • What is fair isn’t always equal.
  • Feeling jealous is normal for parents and children during this time – it is tough and as much as you love the new addition, you may miss your freedom or even perceive the other to have more freedom than yourself.
  • Tomorrow really is another day.
  • Parenting guilt comes in big waves, if it hits, don’t let it drown you.
  • It is okay to wonder if you have made a mistake on the hard days.
  • Not all of the days will be hard, not all of the days will be good. Having average days is normal.
  • Your kid’s personalities may clash and it is okay if they do.
  • Your older child may express severe negative feelings or behaviour towards their younger baby sibling – It is normal and to be expected. The baby is the source of change and their discomfort with adjustment. Them stating their negative feelings about the new sibling is okay and to be expected. It does not mean that they don’t love them, they are just not happy about the change in that particular moment.

Tips for adjusting as parents:

  1. While planning or expecting the new baby, discuss as parenting partners the changes that lie ahead

Discuss the adjustment to parenting roles and expectations, the roles will shift and change due to the need to meet all the children’s and the parent’s needs. The secondary parent will have to become more actively involved with taking care of the children as well as the running of the home. This includes cooking and cleaning, feeding and bathing.

If you are a single parent, look at the above and work out a rough plan as to how you are going to a your expectations of how your home will look, how your day to day is likely to go. What things are vitally important to not only your own survival, but your own peace of mind? Can you get by for a while if you only wash dishes once or twice a week, if you can, how will you manage the dirty dishes so that it does not make you feel uncomfortable or anxious? Can you move some things around in your kitchen so that the older kids can help themselves to healthy snacks without needing you to help them? How can you adjust your home to accommodate self-reliance if needs be for your older kids? It is often the simple physical changes in the home that can make the adjustment easier and open up time to give the attention to the older kids that they so desperately need during this adjustment period.

Basically create a blueprint for the roles and responsibilities, it is not set in stone as each child is different and you need space to adjust your blueprint according to how the family will function as a unit, but having something to work from eases the conversations that needs to happen during this period.

2. Lean into the change

Parents and children alike experience “brain fog” or stress during this adjustment period, your child may show signs of regression i.e. was sleeping through or no longer wet the bed to not sleeping through anymore and wetting the bed again. It is normal for them to react this way and it will take time for them to master the skills again as the stress they experience starts to dissipate. Be honest about your own energy levels and plan your day to day according to it, ease into this and don’t be afraid to say no to an invite or even decline an outing when you are not coping.

3. Don’t expect a clean home.

While you are busy with your new addition to the family, your older kids may get up to mischief and make a mess in another room, try to minimise their access to things that cannot be cleaned easily and maximise access to things that can be cleaned easily.

Don’t scream or fight about the mess, ask them calmly to help you clean up. This is tough as we are already tired and stressed and it usually happens when we are at the end of our rope.

Kids are often mirrors of our emotional well-being. So when we have had enough of the stress, they have had enough and act out, physically showing us what we and they are feeling emotionally. Try to remember this and find grace in your heart and mind for yourself and for them.

4. Expect both parents to feel strain and exhaustion.

Rest opportunities are usually more limited when having more than one child as you don’t have an extra pair of hands to help ease the load. Take things slowly and day by day.

5. The older child can wait a minute or two

When they have to wait, expect whining and maybe even some anger. It is normal for them as they are used to very responsive parents and now they are experiencing the opposite. Breathe and remember that as much as whining can drive anyone dilly, they are whining because they are not used to having to share you and they do feel left out.

6. Try to make time to spend with your significant other.

In the first two years it may not be just the two of you spending time together, but even just lying on the bed next to each other with the children all over you, you still get time to connect.

7 .Don’t be afraid to ask for help or what you need

Even when a friend comes to visit and you need help with the dishes, ask them to help. It takes a village to raise a child, or so the saying goes. It does take a village to support a family and support often comes in overalls and hands in soapy water.

8. Communicate your needs clearly

Have grace with yourself and your partner. You are both going to make mistakes and sometimes big ones during this period. No person is a mind reader and we all have different ideas of what needs to take priority in the moment, so talk things through. Be open to suggestions from your partner and be willing to re-evaluate your blue print when necessary.

