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Looking for a Parenting Support Course? What I learned from a year of studying parenting programs.

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As part of my research project to evaluate a parenting program, I first had to study OTHER well established parenting programs to get an idea of how I was going to plan my project.

What started as an innocent little hunt to find information on parenting programs, ended up in me writing a critical review on the most popular parenting programs that you can find today. These are the highlights of what I have found.

If you’re a parent or carer and are seeking help through a parenting program, I highly recommend that you carefully consider the philosophy of a parenting program before you sign up for it (you can also read books based on most of these programs without doing any sessions). Make sure that the theoretical foundations of the program align with your family values or are something you are interested in learning. Although some of the programs say they cater to ‘all’ parents or are ‘universal’, they certainly are not.

Because parenting programs are taught by ‘experts’, we can feel that these people know more than us. But, if the strategies taught to you in the programs don’t align with your family values, you may find yourself in a conundrum where you’re MORE confused and conflicted than before!

Two Types of Parenting Programs

There are two major categories of parenting programs. Behavioural Parent Training programs and Attachment-Based parenting programs. Both have their strengths. I won’t hide the fact that I heavily prefer the attachment-based philosophies, but read for yourself to find out which program or approach you might benefit from most.

Behavioural Parent Training Programs

Popular ones are Triple P, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, 1-2-3 Magic and Incredible Years.

Behavioural parent training programs were made popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s. They were designed by psychologists at a time when it became recognised that using corporal punishment (smacking, spanking) was far more troublesome than it was worth. The experts had to come up with some suitable alternative, so a style of discipline was developed to teach parents a system of rewards and non-violent punishments to elicit cooperation in children.

You are most likely familiar with some of the these strategies. They are rewards, like sticker charts, prizes and praise and ‘non-intensive’ punishments like planned ignoring and time-out.

No children were actually put in time-out for this photo, I asked her to pose.

There is a lot of evidence to say these types of parenting programs are effective. And for families who are experiencing stressful situations or have very little time or energy to exert on parenting issues, these programs may be the go. However, critics of behavioural parent training programs argue that there are problems with claiming these programs ‘work for all’. Cherry picking positive results of trials, low acceptability of discipline strategies (in other words, parents are not willing to use planned ignoring or time-out), considerably high drop out rates and not enough independent studies (for example, most of the studies on Triple P were done by Matthew Sanders, founder of Triple P himself. Hello conflict of interest??)

Nevertheless, Triple P and other behavioural parenting programs tend to get the majority of funding from governments in industrialised countries, because of all the research that has been done. So, in some places you can take these types of programs for free and for some families, these programs can be life changing.

Aside from the critics of the programs, there is also a plethora, and I mean PILES of studies against using rewards and punishments for disciplining children. A good book to read on the pitfalls of using rewards, is Alfie Kohn’s, ‘Punished by Rewards’, where he lists over 70 studies on why using rewards can backfire.

Planned ignoring is a strategy that has hardly any studies done on it at all! Yet it is common advice in behavioural parent programs. A top researcher on the effects of ignoring found that ignoring people is an emotionally painful punishment similar to physical pain. Studies on the use of time-out have declined over the past 20 years, yet it is still a method recommended in behavioural parenting programs. One study on 4-5 year old preschoolers who had been put in time out, found that the children had little idea why they were there, but reported feelings of fear, sadness and that their teachers disliked then. The researchers advised that time-out would not prevent future misbehaviours from reoccurring.

Okay, okay, can you tell I don’t recommend behavioural parenting programs? Put my opinion aside, because there are families who benefit from behavioural parenting programs and these programs are actually doing good in a sense that if a family is struggling, the strategies can be helpful for a quick fix. And some people find these programs are much less effort than what I am about to mention next.

Attachment-Based Parenting Programs (sometimes called relationship-based programs)

Some examples are Circle of Security, Know Your Child, Aware Parenting and Hand-in-Hand Parenting.

Attachment-based parenting programs are programs based on attachment theory. These programs have an emphasis on preserving the relationship and understand the idea that the secure foundation between a child and their primary carer is vital to a child’s healthy development. Prompt, nurturing responsiveness to a child’s physical and emotional needs are seen as very important.

