Parenting from the trenches: Or how to be a better parent

Right, I mean what do I know eh? I have a daughter who feeds the cat crayons and who calls everyone within earshot an idiot.
I’m perfectly positioned to tell you how to be a better parent, right?

But I have been there in the trenches of motherhood.
I have fought the hard fight. I have sat on the toilet seat weeping because I felt like I had ‘failed’ my children.
I have looked at others and thought ‘why isn’t my little girl like that? Why does she insist on being a ‘challenge’? Why why why why why?

A little while back I was reading a post from Tattie Weasle on this very subject and I felt like crying for her, reaching out across the ether and grabbing her by the lapels and shouting ‘yes, I’ve been there. I understand’.
Because that is what blogging is all about for me. Sharing, caring, helping.

I don’t profess to have all the answers by any means, but I do have some snippets of advice.
I have distilled nearly 7 years of hard experience down into 8 simple tips.
Of course, they won’t necessarily work for everyone, but when you’re there on the coal face of parenting you will try anything ANYTHING if it will bring you and ounce of sanity.
And if it’s worked for one parent, well, it’s got to at least be worth a try eh?
Please, if you have any sage words to add, we’re all ears.

1. Learn to be 6 again.
Remember how booooring you found adults were when you 6/7/8? Remember how OLD you thought they were because everything had to be sensible or safe.
It is really tough, but try to think like your children think (not how you think they should think). It will rarely be the same.
Think about how BORING the things you are asking of them are. Sure you know best, you only have their safety and well being at heart. You’re their parent after all, and they should realise that you only want the best for them. But they don’t, in fact they couldn’t care less about ‘best’ they just want to eat Cornflakes for dinner.

2. Pick your battles.
Does it really matter that they won’t put their coat on when it’s chilly out? They’ll soon want it when their neck turns blue.
My husband has had a half an hour fall out with our son because he insisted on eating his dinner with chopsiticks (we were eating a roast dinner). But do you know what? So what? He soon stopped when the gravy kept splashing all up his favourite football top.

3. Never say do this/do that.
Make it a challenge or fun or a race. Tell stories instead of giving instruction (calmly and with a jokey angle): ‘I once heard about little girl who wouldn’t keep her mouth closed when she was eating and she swallowed so much fresh air blah blah blah’
Supermarkets are always a battle ground so think of a distraction or a game to play. Not spot the hairiest woman as my son once suggested.

3. Explain things.
Treat your children with respect. Talk to them, even when they’re really little. I know most of it doesn’t go in or mean a lot but ‘you shouldn’t do this because’ works better than just ‘don’t do that’. I hate being told not to do something unless I know why I shouldn’t. I get all stubborn and dig my heels in and make a fuss. I guess children are the same. Or I’m a big baby, one of the two.
Also don’t be so confrontational. If you do you’re just asking for a row.
And if you attempt any of these when they’re tired, well, then you’re just asking for trouble.

4. Do not bribe.
It just doesn’t work. It also means they have ‘won’. Tidying up? Not unless you give me a bag of crisps. And the next time I’ll want crisps and a mega giant bar of chocolate. Give incentives instead, like ‘at the end of the week you’ll get X for doing X every day’.

6. Give them your time.
I know this is a toughie, but when I started taking my daughter out, just me and her she changed so much. I never made a big deal of it or announced it we just did it and she clearly loved the one on one attention.
And believe you me, I know how easy it is to sit tapping away at a computer while they play around the house together. Don’t do it. They hate it and see it as you think the computer is far more important than they are.
I work from home, so this is a real toughie for me, but when they are around and I don’t absolutely have to be tapping away, I don’t.

7. It’s all a phase.
When your gorgeous baby is throwing food up the walls, or your little girl is refusing to eat anything but sauce or your school age son is obsessed with the contents of his trousers, remember it’s not going to last forever.
This phase will then be replaced with another phase and you’ll be worrying about a whole different set of things in a few months time.
Stop worrying. Children do annoying/worrying/ridiculous things. If you worry about this one, you’ll be worrying for the rest of your life.
Let it go, deal with it, break bad habits, chill out.
For me, knowing there was a light at the end of the tunnel was all I needed!

8. Let them know that you love them at all times.
Well of course they know I love them, you’re probably saying. But do they? They’re children. They don’t know that you brush their teeth every night for their benefit. They don’t know that you stop them from running down the pavement alongside a busy road because you want to protect them.
You’re just annoying mum or dad who’s stopping them from having fun and getting in the way of them scaling the stairs in their SpiderMan outfit.
My son totally gets it now. I rarely have to tell him off. I give him the look that says ‘I really love you son, but I do not like your behaviour right now. I’m not angry with you just a bit disappointed’.
And it works. Every time.

I’m not saying these are the answers and believe you me it’s been tough, but we’re getting there. And I’m pretty sure you guys out there have some others to add . . .

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