9. Have that cup of tea or coffee while it is hot.

Allow self-care to happen, initially self-care will probably be with a baby on your chest, while you take a long bath. Take time to relax and recharge. It lifts the brain fog and enables you to parent both kids with a more rational mind. = This one takes practice and should happen daily to get used to it and develop the habit even if it is just 5 minutes.

Please feel free to comment below or follow us on Facebook. Look out for our next blog on this vital topic, where we will discuss tips to help our kids adjust to the change.

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When Kids ask those awkward questions

We often get those awkward questions from our kids. Like, where do babies come from, or why is so and so this or that way? It is important to have honest discussions with our kids in regards to these questions. We want to build a healthy trustworthy relationship with them.

We as adults feel uncomfortable and even taken aback when they ask these questions. The problem is, we were likely not raised to discuss these things openly and now they expect us to answer it. Or, we may feel they are too young to know the truth.

Know this, when a child is ready for the answer, they will ask the question. However, always make sure it is age appropriate and always ascertain why they are asking, and what they already know. That way, you can sidestep any miscommunication and also correct misinformation.

Our kids have asked us many an awkward question, and there were times where we were unsure how to answer. Asking for time to think or even gather information, respects them as well as the importance of their question. Always get back to them with an answer. It matters that you get back to them. Just because they did not raise the topic again, does not mean they are not waiting on you for an answer. I assure you they have not forgotten that they have asked you. By getting back to them, you are confirming that you are reliable and trustworthy. As they get older, those are the aspects of your relationship they will rely on, especially come the teenage years. Make sure the foundation is laid properly now.

They are not asking questions to try and catch you out or test you, however, if you fail to answer them honestly, you will be failing a subconscious test in their minds. They want to know if you are worthy of their continued trust, especially with the awkward and important life questions.

Not answering them or lying to them, creates a vacuum that will be filled by peers and other influencers. You have no control over what they are taught by others, so create a space where they know that they will get the truth from you and can compare what they learn elsewhere against that. This enables them to measure the information they receive from others against the source they already know they can trust and rely on – you.

We as adults feel uncomfortable and even taken aback when they ask these questions. The problem is, we were probably not raised to discuss these things openly and now they expect us to answer it. Or we may feel they are to young to know the truth.

Know this, when a child is ready for the answer, they will ask the question. However, always make sure it is age appropriate and always ascertain why they are asking, and what they already know. That way, you can sidestep any miscommunication and also correct misinformation.

Our kids have asked us many a awkward question, and there were times, where we were unsure as how to answer. Asking time to think or even get information, both respects them and the importance of their question. Always get back to them with an answer. It matters that you get back to them. Just because they did not raise the topic again, does not mean they are not waiting on you for an answer. I promise you they did not forget that they have asked you.

By getting back to them, you will show that you are reliable and trustworthy. As they get older, it is those aspects of your relationship they will rely on, especially come the teenage years. Make sure the foundation is laid properly.

They are not asking these questions to try and catch you out or test you, however if you fail to answer them honestly, you will be failing a subconscious test in their minds. They want to know if you are worthy of their continued trust, especially with the awkward and important life questions.

Not answering them or lying to them, honestly will create a vacuum that will be filled by peers and other influences. You have no control over what they are being taught by others, so create the space where they know that they will get the truth from you. This enables them to measure outside information to a source they already trust and rely on – you.

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Why do we need Parenting training

When you have children, it is more than just a life choice or even a career. It is a lifestyle change. Recently I have found myself in conversations asking why people like myself offer training to parents. Why do I do what I do? Is there a need for training parents? Why can’t we just keep doing what we have been doing over milenia without formal training.

We could probably just keep doing what we did for milenia, but if history is any indication of how well that played out, we probably have to rethink how we raise children. We can just look and see how many parenting support groups there are, how often we as parents are at a loss as to what to do and to be honest the world is changing at such a rapid pace that now parents are faced with far more challenges than generations before. There are so many adults who have to heal from their childhood. The reality is, we need all the support we can get.

When we want to enter a specific career, we go and study for that career. We read books and even attend courses. We inadvertently surround ourselves with people who share the same goals and we talk endlessly about what we aim to achieve in life. We dream and we invest in this future. Yet for some reason we don’t do this when it comes to parenting.