Not all attachment-based parenting programs use the same strategies. So, if you want to go for an attachment-based program, you should find out what their discipline strategies or methods for responsiveness are, and if they align with your values, before signing up. For example, many of the behavioural parenting programs actually claim they are based on attachment theory… but they also advocate for ignoring your crying child, which goes against the idea of attachment theory.

Some attachment-based programs may recommend using punishments, like time-out when all other avenues have been exhausted and the parents are at their wits end. Other attachment-based programs, like Aware Parenting and Hand-in-Hand parenting, would not recommend using time-out. These programs have a completely different philosophy for understanding and responding to misbehaviours in children and help parents understand why we have such strong reactions to our children’s behaviour. These two attachment-based programs have a unique outlook on behaviour, as they recognise that crying, tantrums and play, are an inborn healing mechanism for dealing stress and trauma. Have a look at the programs philosophies before deciding which program to take or simply ask the instructors, they should be able to tell you.

Attachment-based parenting programs may not be practical for some families because they are not a ‘quick fix’ and it may be difficult for some parents to implement prompt responsiveness and being deeply in tune with their children.

One study compared two behavioural parenting programs with one attachment-based program. This study found that behavioural parenting programs had some immediate significant results. Parents who took the attachment-based programs only experienced some immediate improvements, not as significant. However, when measured 2 years later, the attachment-based participants continued to see improved results that were equal to the significant results of the behavioural programs. Interestingly, there were no further improvements in results for the parents who took the behavioural parenting programs while some of the initial positive results had even faded with time.

In other words, the attachment-based approach to parenting support was just as significant, but was not a quick fix.

Which is better?

It’s up to you.

In a sense, you can look at attachment-based parenting programs as having the short term inconvenience of learning new strategies and really digging deep to get to the source of your parenting journey, but with long lasting, deep and meaningful effects. Behavioural parenting programs can also offer benefits, but may just be a quick fix.

No, Children Don’t Always Model Their Parent’s Behaviours.

I read a meme the other day that cracked me up.

Child expert: “Children will model the behaviour that they see.”

Me: “False. They have seen me sleep, they do not sleep.” Here’s the original link to the meme.

Some child experts advise to parents, that if we just modify our behaviours, then our children will follow. And yes, it is true, our kids are watching every move we make. But, it’s not always true that kids model their parent’s behaviour. I feel bad for parents when they read this sort of stuff. I know plenty of parents who don’t yell, hit, bite or throw things… yet their children do.

I can tell you with great certainty, that I don’t ever yell at my kids to, “Get me a drink!” But sometimes my kids do… And when my two year old bashed his little one year old friend on the head… he didn’t do that because he saw me bashing someone else on the head! Kids who yell at their parents ‘I HATE YOU!’ are not necessarily saying that because they heard their parents saying the same and when kids bully, it’s not necessarily because their parents are bullies…

So where do children ‘learn’ their behaviour? And why do they act the way they do

Agression, lying, fighting, whining, not cooperating, and tantrums are not learned behaviours! When children act this way, it’s because they have an unmet need…. the need could be physical or emotional. And, a lot of times, it’s NOT our fault when our child has an unmet need. There’s no guilt here. Hurts can happen to any child, no matter how loving or attentive a family is.

Some of these annoying behaviours explained:

Children often act aggresive after they have felt powerless. And, children feel powerless a lot, especially when they are stuck in an adult’s world and have little say in their day-to-day choices. Or, when they’re in a situation where they feel vulnerable. For example, my 2 year old son is so adorable, so people poke, kiss, tickle, hug and pick him up all the time and he HATES it. I’ve noticed that after his space gets invaded, he almost instantly gets aggressive by throwing, biting, or kicking. It’s not until he has a cry to release his emotions of feeling vulnerable, that his aggression stops.

Kids lie when they’re afraid of telling the truth because they’re afraid of getting into trouble. Kids fight when they feel something isn’t fair or when they feel unheard. Children are ambassadors of fairness! If you try to train children not to fight, do you know what they do??? They end up fighting behind your back!

