I recently completed a 7 week course called Raising Children with Confidence, which aims to promote positive mental health and well-being in our wee people. For those who have been following my mental health awareness journey, you will get why I was pretty intrigued to find out what it was all about. Deep down I think a lot of us parents question ourselves. I often get feelings of guilt. I question things like ‘am I allowing my 3 year old to watch too much tv?’ or ‘am I providing enough boundaries?’ I worry about spoiling the kids, I am a bit of a soft touch at times and am aware that this could lead to raising discontent children. I think no matter what we do, we will always worry that we are doing a good job. This is a natural part of parenting. It is a HUGE responsibility. It is hard work – the pressure is real. How do we give these little people the best shot in life? What can we do to help ensure they grow up into happy, respectful, good people?
I got a great deal out of the course. I am not going to talk over all the theories we discussed, or the research and findings (which I must say were all fascinating). I am going to talk about some practical examples of how the course has helped me.
I like to work quickly and I hate being late. Bonnie, my 3 year old, on the other hand likes to take her time getting out the door. It has been really useful to learn about the structure of her brain and the rate at which it is developing. The reminder that she is simply incapable of processing information to the extent that I am has helped me to become more patient and as a result – less stressed getting out the door (I turn into a serious diva). Getting stressed is in fact the worse thing I could do as creating a stressful atmosphere will hinder her ability to listen and focus. There is not a lot I can do about a dirty nappy from my 1 year old either (always when trying to leave the house).
Tantrums are normal
In terms of the emotional part of a child’s brain -this is very much still developing. Scientists believe our brain to be fully developed from around the age of 23 to 25. Therefore, it is extremely normal and actually healthy for my little people to fly off the handle sometimes. They are learning to control their emotions. Blaming them for getting distressed will not help a situation. It is essential that I help them with big feelings, rather than criticising or dismissing them. I am now trying my best to avoid expressions like ‘stop being a drama queen’. Bringing me onto the next point – empathy.
This is very much learned behaviour and not something we are naturally born with. Research shows that children pick up empathetic qualities from their carers at a very early age. If I don’t show empathy to Bonnie when she is distressed and instead tell her to ‘be quiet’ or ‘stop being a drama queen’ I can’t expect her to grow into an empathetic person. It is essential for a happy life to learn how to listen and to show support. I want my kids to grow up with confidence and interpersonal skills. This all sounds like common sense but since the course I have naturally started responding to tantrums a whole lot better. Granted some days it will all get a bit much and I will lose my rag (definitely more likely on PMT days). I am getting better though and asking Bonnie more questions and relating to her feelings. By making more effort to be empathetic with Bonnie since the course, she is actually having far less tantrums and is coming out of them quicker as I use the tips I have learned . I actually feel like we are closer now.
The pressure is not all on me
As a Mum of two I am constantly juggling. I want to see to the needs of my 3 year old, my 1 year old, my husband, my parents, my family and friends. I also have to think about myself. I need to make time for myself – even just simple stuff I took for granted before like a bath or a shower in peace. I need a bit head space and taking that time will make me a better parent. It is great for the kids to have other role models. It is great for the kids to have time with other family members and friends. Positive relationships are crucial for their emotional development.
What really matters
This sounds obvious but I find it hard to live by – kids need love and time more than things. I love buying my 3 year old gifts as she gets so excited. I need to monitor this though so that she knows the value. Playing with her and reading stories to her or baking with her will do her more good. She needs to know her limits. She needs to know that I can’t buy her whatever she wants. She needs to know that some days we are just in the shop to look. The research about setting boundaries and how important this is for small kids has helped me to be firmer and not crumble at the supermarket as often as I normally do.
I struggle with this one as I am a very tactile person and my children are currently not (unless they are ill or shattered). I love to show affection through kisses, cuddles and close contact. In time I have got used to the fact that my little people are currently more happy to be shown love through quality play time together and our family meal times instead of cuddles. Not everyone likes to be shown love the same way and we need to adapt. This doesn’t just apply to kids. It was interesting to look into the ways that people like to be shown love. Sadly for me what my husband really appreciates (over gift giving for example) is me giving the house a good tidy. That is one of the best gifts I could give him – pity I find this so low on my agenda. Those who have read about my typical day will understand why. The best gift he could give me would be a nice bottle of champagne or a massage. It is all about compromise. He also needs to remember that the way he likes to show love is not necessarily the way I like it to be demonstrated. I might not be as grateful as he would expect by his efforts to clean the house and likewise if I buy him a gift he won’t always respond the way I expect (especially if I give him it when the house is a mess).
There are SO many distractions around but the power of sitting and having a chat for a minimum of 10 minutes a day will have amazing results. I still remember my Dad saying to me as I grew up ‘right we need to make sure we sit and chat for at-least 10 minutes each day’. I still appreciate the times he got home from work and stopped everything for a chat with no distractions. My time to do this is in currently in the bath with the kids, I hop in with them each night. No TV, laptop, phone, housework – just us chatting and singing. We try and make a habit of sitting together for meals but getting out the house is always great too. I love going for a coffee/babyccino with Bonnie and I know that she cherishes these times by the way her face lights up. I cherish them too.
Too much praise
It is so tempting to shower our kids in praise so that they grow up with confidence. I now understand the potential damage this can do for their motivation and development. Encouraging effort and hard work is far more important. That is not to say I can’t compliment my kids – it is about balance like everything else.
Hide and seek
This game has more benefits than we could ever imagine for our child’s brain development. Just don’t make my mistake and leave the tumbler drier open #panicattack.
I could go on for way longer about the benefits of this course. I would thoroughly recommend: it genuinely has helped me so much x
I am currently training for my first marathon and working hard to raise awareness on a number of topics that are extremely sensitive. My fear is that we often bottle feelings up, especially in the UK. I want to say a huge thanks to everyone who has been brave enough to help me raise awareness. I am overwhelmed by the response and one thing that is very prominent from my work so far is that talking helps. Let’s keep talking x
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