Why is it? We will read a few books, maybe. We join social media pages and follow some blogs (like this one) and then we just get on with life. The reality is, parenting a child and being successful at parenting, will take investment, reading and yes even attending courses or workshops.

There has been so much research done on the development of children, the impact of parenting styles, that we will be remiss as adults to assume that we can just do what our parents did and all will be well.

Parenting does not keep office hours, and where if we mess up at work, most often the consequences of our mistakes won’t resonate through generations,with parenting, how we raise our kids will ripple to generations after us.

Raising children into adults who does not need to recover from their childhood is so vital and important. Knowing why we do what we do and teach our children what we teach them matters. It matters how our kids view themselves, it matters how they view us as parents. It matters how we view them, because in the end of the day, they will become adults who has an impact on society.

So buy a book and read it, follow more blogs and apply it, and book a course on parenting and get the right resources to set yourself and your child up for success. We and our children and society needs it.

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Trust is developed not earned

One of the more difficult concepts when raising children is the concept of trusting our children. It doesn’t really come easy, does it? We’ve had to do everything for our children from infancy, we had to trust our own judgement and we all know how under developed a child’s ability to think rationally is. We have all done the “Have you brushed your teeth? Come here let me check” mantra. We have to do it, because they are still learning, easily distracted and some kids just really hate doing certain tasks, like brushing teeth. So we as parents have to check them.

Photo credit: Kwhame Photography

The problem is, that our children start with a deficit of trust from parents, at least that is how they experience and view it. We do not take them at their word from the get go. I am fully aware that there is the belief that trust is earned and not just given, and we want our children to earn our trust. Well what if today we challenged that belief? What if from today you give trust to your child from the get go? No, I am not saying don’t check up on things as they learn how to do certain tasks, what I am saying is, always give them the benefit of trust until proven otherwise.

“Oh, but that is not how life works.” I hear you say. However it is how life works in reality. Think about it in these adult terms: You are looking for a job. You send your CV to a company. The person who reads your CV has to trust that what you wrote on your CV is in fact correct. For them to actually want to do a check on your qualifications and experience, they first had to trust the information you gave them. They do the checks – well some do, some don’t, you never know – if you were truthful, the checks will confirm their trust in the information you gave them is correct. Now you finally earned some more trust. However it started with you trusting that they will look at your CV and them trusting the information given. That small step of trust sets the foundation to earn further trust.

Trust is usually shown in the small things we do. If we feel the need to check up on our children to see if they followed through on something then either we thrust responsibility upon them before they were ready, or, we have unresolved trust issues of our own. Yes, I said it!

The last mentioned, heralds the need for deep introspection, it goes to how you were raised. Did your parents patiently show through how they treated you that they trust you or was your childhood littered with phrases like, “Let me check” or “Ï trust you, but not your friends or the outside world”. The problem with these phrases, as innocent as they may seem, is it always reflects back to the idea that you are not trustworthy and the mistakes you have made count against you. “Let me check” says: I do not take you by your word, you have let me down before, so why should I believe you now? I don’t trust your ability to be honest, thorough or capable. I know, when they are young, they experiment with lies and boundaries, and it never stops until the day we die. I also know they need support while spreading their wings, developing their independence and decision making skills. Starting from the foundation of trust, it is easier to guide them and help them manage the journey.

“I trust you, but…” the ‘but’ nullifies the trust and the belief that you are trusted. If you don’t trust my friends, then you don’t trust my ability to make valuable friends and build positive relationships. If you don’t trust the world, then you don’t trust that I will be able to care for myself in this world. That means you feel I cannot be trusted to make good choices when you are not around. This typically happens in the teenage years. Yes, I know, we don’t really trust the world or that weird friend our kid brought home. Our child’s ability to make good choices is not fully developed yet, so of course the trust is difficult.

They are our kids and we mean well. We want to set them up for success. How do we encourage independence, honesty and good decision making, if we do not set up boundaries and check up on them?

Trust, like connection works with a bank account. When baby is born, we don’t need to earn their trust. They trust implicitly that we will meet their needs. They trust us to listen to them and protect them and love them. We trust them too, to let us know when they need something, whether by cooing, looking at us, making small gestures or even crying. The relationship starts with trust.