Kids whine and act rude, again, when they feel powerless or unheard, or upset by something. Children often won’t cooperate because they lack autonomy in their daily choices. In other words, they are simply tired of always having to comply with adult’s requests. Or, because they feel lack of connection from their parents or carers. Children tantrum when they release stress and frustration. It’s a GOOD thing when kids have a tantrum. Better out than in, we don’t need to stop it, but we should at least lend an ear to listen.

If we can understand the reason why our children behave in certain ways, then we can respond in ways that are more compassionate. We may not always have a solution for their hurts and frustrations. But, we can always lend an ear and listen. When children feel heard and when they feel that their emotions are validated, then they start cooperating more, they start acting more polite, they start being more helpful. There are other things we can do to help our kids be pleasant little people to be around and that is through giving choices and through playfulness AND through providing a loving environment.

So, yes, we absolutely should model appropriate behaviour in front of our children, but it’s not true that children do as they see, because adults usually don’t go around biting, yelling hitting, throwing toys, etc. Also, I’ve seen very polite, quiet children, and then you meet their parents, who are loud, swear a lot and talk over everyone! See, it doesn’t always match up…

If a child is swears, demands, yells, is aggressive or does other obnoxious things, parents, don’t feel like it’s you that’s modelled the wrong thing! There are more things going on than the ‘experts’ talk about and understanding the root cause of a child’s behaviour is the very first step.

To better understand behaviour and emotions, I highly recommend reading two books ‘Tears and Tantrums’ and ‘Attachment Play’ both by Aletha Solter.


A Deeper Understanding of ‘Power Struggles’

A common woe in the parenting world you hear about are ‘power struggles‘.

Let’s use getting in the shower (willingly) as an example.

The child resists. Parents dig their heels in. The child digs THEIR heels in. And the struggle goes on and on. Old fashioned advice is to give them a smack. The ‘newer’ popular version of this advice is that if you just toughen up, set clear boundaries, or use a systematic discipline system, then the power struggles will go away… except what often happens, is that the power struggles DON’T go away, even after following any of this advice! Then, the parents are left in an even more desperate cycle of trying to repeat the advice because they feel like now they’re failing to control their child.

Parents are told that we CANNOT ‘give in’, or else our children are going to walk all over us in the future. That if we do, we’ll be rewarding our kids for complaining, or for having a temper tantrum, or that we might be teaching our kids that whining gets things done their way.

This attitude of maintaining control over our children to avoid power struggles, is something I’ve consistently read in popular parenting books…. and I have to tell you that it’s a really backwards way of looking at things (and comes from a behaviourist point of view, if you’re into psychology). But, behaviourism is old fashioned. The majority of power struggles are ones that we’ve created ourselves, because we try so hard to maintain control! We have organised every department of our child’s life into a pattern that fits our lifestyle. Eating, sleeping, playing, learning… pretty much everything they do. To a degree, we do need to take charge of some things, so we can function. Dipping into permissive parenting isn’t effective.

BUT, when we start controlling too much, or having expectations that are too high, we start creating problems that may not have even been there in the first place. Having children is going to change the way you live you life. There’s no way to avoid that. However, having children also give us the opportunity to take a deep look into our own controlling patters and see what things we’re hanging on to and it allows us to drop behaviours that don’t serve us anymore. With some self awareness, you start to find that the power struggles we experience with our children is caused mostly by our own experiences as a child and from our own expectations of how things ‘should‘ be.

