Category Archives: Life as a Parent

Guest Post: 8 important lessons for parenting

I am so excited to bring you a guest post to this little blog. A wonderful mother I met through an antenatal class often talks about the strategies she uses with her children. They are so fantastic I asked if she could share some here. I find Lori is great at blending her professional skills with parenting in a real-world way that anyone can achieve. While Lori has specified toddler in this piece, these skills could be used with any age child. Enjoy! 

As a psychologist and a parent I often find myself questioning the way we parent. It is so easy to fall into a trap of short term wins as a parent as we are often tired, busy, or even embarrassed by our children’s reactions or behaviours and we want them to stop. However, short term wins can impact over time and I believe it’s equally important to think through long term consequences. I research and read A LOT!!! Not just looking for gentle parenting strategies that have worked for other parents or parenting experts, but examining the research into impacts of different techniques and strategies long term. Every child is different which is definitely evident with both my children; and it has been trial and error at times. However, there are a number of techniques and strategies that we have found really work. I believe these work to encourage, work to empower, work to enable, work to impart and work to build emotional intelligence and resilience over time. I hope you find them as useful as I have.

8 important lessons I’ve learned with parenting my toddler.

1. Judge intention not behaviour. So often we react to children’s behaviour and get cranky at them when their intention was something completely different to our judgement. Toddlers don’t always know the best way to show their intention so their actions and intentions can often be incongruent. If we can stop and think about intention before responding we can better understand our children and what they are trying to achieve as well as minimising our negative reactions.

2. Give choices where possible. Toddlers like to have responsibility and independence. While there are some instances where we have to give more direct requests, look for those opportunities where you can give them a choice. For example, “which of these three options would you like for morning tea?” “which out of these three outfits would you like to wear today?” “where would you like to sit to eat your lunch”, “which park would you like to go to?”, etc.

3. Where you do need to give directions, explain the “why” behind requests. Providing toddlers with an understanding of why we want or need them to do something helps them appreciate the importance behind our request. I also ask my toddler why when she asks me something to get her thinking in this way as well. In my opinion she can never ask “why” enough and I will never answer with “just because” or “because I said so!” as it teaches her nothing positive.

4. Ask them what to do, not what NOT to do. If you tell a toddler “don’t run” they don’t know what the alternative is at that split moment. Saying “walk please” is a much clearer instruction. I then follow with the why.

5. Ask questions, not statements, and get them to think about it. Asking questions helps your toddler link behaviours and experiences to outcomes, consequences and emotions as well as think about these linkages. Common questions I ask my toddler “What was the happiest/saddest thing that happened today?” “What does respect look like?” “What do you think you could do differently next time?” “Why do you think they did that? What was their intention?” “What does proud feel like?” “How do you think they would feel if you did that?”

6. Encourage and discuss positive behaviours and actions; why these are positive and the impact they have. There is a wealth of research on this topic showing the long term benefits on wellbeing, resilience and even intellect. Be aware of the positive language we use and the impact of this in their interactions with others.

7. Talk about the not so positive behaviours. Why they were no so positive and the impact they had. Then encourage them to come up with an alternative way they could approach the situation next time.

8. Teach them positive ways to manage their emotions. Deep breathing and cuddling works really well and are simple techniques if they are feeling out of control. Sitting with them when they are feeling this way also helps them feel secure and reinforces we are there to support them through all emotions, not just when they are happy. Also, if they hurt themselves or get upset about something, let them feel that emotion (don’t try to stop it or distract them from it). This reinforces it’s okay to feel all emotions. All emotions are healthy; it’s how they learn to manage these that is important in teaching resilience and stress management techniques.

There have definitely been challenging times but we have stuck to these methods and I really feel like they have really paid off! Don’t get me wrong; my children are not perfect, and we don’t expect that. In fact, we encourage mistakes in this house as it’s an important way to learn. That’s what we do as adults and we model this for our children; letting them know when we have made good and not so good choices in our own reactions. And just like us, they are allowed to express their emotions; it’s just a continuing journey to work out together appropriate ways for them to do so.

Lori Burdon is an experienced psychologist who specialises in organisational psychology. However, since having her first child over 4 years ago she became passionate about researching and reviewing parenting practices within a psychological context and putting these into practice. Lori is focused on gentle and positive parenting techniques to assist her children in becoming resilient, emotionally intelligent and empowering them to choose their own appropriate behaviours and actions.