In infancy our relationship with our children either deposits trust into the account or withdraws trust from the trust account. Every time baby signals their need and we respond, it deposits not just connection but trust into the bank. When we miss a cue, we withdraw from both accounts. In infancy, a healthy relationship between parent and child creates a positive relational bank account in connection and trust.

After infancy, we withdraw often from this bank account. When baby starts to walk and explore, but instead of trusting them to be able to learn how to trust their own body, we keep telling them how to do it. We keep on stepping in and thereby interfering in the learning curve. The more we helicopter their movements – I am not saying let them tumble down head first down a flight of stairs – the more we create a deficit in the bank of trust. There is a difference between standing close by and waiting to catch them when they fall, and providing supportive commentary like “I see your hands need a place to hold onto” and holding on to their bodies as they try to manage climbing down the stairs. In the first scenario, we trust that they will find a safe way to climb the stairs, while we show them they can trust us to catch them if they stumble or fall. But with the second scenario we hinder them learning to trust their own bodies and skills. Do they fall and get hurt, yes they do, however allowing them to fall and get hurt their brain learns how their bodies feel when off balance. They learn to trust themselves.

At certain ages we hand over specific reigns of responsibility to our children. We stop brushing their teeth and they start doing it themselves. We stop feeding them and they start feeding themselves. There is still a learning curve involved here. Yes, you have been brushing your child’s teeth for 2 years, we would hope they have learned by now how to do it properly. They did not! They learn through doing. For the next two to three years, brush teeth side by side, prompting the next place or step in the routine. Eventually, you will brush side by side and you will see them brushing every tooth the way they learned how to. Now you can slowly extract yourself from their tooth brushing process. You remind them that it is time to brush teeth and send them off to do so. How do you know if they did it? Initially you can walk with them to the bathroom and see them off at the sink. Over time, you see them off at the door and finally you reach the point where you don’t walk with them. It is a gradual process and you can follow your child’s lead, they will show you and tell you to let them be, when they are ready. Never ask them to show you if they brushed their teeth. You will soon enough discover if they did not. That goodbye hug or kiss will tell you if they did not. Don’t scold them when you smell the stinky breath. Just hug and whisper, “I can smell your teeth are not brushed, quickly go and do it please.” and leave it there. If there is no time or the situation does not allow for going back and brushing, when they are younger than 8, have some breath freshener with you, just to help them out until there is time to brush teeth. If they are older, natural consequences is the way to go.

Brushing teeth is just a small example of how to maintain and build on the trust relationship. We need to apply this to all things they do, learn and have a responsibility for.

Steps for checking whilst keeping the trust relationship in the positive:

1 – Do it for the child

2 – Let the child do it with you

3 – Slowly step aside and give them space to do it on their own

4 – Be their back up, remember they are still learning this thing called responsibility – You are always a team

5 – Ask if they did what they needed to do, believe their answers

6 – If they did not do what they needed to do, and it isn’t life threatening, let them live out the consequences of their actions

7 – NEVER SAY – Let me check.

8 – If they have not taken proper responsibility for something go back one step and support them without condemnation i.e. let’s brush our teeth together today. That way you give them support without stating that you don’t trust them.

There is no incentive for a child to be honest if we constantly check up on them after they have stated that they have completed a task. There is only incentive for honesty if they get positive reinforcement and support when they make mistakes. Protecting our children from the consequences of their choices and actions while they are still learning responsibility, teaches them nothing. Punishing them for not doing what they said they did, will just increase the likelihood that they will rather do it behind our backs and develop better skills at being sneaky.

You can have a conversation about honesty and trust with your child. Have these conversations when you are calm and not angry. You can say things like “I am feeling disappointed that you did not brush your teeth like you said you did. Honesty and trust is important for us to be able to function as a family. I want to be able to trust you. So let us find a solution together to get your teeth brushed in the morning.”

This invites your child into a conversation and it will be a clear indicator of whether you have thrust a responsibility onto your child, before they were ready to bear it. Remember, each child is different and even though there are all these guidelines of at what age a child ‘should’ be able to take proper responsibility for a task, not every child will be ready at that age and your child is not failing if they need support for a little bit longer than others.

