On International Women's Day a little parenting advice, because you asked for it.
Almost a month ago I was struggling about what to write for my daily entry. Then I put out into the Twitter universe a request to you, my awesome followers if there were any topics you wanted me to muse on. I took screenshots of them so I wouldn’t forget about them, then, low and behold I became re-inspired with topics. Time passed, then I remembered that I had made the request, and thought; “Hey I should look back at the questions and, you know, answer them.”
That’s when I realized the screenshots I took were on my Toronto phone. Which if you follow both Yannick and me, is the one that met it’s demise on the ski hill in Kelowna BC, while I was attempting to post the cutest photo of my niece and me, EVER and dropped it off the chair lift at the highest point. Shit. Then it became about getting the time to go back through my feed to find the thread. At long last, today was the day that I was able to scroll through my Twitter feed to find the tweet, and your responses. Since I’m a mouthy, opinionated woman, let me just tell you that finding it was quite difficult, but I did not give up, I persevered and found them.
Yay at long last, you will get your replies to your questions; I’m going to do them in a compilation post, since it is International Women’s Day and the topics are all appropriate for the day, since they deal with issues on being a mother, and parenting. I’m not going to tag you in this post, because there are a few of you, and I don’t want to single you out. I’ve done that before and those people no longer follow me, so…
- “SCREEN TIME/LIMITS ON VIDEO GAMES/SOCIAL ACTIVITIES ON INTERNET, HOW TO TEACH SMART ONLINE BEHAVIOR?” Okay. These are all a lot more straight forward than you think they might be. The bottom line is do some research on the mental/health pros and cons of too much time spent staring at computer screens and television sets. There is all sorts of literature that will tell you that too much of this is detrimental to your child’s health, which I happen to agree with. It’s not a good idea for kids to be sedentary, like vegetables in front of a screen, either watching questionable television, or fake killing people. I mean, just think about that. How healthy is it for kids to learn that killing people, even if in video games is a great idea? I personally think it desensitizes them, and with the current state of our world, I believe that is the wrong direction to be moving in. Also, it puts them in a solitary bubble, they don’t interact with fellow humans, and I think it sets a negative pattern of behaviour of not having relationships with living breathing people. We got lucky, we had girls, so we didn’t really have to deal with the gaming disease, like many of our friends with boys had to. Out of our three only one was gaming obsessed, and still is. What we decided to do was give them time limits. After, the key word here is AFTER, all their responsibilities were handled, homework, chores, etc then they were allowed 30 minutes of TV time, computer time, gaming time. All in, they were allowed to spend one full hour on these sedentary/isolating activities. As far as smart online behaviour, be honest with them, I mean dish out age appropriate honesty, don’t tell a five year old about sexual weirdos online. We didn’t allow our girls to have social media, (well in fairness there was only msm chat when they started getting on the computer) until they were old enough to emotionally handle it. Our youngest was only allowed her own cell phone when she was going to begin traveling on public transit with her friends. I personally think kids shouldn’t be allowed on social media until they’re 13-15. If you’re going to allow them on social media, then I think you need to be online with them. They should never be allowed to have private, or locked accounts from you. You must be able to access what they’re looking at, what they’re talking about, and who is talking to them. It’s for their own safety, and your peace of mind. And for the love of God, know that the world is full of crazy, sick people, it is your job to protect your children from these people. These opportunistic sickos. Don’t crack and buy into your kids telling you that you’re over protective, and “so and so’s” parents let them have social media. You are not “so and so’s” mom, you are the mother to your children and you decide what is okay in your home. Stand your ground and remember your job is to protect, and teach them how to be in the world.
- “OVER SCHEDULING CHILDREN/FEAR OF ALLOWING CHILDREN TO PLAY IN PARKS WITH FRIENDS?” I have A LOT of opinions about the over programming syndrome taking over the world of our kids. First off, to be blunt, for the sake of not only your kids sanity, but yours too, parents need to slow down with this. Like really slow down. The over programming phenomenon is doing the exact opposite of what you want it to do. It is giving your kid a whole whack of skills/talents, but no ability to entertain themselves. Yes they may play Mozart like a genius, but they have no idea to do with themselves when home for two hours, and it’s raining outside. I personally think it is a huge disservice to your kid to have them spread thin, to have them running around all over the city from this class to this class, this program and that, while they have homework, and other things they have to tend to. It is my opinion, and this worked brilliantly with our girls that you pick one, or two activities that they’re completely passionate about; things they cannot live without, and focus on those. Not more than two, especially if you have more than one kid, which multiples the nightly commitments. Trust me, your calendar will thank you, your marriage will thank you, and so will your bank account. Kids need down time just as much as we do. I don’t know why some parents don’t think this way when it comes to their kids. You know how much you enjoy just putting your feet up at the end of a long day/week, with nothing to do, except what you want to be doing? Yeah. It’s awesome isn’t it? You LOVE that. So do your kids. Besides leaving them with nothing to do, is awesome for their creativity. It teaches them as adults how to combat boredom. This is an incredible life skill you should be teaching them. As for the playground thing; how old are the kids we’re talking about? I mean I would never let my kid under 12 go to the park alone with friends. But older than that I think it’s okay, and I think if they go in groups, they should be fine. If this is going to be something that you do in your family, then your child is the kid who needs a cell phone to alert you to when they’ve arrived at their friend’s house, the park, when they’re leaving the park etc etc etc. I think safety in numbers, in age, and technology, make going to the park a childhood right that all kids should still enjoy.