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What its really like to be a parent

It’s a common question to new parents: what is it like to be a parent? I find the answers tend to fall into one of two categories. The first is the category that reflects the love of the parents to their offspring. It’s usually profuse, and magical sounding: ‘It just amazing, I couldn’t imagine how much I love them. You just can’t understand it until you have your own’. The other response is the one that reflects the difficulties: ‘I’m so tired, it’s so demanding, I had no idea how many nappies they go through’. The real truth is somewhere in between, and I’m going to attempt to illustrate it with an example…

Imagine you got a job as a personal assistant to a musician you love. You adore this person, their music really speaks to you and you feel they are a genius of their time. Despite the crummy salary, you are overjoyed to have this opportunity to work with this person. You turn up on the first day, and are completely overwhelmed at being in this person’s life. You soon realise though, that this artist has NO concept of a routine life, and is completely egocentric. As the day progresses it becomes very clear that they expect you to be at their beck and call all day. You go to the toilet and they start yelling for you. Hastily you wipe your bum, and exit to see what the huge issue is only to find their special blanket fell off, and they wanted it back on, just so. You adjust said blanket, and start organizing their lunch (apparently you are now a gourmet chef too – no extra pay). You prepare an amazing meal, and are convinced your adored artist will be so pleased at your efforts, but all of a sudden they are not hungry. You return the untouched meal to the kitchen, and head home for the night. Exhausted, a little disillusioned, but still in love with your idol. 

At 3am, you get a phone call. You are needed immediately. You throw on your old T-shirt and head over to their hotel room. Your much adored musician has gotten totally high and is having a meltdown. They are screaming, yelling and completely inconsolable. They are also covered in vomit and their own shit. You calm them down, clean them up and eventually get them off to sleep. It’s now 5:00 and you are exhausted. You finally get some sleep on the couch, only to be woken an hour later by a bright-eyed and chirpy person who is completely oblivious to the drama of last night.  This repeats on a regular basis.

Your friends tell you to quit, but the truth is you adore this person. They are inspired and interesting. For every shit-covered meltdown there are amazing moments when you sit around listening to them make music, and you are pulled into their magical world. Just when you think you can’t handle the yelling and tantrums, they turn their full attention onto you and smile in a way that you know how important they are to you. 

So you stay in the job, and as much as you never want to wipe shit from someone’s bum even again, you truly wouldn’t want it any other way.

THAT’s what it is like to be a parent. 

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A letter to my first born

Dear Boo,

The minute that you were placed onto my belly, you looked at me. Your blue eyes staring into mine. Immediately our bond was formed. It was formed from the blood, sweat and tears of my labour; born from a cosmic connectedness that I am too simple to understand; born from a love than spans eons. A Mother’s bond with her Daughter. I loved you so completely from that very minute, and you completed my heart.

Life conspires to tear us apart though. I am busy, drawn away from you by housework, bills, a new baby. I attempt to be with you, but my attempts are pitiful. I know it, but I can’t accept it. Surely you need to learn to live with my partial attention?

Tonight, I understand. After a day of awful behaviour from you, and much despairing from me, we talked. You, in your simple vocabulary; few in words, but strong in emotion. Me, actually listening. What I heard was that you needed me. You didn’t understand about the bills or the clean floor. All you knew was that I wasn’t there for you the way you needed me. It broke my heart.

While you slept I watched you. Your gentle breathing, your tossing and turning, your sweet face. I have failed you my sweet. I have allowed trivial matters and PND to steal me from you. I am so sorry.

I can’t tell you all of this right now: it is too complex for your young understanding. I can promise you something though. I promise that I will put down my phone and listen to you. I promise not to run to the baby (who is now a toddler herself) before you every time. I promise to play more and craft more, side by side with you and with all my heart and attention. I promise you that I am still yours, and I promise to show you that in my actions.

You, my sweet child, made me a Mother. Now because of you I learn something new about mothering: that bond forged so easily at your delivery is something that needs attention. It needs care, nourishment and time. I understand that now.

I love you so completely and utterly dear Child. Let us build our bond.

With my everlasting love,
Your Mother.