  1. Recognise how often we control our children in daily activities.
    This is the observation part. Start to notice what’s going on every day. Think about all the areas of a child’s life that is controlled by adults. Eating, sleep time, leaving the house, brushing their teeth, getting out the door, getting back IN the door. It’s constant and incessant. For very young children, babies and toddlers, who have limited verbal capacity to express their discontent, they often cry and rage when they get frustrated by being schlepped around all day. Older kids might whine, also rage and even lie. But think about it… Do you like being controlled by others? No… For many people, when we feel our autonomy being stripped away from us, we tend to put up the most resistance. It’s human nature! Think about all the wars being fought in the world for freedom and democracy? Our kids feel the same injustices when they feel things aren’t fair or things are too much out of their control.
  2. What expectations can we drop?
    What can you let go? Do they really need to get in bed exactly at 7:30? Maybe they’re not tired yet, and if you get them to bed at 8, then is bedtime is easier? Do they really need to eat every last bite of food? Maybe they’re not hungry today? Maybe they’re upset and they can’t eat? Do they really need to wear the clothes you picked out for them? Why not let them dress themselves most days, so long as what they’re wearing is weather appropriate and functional? Are they doing gymnastics, but they don’t like gymnastics? Maybe they would rather do an art class? Are you expecting your kids to stay in bed until 7am in summer, when the sun comes up at 4:30? Are they too scared to sleep in their room? Why not bring their mattress into your room or let them sleep in your bed? Believe me, no scientific study has ever been conducted to prove that children sleeping in your room or your bed will ruin their sleep habits. In fact, the entire survival of the human race is because humans have always kept their young close at night. And, have you ever heard of a 18 year old begging to sleep with mummy and daddy? Um… no.

    But, there are somethings you can’t drop! Leaving the house by 7:30, in order to get somewhere by 8. Or wearing seat belts. Or, you want to go for a fast exercise walk, so “Come on everyone, no dilly dallying, you, kid, get on your bike, baby in the pram, let’s go for a fast walk!” You don’t have to put your entire life on hold! But, the less we try to control our children’s every move, the more willing they will be to cooperate when you need them to. And, you have to decide what things you can relax on. Maybe you don’t want your partner doesn’t want the kids in your room, so you can make some sort of compromise.

  3. Give them choices and chances to feel powerful.
    This seems like an odd concept to most… if you let your child feel powerful, then won’t they always want to be in control? Actually no… When a child has to do something they really don’t want to do, try giving them a choice. The idea here is not just to get them to comply, but it’s to allow them to feel more powerful in the situation. Children feel powerless too often, that is when we have the ‘power struggles‘. Do you want the strawberry toothpaste, or the blueberry toothpaste? We’re going for a walk, which way do you want to go? Your choice. Little opportunities to GIVE our children power will go a long way in helping ‘power struggles‘ later (can you tell I don’t like using the word ‘power struggle?!).
  4. Use Playful Discipline
    It’s hard to sum this point up in a small paragraph, but there is a fantastic books that I highly recommend reading. “Attachment Play” by Aletha Solter. Using playfulness for discipline is probably the biggest game changer I’ve learned on my parenting journey. And, it’s probably the reason I’ve had some pretty cooperative kids, without having to use rewards (sticker charts and treats) or punishments (like time-out, withholding privileges, etc.). The idea is really simple, you just have to get used to it. For example, we’re leaving the house, who wants to race to the toilet? I used to do this when my kids were little, but now the older ones are 6 and 8 and they race to the toilet themselves! Or, brushing teeth, playing games and singing songs. Or, when kids demand things “Get me water!!!” Instead of reprimanding them for being ‘rude‘, we play a game. “Yes, my master, here is your water. *bows down*” When kids act rude, impatient, demanding, or are not willing to cooperate, it’s not their true nature and it’s because they have uncomfortable, pent up emotions. You don’t have to train them to behave. You’ll see that they naturally will be polite when their emotional needs have been met (which is not always easy!!). When we play a game with them and somebody laughs, that tension gets released and they connect with you. Having a few moments of connection with you will carry over a long way later on when you need them to cooperate.
  5. Set Limits AND validate emotions
    When we do have to set a limit, our children might cry, complain or have a tantrum. Often, the advice is to set the limit and to NOT tolerate these sorts of emotions. Put kids in time out for tantrums is a really common advice… It’s easy to show our children that we love them when they’re acting how we want them to act. But, can we also show them unconditional love when they’re crying, whining, raging? Showing unconditional love for our children when they’re not acting how we want to them to, is really hard for most of us. Usually some experience from our own childhood, or some training we’ve had as an adult prevents us from accepting our children’s unpleasant expressions of emotion. But… I tell you what. When we accept our children’s emotions. And, I’m talking ALL the emotions. Crying, raging, tantrums, you name it, you’ll see that when they’re done, they are much more pleasant to be around! They are so much more relaxed and much more willing to cooperate… and… the ‘power struggles‘ become less when we can listen to our children cry and rage.