C3 Parenting believes in setting parents and children up for success. We offer parenting courses and workshops. Click here to find out more

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Raising respectful children does not mean what you think it means

Respect. What a difficult word to narrow down. We know what we believe it looks like, but what does it mean when we bring the word respect into the conversation with children.

We have so many cultural and societal teachings that revolve around respect. Respect is good, and we should teach it to our children, however, we need to narrow our understanding of respect and how we teach it. Respect is treating someone with dignity. The dictionary defines respect as follows:

Cambridge definition

A – Politeness, honour, and care shown towards someone or something that is considered important: You should treat your parents with more respect. / They have no respect for other people’s property.

B – A feeling that something is right or important and you should not attempt to change it or harm it: In their senseless killing of innocent people, the terrorists have shown their lack of respect for human life. / They did not have respect for the law.

C – The feeling you show when you accept that different customs or cultures are different from your own and behave towards them in a way that would not cause offence: They teach students to have respect for different races and appreciate diversity of other cultures

D – Formal respect: polite and formal greetings

Looking at the above, respect in a nutshell is how we treat each other and ourselves. In society today there are other ideologies connected to respect that are damaging to society as a whole. These ideologies balance on the tightrope of expectations, acceptance and power.

For the sake of this discussion, we will be breaking the concept of respect up into three categories

1 – Authoritarian respect

2 – Natural respect

3 – Earned respect

Authoritarian respect

This is an ideology of what “respect” is that isn’t really respect. It is the enforcement of authority that silences the voices of people and children. Authoritarian respect is the idea that when someone is older or in a position of authority (whether given, gained or culturally enforced), they have respect and they are not allowed to be questioned or challenged. Their word is law and even when they are in the wrong, it is disrespectful to point it out to them. You have to do what they say or suffer some form of punishment. Authoritarian respect is fear mongering disguised as a position of importance and power.

Natural respect

Natural respect is a cultivated intuitive respect for people’s needs and ideas. The ability to recognise that each person is different and needs to be accommodated and supported. The best example will be seeing an older person who is frail and cannot stand very long and offering up your seat if you are able to stand for longer. It is respecting a child’s body as their own and not expecting them to hug or kiss people they do not want to. It is understanding that some people have invisible disabilities and creating space and accommodating their needs. It is accepting and including people into your community without judgement.

Earned respect

This is respect that is given to someone, based on their behaviour and knowledge. Earned respect can be challenged and questioned. It also falls within selected categories. We can respect someone’s knowledge, without respecting their actions. We can respect someone’s role in society, but we don’t have to respect or agree with their world views. For example I can respect that someone is a president of the country (thus respecting their position) but I do not have to respect their actions.

Authoritarian respect is usually the form of respect expected from children towards society. They have to obey and not question. They have to do on demand and they may not have any opinions of their own. They always have to speak in respectful tones of voice and never disagree. They have to allow people in authority (all people older than them) to do as they please and they have to keep those in authority happy. We often see it when an older person complains about not getting a hug when they want one, or when a parent complains about back chatting. We see it when people grumble about the “children of today”, what is it they are grumbling about? A child is dared not to toe the line or stand up for themselves. They demand that a child give up their seat, assuming that they have the right to that seat, just because they are older than the child. We see it daily when people grumble that a crying child is disrespectful to the people around them, because the child is audibly expressing their needs and upset. We see it in the narrative regarding breastfeeding in public. Authoritative respect demands that their needs and authority is of a higher order than anyone else’s.

Natural and earned respect is more inclusive. By practicing, guiding and teaching our children this type of respect, respect becomes internalised and easier to manage. I want my children to respect people, but I want them to respect all people as whole human beings. I want them to understand that age does not equal respect, that one can and should always ask questions even when you respect someone. I want them to learn how to question respectfully. I want them to learn that trusting their voice does not equal being disrespectful, but that the way they use their voice must be respectful. I want them to learn that in society respect is a two way street and that sometimes doing the right thing may be viewed as disrespectful and that is okay. I want them to value being questioned without them feeling that they have ever earned the right not to be questioned.