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Dear intolerant cafe user

Dear intolerant cafe user,

Yes, you. I know who you are. You’re that person rolling their eyes at the mere sight of children in your precious cafe, the one tossing disapproving looks towards me, the one who quickly turns to social media and those free street papers to express your opinion that children are an unwelcome nuisance in your day. I get it, I do. But please stop tweeting for a sec, and allow me to explain a few things you may not realize.

1. Kids are like this.. all day long

There you were, enjoying a much needed break from your desk job, when in I walk with my two brats and proceed to poison the atmosphere with awful children related noise. The squealing! The banging! The whining! Don’t I know kids should stay at home?? Well guess what? They are like this all day. While you were briefly exposed to it, this is my daily existence. Take pity on me. Show a fellow human some empathy. Let me enjoy a cuppa free from judgement. And yes I know this is my choice. But hey, only the first one was, the second was a total surprise. So seriously, cut me some slack dude.

2. You do this 2 times a day, I haven’t been out in months.

Okay my small children ruined your coffee break, but no doubt you’ll be having another one later on. After all, you’re a cosmopolitan person. For me though, your intolerant attitude ruined my first trip to a cafe in months. See you know how all that annoying kid noise irritated you? Well the mental gymnastics required to keep a 1 and 2 year old sitting down, not spilling the sugar, not breaking cups, not screaming, not throwing food and remaining somewhat within my control is taxing. It’s made worse but the pointed looks thrown my way by all the people letting me know the mere presence of small people in the cafe is offensive. It’s taken me two months to get the will to treat myself to this trip. I won’t be repeating it for at least three more.

3. It cost me a lot more than you, so deal with it.

YOU are an important customer. Yes siree you are. Your coffee must have cost nearly $4 too. That $4 should come with a guarantee no kids will turn up to ruin your day, right? Except for one thing.. my trip cost me 5 times that. See I had to buy a tea, a weak poorly made and over priced tea. Then there was a baby chino. Then a loud shriek informed me the other child needed a baby chino. There was also two ‘please be quiet’ biscuits, plus a bottle of water to replace the one my kid spilled. So really, I’m the important customer here.

Finally,

4. It’s called skill building

As much as you’d like to believe that kids should be banned from all public spaces, the truth is its important we get them out to places people socialize. Why, you ask? Because we need to teach them how to act within a society. They need to learn what’s acceptable, how to treat people and how to interact. If we don’t, they might end up being an intolerant asshole like you, and truly we don’t need more of you.

Sincerely,
A mother who thinks you’re a dick.

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Shooting the breeze

So, it turns out I don’t speak adult anymore. This realization has been dawning on me for several months, but a job interview and a few coffee dates with my childless friends has brought it into sharp focus: I have nothing to talk about.

Nothing, aside from my children. Get me on the topic of the girls and I can wax lyrical. I have oodles of great conversational material ranging from the sleep habits of infants (they don’t sleep, full stop) to the joys of potty training a toddler who will pee on the carpet for attention. The problem is when I’m around people without kids (hereafter called normal people). Normal people have a passing interest in my children that includes checking they are well, and perhaps laughing at one cute story. Then the interest fades. Fast. What normal people don’t realise is that I have nothing else to discuss.

I’m a full time stay at home Mum. I love this role, and it’s my choice and desire to be a SAHM. I consider myself an educated woman, and somewhat interesting. Occasionally I’m even funny. I take an interest in current events and anything natural medicine focused. But despite this, I find if you don’t have a career and a social life you don’t have much to discuss.

In fact it’s kinda weird that it’s socially acceptable and normal to discuss your job, but when your kids are your job people don’t want to hear about it. Every mundane detail about your asshole boss and lazy co-workers makes fine dinner conversation, but that hilarious anecdote about your toddler trying to breastfeed her teddy is not. Why is that?

The other thing inhibiting my ability to ‘talk’ adult is my fatigue. I’m bone achingly exhausted. I can’t even string sentences together. I can actually see the normal people looking at me like motherhood has robbed me of my senses. ‘Has she always been this dull’, they ask themselves.

I’ll admit it, I’m embarrassed by this state of affairs. I miss lively conversations and witty banter. I’m aware the normal people don’t want to hear endless details about my kids, but I’m also aware of the uncomfortable silences I don’t know how to fill anymore.

Without doubt this will pass. The kids will go to school, I’ll study and work again, and I’ll have some dickhead boss who makes great dinner conversation. In the meantime, be gentle with me and endure my stories about my kids. I promise to listen to your’s one day.

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