Power struggles‘ won’t go away over night if you’re just getting on the path of recognising them. I know that I’m still working on finding a balance, what to let go, when to step in and I’ve been on this path for a while now! But, I think what people find is that once you become aware that most of the ‘power struggles‘ we encounter in our parenting journey are ones that we’ve created. Children are innocent. They naturally want to cooperate. They naturally want to please us! But, they just cannot have so much of their autonomy taken away and be expected to abide by every rule in this adult-centre world we’ve created for them. Give them a chance to take some power back, let them release their emotions and see how the ‘power struggles‘ start to go away.

Family Bedtime: The Oldest Sleep ‘Trick’ in the Books

“When do your kids go to bed?”, I get asked frequently.

“Well, usually, we all just go to bed together, around 8 or 9 o’clock.”

This conversation usually raises some eyebrows! But, ever since my oldest was a baby, my family has slept in the same room. My kids have never had to go to sleep on their own. I bet you’re wondering if my husband and I are human… Ha! Yes, well sort of (what’s normal anyway?). We are busy with work and things we like to do.

If one of us has work to do at night, we take turns being the one to go to sleep with the kids. Occasionally, we both find ourselves awake after the kids have gone to sleep. But, at least a few days a week, the whole family crashes in bed, at the same time, in one big sleepy heap, on our two mattresses on the floor that are smooshed together.

And it’s awesome.

I’ve never had to chase my kids back to their beds because they sleep IN my bed. It’s actually so easy, I honestly can’t understand the fuss over bed time that our society has created.

The idea of having to chase kids back to their bedrooms, or reassure them in the middle of the night that they can be brave enough to sleep in their own room… sounds like a lot of work!

Family bedtime is so easy. Little kids won’t want to stay up if their parents are asleep and the whole house is dark. Believe me, if you announce you’re going to sleep, most kids will follow you. Little kids want to be with their parents at night, it’s really natural. It’s dark. It’s scary. I don’t like being in a dark room alone… why would a child?

Family bed time means my husband and I get more sleep because we go to sleep at the same time as the kids. The times when we do put the kids to bed and then stay up for a little living room ‘date’, are fun and all, but it can be such an effort! To have to peel ourselves up from that sweet cloud of children’s sleep, is no easy feat. When we do stay up late, we end up staying up way too late and wake up the next morning feeling pooped!

Kids go to sleep faster when the whole family goes to sleep at the same time. It doesn’t take long for kids to drift off when everyone is falling to sleep at the same time. But, if I’m sitting there waiting for them to fall to sleep, it can take AGES for the kids to fall to sleep! Kids feel the energy of you doing the agonising ‘wait‘ for them to fall to sleep! The longer it takes for them to drift off, the more resentful the parents get. The more resentful we get, the more our kids pick up on our vibes and it then it takes them even longer to fall to sleep!

Family bed time creates this beautiful sleepy energy that takes over everyone. I love the feeling when I know that this is the end of the day. Nothing else to do. I sleep next to my 2 year old son, he’s so warm and cuddly and I can feel when he drifts off and then it’s my body’s cue to do the same. Ahhh…

I’ve read a lot of parenting books, and almost all of them have dedicated entire chapters to bedtime strategies (actually, some books are ENTIRELY about sleep). How to get kids to go to their beds, go to sleep and stay there until a reasonable time in the morning…

Elaborate bedtime routines, sticker charts, bribes, systematic ignoring of crying… you name it. One particular popular parenting book I read, which I don’t even want to mention the name, suggests that it’s ok if your 4 year old child cries for 1-2 hours at night alone in their bed, as long as they’re physically ‘ok’ because you can just make up for it by positive parenting during the day. *facepalm*. The book gives the reader the message that under no circumstances should let your child into your bed, otherwise, God knows WHAT bad habits might form! (forgetting that children have been sleeping next to their parents since the beginning of time).