How do we teach our children Natural and Earned respect?

1 – Respecting their voice. Listen to them, not with an ear of correction, but an ear of engagement.

2 – Respecting their body. It is theirs, they get to decide what they do with it. They should be able to say no and stop, regardless of the situation.

3 – Discuss with them the challenges some people may face. Think in the lines of differently abled people, younger people and older people and racial disparities of the past and the here and now.

4 – Teach them how to question and disagree – This is why back chatting is so important. Read our blog on this. here

5 – Teach them to take care of their belongings and respect others belongings.

6 – Treat them with the same respect you want them to treat you. Kids always mirror the way we behave. This is how they learn. If we treat them like robots and not whole human beings, then we should not be surprised if they treat us the same way.

7 – Model respect to others. The way you treat the others, will be the way your child learns to treat others.

Throughout life we all face the challenge of having to disagree with someone who is older, or in a position more senior than us. We all face the challenge of having to engage someone in a position of knowledgeable authority, we struggle to do so, because we were raised to view fear as respect. Let us not make that our children’s legacy.

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I want my child to back chat and here is why you should too…

Often I see parents feeling undone by their children talking back, or back chatting, as it is called. It is tiring and frustrating and it feels like you are speaking to a wall. It makes us as parents feel like we are surely failing and that our kids are out to get us, like they don’t care in the slightest what we say. They tell us what they want, that they will and they cry. It can be very overwhelming if we as parents focus on getting the point across and then engage in a power struggle.

I want my children to backchat, I want them to challenge everything I say. I want them to dissect and find the loopholes in a struggle of ideas, I want them to share what they are thinking. In short I want them to learn to think and how to negotiate. I want them to develop their integrity and exercise their choices and ability to change their minds when they have access to new information.

The reality is our kids mirror what they see. So the way we engage with them back chatting teaches them how to deal with differences in opinion and how to engage with it. If we do not hear them out and listen to what they have to say or share how they think and why they think the way they do, especially when they are young, how will they ever be able to trust us to hear them when they are teenagers?

Children are deep thinkers, yet they don’t think like adults do, because their brains are still developing. Their thought process may be flawed, but more often than not they just need guidance and time to process what is being said. By engaging their back chatting and allowing them to share their thoughts, ideas and even disagreement, we create the space for our children to develop the skills to trust their own voice and instincts and rely on this well into adulthood.

The benefits for allowing and engaging back chatting, far outweighs the perceived rudeness and frustration. We usually become frustrated because of our own triggers (Learn how to recognise and handle your own triggers in Course 1 – Conscious, Creative, Connected Parenting click here for more information).

Most adults are raised with the idea that children’s voices or needs are secondary to those of the adults. We are raised to believe that the adult is always right, that the adult’s perspective is the only one that matters and that the adult has the monopoly on knowledge. But most of all we are taught that the adult can override and control anyone who is viewed as their inferior.

Many parents have asked me, but aren’t I then raising my child to be rude? No you are not. You are raising a child who will be able to manage adulthood with the right set of skills, as adulthood is all about negotiation, reflection, changing opinions when new information is presented and the ability to apply critical thinking to find creative solutions.

Benefits of back chatting:

1 – As a parent I learn where my child’s perspective lies and it opens up understanding of their point of view. This places us as parents in the position to know what and how our kids are thinking and where their reasoning skills are.

2 – Having an open discussion about what they think, opens up the opportunity to add value & understanding to their thoughts and for us as parents to reassess our point of view. It creates a relationship of trust, something parents and children really need to be able to rely on come the teenage years. It also teaches the child that their perspective is not only valued but also valid and respected.

3 – Humans have an innate desire to be heard and understood. By listening attentively to their perspectives and ideas, it navigates the emotional connection between ideas, needs and wants.

4 – It teaches their brains that they can change their opinion if they are presented with new information, without their integrity coming into question.

5 – It teaches them to become adults who will be open to learn and creatively problem solve within personal relationships and work relationships.

6 – It teaches them to be open to different perspectives and to be consciously aware that not everybody thinks the same way they do.

7 – It teaches them negotiation skills and the understanding, that in life any relationship is a two way street.