- “6 CHILDREN, 1 WITH GDD, AND ONE WITH A BLOOD DISORDER; HOW DO I GIVE THEM QUALITY TIME?” First I want to praise you for being the mother of SIX kids, you’re a saint!! Secondly, to have one with special needs, and another with a health issue is not easy. Any one of these difficulties with one child would be challenging alone, but to have two that need so much from you, and of you, with four other kids must be overwhelming at times. I salute you! Now, how to give them each their own quality time? They must have varying ages if there are six of them, so there should be a couple who get to stay up later than the others? If this is the case, then I would do what we did, let them pick a book that they are dying to read and curl up in bed with them at their bedtime and read one chapter out of the book with them every single night. Also, if you have older kids, allow one of them to go run errands with you, all alone. It may not sound like fun for them, but what it gives them is one on one time with you, where they can chat, and vent to you in private. It allows them to have you them all to themselves, and that is always special, no matter how/where that happens. Kids just want to know they are a priority to their parents. If you’re still with your partner, then employ that parent to also set up scheduled one on one activities with the kids. It doesn’t have to be grandiose, kids just want YOU. They’re not hung up on what it is that you do alone with each other, they’re more positively impacted to just to get the time with you. Find their interests, whether it be a hobby or sport, and do it with them on a weekly basis. Feed off your kids, ask them how they would like to pass some one on one time with you, then go from there. For me though, I really found the reading with them at the end of the day is still something they talk about, that they treasured, and it was easy, and cheap.
- “LOVE MY CHILDREN, BUT GET FRUSTRATED THAT I AM CONSTANTLY REPEATING MYSELF TO THEM ABOUT SIMPLE DAY TO DAY TASKS, EVERYDAY?” Okay, in my book, How to Raise your kid without losing your Cool, I address this in very simple terms. You might not like it, but here goes. Kids are like dogs. They need constant reinforcement as to what the expectations of them are in the family dynamic. When they’re little, you might feel like a broken record, as you do when you get a new puppy. They just don’t seem to get what you’re telling them, you’re pretty confident you will never get to that moment in your relationship with them where there is peace, harmony and understanding. Hell, you might even be asking yourself, as we’ve all been known to do with our puppies; “Why did I do this???” This is normal. Kids can annoy the hell out of us, and make us hate the sound of our own voices. But, we must persevere with our parenting. If it is important to you, the expectations you have for them of the tasks you want them to fulfill then you must be consistent in your communication with them. You cannot waver, and you cannot let up one day because you’re tired. Kids are constantly testing us to see “if you really mean it” and you must show them that you do. And listen, I don’t know your kids, or their ages, but in our house you were asked once, we didn’t do the whole bargaining, count to three, or multiple request thing that a lot of parents are comfortable with. We didn’t have the energy, the patience or the interest to spend our days/nights to treat every single damn thing like a negotiation. We decided that we wanted our kids to a) take us seriously when we spoke to them with a expectation and b) we expected them to be respectful of us the first time we asked. If they didn’t listen, simply because they just didn’t want to listen, they were spanked, because in our house we treated it as disrespect to us. As they got older, we would have more conversations with them that went like this; “Okay so I asked you do this _____ and you aren’t doing it for me in a timely manner, yet you want me to do what you would like me to do for you, the first time you ask? Life doesn’t work like that. We must treat each other with mutual respect; and treat one another in the way we want to be treated.” And it was that simple, from the time they were young, we also put it to them; “How would you like me to react if you asked me for something? Would you like me to do it for you when you asked me the first time, or would you be okay with having to ask me half a dozen times for your dinner??” Kids are smart, if you ask them to put themselves in your shoes, they’re usually pretty good at it, and they usually determine quick fast that they don’t want to be on the receiving end of parents who don’t want to listen to them the first time around. So I get it if spanking isn’t for you, you don’t have to do that, but you must set up a consequence to them choosing to ignore you, when you ask them to do things. Talk it over with your spouse, then pick a punishment and stick to it. Consistency is everything if you want to change a behaviour, just like your dog ; )
Try these little helpful parenting hacks, and let me know how it goes for all of you going forward. I wish you much success, and enjoyment with your kids, and your lives, today, and always.