8 – It teaches them to internalise what they are being taught and police themselves, which develops independence and fosters a mind-set of good decision making.

How do you manage and engage back chatting productively

1 – Be sure you know why you are saying no or placing a boundary. Be sure that it is rational as you will have to explain your own thought process to you your child. “Because I said so” is never a good enough answer. It signals that you, yourself don’t really know why you are saying no and is thus just trying to control instead of guide.

2 – When the child is young, be ready for tears and possible screaming from their side. They are still very much emotionally regulated and not guided by rationality. Allow them to express their disappointment and work through their emotions.

3 – Keep the boundary while acknowledging their emotions and frustrations.

4 – When they have calmed down, ask for their input on the situation or boundary. Kids younger than 7 sometimes struggle with the blanket question “Why” so be specific. I.e.: “You said that you don’t want to clean your room. Is it because you did not want to do it by yourself, or that you prefer the mess?” A younger child may struggle to articulate how they feel or why, so try to break it down for them to understand. They will immediately be able to pinpoint why they don’t want to do something or why a boundary feels wrong, when they hear the wrong explanation come from the parent.

5 – Be open to their suggestions and contributions and be ready and open to change the decision when you have a better understanding of how they think – I have found that stating things like “I like the way you think.” opens our children up for conversation. Never tell a child that they did not or cannot think. They do and they can think, give them the space to develop those skills.

The conversation can then lead to one of five possible directions:

A – The parent asks for time to think about what the child has said and promises to get back them – in this situation the boundary stays intact until the parent has had time to think and process their feedback and how it affects the initial boundary.

B – With the new knowledge the boundary gets adjusted immediately – Be gracious about it, ie “Wow I like the way you thought about this. Let’s see if we can do it your way and see how it goes.” (There are many ways to get to the answer or solution, allowing our kids to try out their own is the best teacher they can have.)

C – The parent offers more information on the boundary, the information is accepted and they talk together about the best way the boundary can be implemented.

D – The child is not open or willing to accept new information. Parent accepts the viewpoint but keeps the boundary as is. The child will be upset and that is okay.

E – The child initially rejects the new information, takes time to think and then engages you on the boundary again.

6 – If it is a hard and fast boundary that cannot be moved, keep the boundary, while engaging with the content of their thoughts. Helping them to add new information to their thought process, without expecting them to immediately accept what you said. Be compassionate and allow them time to process the new information.

7 – If the tone of voice during this process is not acceptable, address it with kindness after they have processed their emotions. Engage with them on how to better engage with the process in future.

8 – Always be open to discussing the boundary again and again. A child who keeps coming back about a specific boundary is busy consolidating the information they have received, or they feel that they have not been heard and understood. So keep on talking it through even if you are tired of the discussion. We want our kids to internalise boundaries and tasks. We don’t want to police them, we want them to be able to govern themselves.

9 – Be honest and clear. Double check that you understand what your child is trying to communicate.

Throughout this process there are very specific don’ts.

The don’ts of back chatting:

1 – Never say, because I said so. It is a power play and it draws a line in the sand. It creates a combative situation and power struggle. It becomes a missed learning opportunity.

2 – Never tell a child that their thinking is wrong. Rather compliment their thinking and add more information with phrases like: “Have you thought about this? And add what you want them to take into consideration.

3 – Never tell a child that their emotions are insignificant and that they are not allowed to feel upset about a boundary. We all have negative feelings and are allowed to feel the way we do.

4 – Don’t rush to conclusions.

5 – Don’t be afraid of rethinking your own perspective.

6 – Don’t be afraid of apologising if you misunderstood.

In conclusion, back chatting is the early developmental stages of learning how to negotiate and problem solve. This process will only truly work if you as the parent are ready to be open for debate and apply proper communication skills.

Feel free to comment or ask more questions down below or follow us on Facebook. We also offer parenting courses and workshops where we offer more detail on this topic Click here for more information.

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It is not a Child’s responsibility to make an adult feel loved

My eldest was just over a year, when a very powerful realisation struck me. I was not able to explain why I felt the way I did, nor could I verbalise as to why I spoke up. It just happened. Later it all made sense. My eldest was going through a developmental leap, he wanted nothing to do with any person besides his mom. Dad was proverbial chopped liver and so was the rest of the world.

We went to visit my folks, and as soon as anyone tried to take him away from me, he would wail and scream. Initially I would let him cry for about 2 minutes in the family member’s arms and then whisk him away to breastfeed. He would stop crying and calm down at my breast, but as soon as he was calm, another well meaning family member would try to take him away again. So the day continued. My son crying more often than usual, family members taking him, because they want to play. Me having to use breastfeeding as a shield and excuse to get him back so that he can stop crying.

I did not have the guts to say to them, don’t pick him up or take him. Just engage with him here in my arms. I swear I fed more that day than on a growth spurt. By the end of the day, both him and I have had enough.

In came my brother. He wanted to show him off to his colleagues over skype. He wanted to “bond” with my son. The moment he picked him up, my son started crying, for the umpteenth time that day. I have had enough. I asked for my son back. Which was refused, I asked again and my brother walked away with my screaming child in his arms. That was when I snapped and said “Please respect my child’s feelings. Now give him back to me.”My child was shoved into my arms, he stopped crying almost immediately and my brother stomped out of the room.

I was shaking angry and scared. That day the reality dawned on me, that I am my child’s voice, but I have been compromising him for the sake of family and my needs to not be rejected. I was angry at myself that I was so scared to cause a scene or a fight, that I did not protect my child. It took me almost eight hours, of a screaming child and then nursing said child, to finally not care that I upset a family member.

We so desperately want our family to love our child. We so desperately want the approval of our family members, that we forsake the very child, who needs us more, we and compromise on their needs, wants and feeling of safety and autonomy. A few weeks later, my brother informed me, that he can no longer love my child because of the way that I spoke to him, and the fact that I restrict the interaction (read when my child cries I step in and remove my child from the situation), he no longer feels like he wants to build a relationship with my son. That moment was when I found the words for what I have instinctively been fighting for and against. That very moment it became crystal clear.

To them, my child is an accessory to their happiness. He has to respect their needs. My child was not a human to them, but a means to stroke their ego and have their own needs fulfilled. My child’s need to feel safe and okay was not even secondary on their priority list, it just never featured. They wanted to be known as the uncle or grandparent who could calm the baby down. The uncle or grandparent who could make the baby smile. The uncle or grandparent who gets to brag about how cute this baby is. My baby became the the collar for their own self worth and I became the obstacle to their selfish drive.

They were taught no different while growing up. They could not see their behaviour as wrong, because that is just how things are suppose to be done. A child has to fit into the family, the family does not have to create space and change for the sake of the child.

From that day forward I had to learn how to be brave enough to set boundaries and accept the backlash it caused. With every boundary I enforced, I could see my child grow stronger in his own voice and he became more confident. I wish I could say that I never stepped into that compromised, scared and angry place again. That I always put my child first when dealing with the family. I stumbled on this new terrain of rejection and struggled as I grew. However I did grow and my voice became louder and prouder.You may ask, why is it an issue when we compromise for the sake of family?

It is simple really. While we teach our children to be afraid of stranger danger. We teach our children that their bodies are their own, unless it is a family member who just wants a hug, or just wants a kiss. We tell them especially at the infancy age, when they literally can only cry to announce their needs, that their needs does not matter when it comes to older family members. We try to keep the peace and ignore the cry for as long as we can stand it, because we are scared to make the family member feel unloved or scrutinised.

We allow our family members to override our parenting, because we are scared to be “that” parent, or we are scared to be ostracized by our clan. Our drive to belong creates an environment where we compromise our children’s sense of autonomy, safety and self, all for the sake of peace.

We don’t realise that we are teaching our children to compromise themselves for the sake of belonging. We teach them to compromise their safety for the sake of others. We look at the world and ask why do children so easily forget the values we teach them, yet we taught them that the core value of their personhood is compromisable for the sake of belonging.

Children and babies are not responsible to make adults feel loved and happy. It is not their responsibility to be brag worthy. It is adults’ responsibility to make kids feel loved, protected and safe. It is adults’ responsibility to listen and adhere to the rules of personhood. Adults need to learn to respect children as whole human beings and that their NO and STOP has the same value and power as that of an adult.

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