I sigh… as I snuggle close to my babes, I feel sad… What an effort it must be to follow the advice in those books!

And, for mornings, once a kid is awake, there’s not much else you can do about that. We get up too, but remember, if we went to bed early, it doesn’t matter as much. If your child is waking up really early and won’t sleep without you glued to their side, there are some things you can do, and I can save that for a later post!

Time goes really slow for a child, so if they’re sitting there at night or in the morning, waiting to be allowed to get up out of bed, even if it’s only half an hour, that half an hour can feel like an eternity for them!

Family bed time and family beds are so beautiful and easy. At the time of writing this, I have three kids, 8 1/2, 6 and 2. My 2 year old sleeps next to the 8 year old. I know that sometimes the little guy rolls into her. I asked her, “Does it bother you when he bumps into you at night?” She said, “No way! I love him, even if he bumps into me, I just wake up for a second and go back to sleep, because he’s sooooo cute!” We found an arrangement that makes everyone happy

Despite the fear that bed sharing will inhibit your child’s ability to be independent, some people (like me) would argue the opposite. That when a child feels safe and secure both day AND night, they will become every more confident and have less to worry about. For us, family bed time has been so easy. Yes, they are some of logistics to figure out, like, how do you and your husband ever have sex (well, we have three kids, so don’t be silly and look at India, they roomshare and they have a population of 1 billion people), and what happens if one wakes up crying, pee in the bed, etc. These are all real legitimate concerns and I think the answer is different for every family. And sometimes, one parent really cannot put up with room sharing, so then you have to accomodate for that in order to save your relationship. But, guaranteed, after a little trial and error, everyone finds some sort of system that works where needs for connection at night can be met.

Some nights (and these nights are rare), yes, we are all up because somebody got sick or there was a problem or something. But, 99.9% of the time, it’s beautiful cuddles. My kids feel safe and secure knowing that if they wake up at night for anything at all, somebody will be right there to help. And, I actually sleep better, knowing that everyone is safe and next to me! And, best of all… it’s all very VERY easy.

Disclaimer: If you’re going to bedshare with an infant, please make sure you read proper co-sleeping guidelines. Never sleep with your child if you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Young babies should sleep on a firm surface, away from any cracks, blankets or pillows or anything that could obstruct their airway.

A Big List of What Happened When I Banned Screens For a Week

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Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t have a TV, and I rarely let my older kids watch movies. Nevertheless, over the past few months, the amount of screen viewing (iPhone) kept gradually increasing, until one day, I realised that the older kids (8 and 6) were spending over an hour and sometimes two hours in front of a screen. And, my little one, who isn’t even 2, had used the phone enough that he could turn on the phone, open the app he wanted and play or watch something (and I’m so against letting little ones on screens)! Unfortunately, even he was spending 30-45 minutes in front of the screen per day. Things were really hectic for a while and I was using the screen as a babysitter to try and get stuff done.

But, what’s ironic, is that when I gave my kids the phone, even though I could get stuff done, the aftermath was never worth it! They would get bored, act crazy, whine and FIGHT and the hour or two of ‘peace’ backfired ten times and then we spent the day feeling all scattered and disconnected.

So,  I had had enough! We needed a break! It wasn’t a punishment, it was an agreement. Actually, my 6 year old was HAPPY to have the break. The older one wasn’t so much… but wait until you read the last dot point on the list.

Our screen ‘ban’ was not a total ban. That would have been too unsustainable. We were still allowed to use it for practical things, like looking up stuff on the internet, calling the grandparents on Skype, taking photos, etc. I also didn’t ban myself from screens… so oops! Probably this ban could have been better, but I definitely limited myself and only used the screen for work or for a short amount of time doing other brain numbing activities, like social media.

Almost all of these dot points are ones my kids came up when we talked about the results of our screen ban.

  • They virtually stopped fighting (actually, I heard one or two during the whole week, but we homeschool and they’re on top of each other all day, so fair enough).
  • They almost completely stopped whining.
  • They cooperated better.
  • They were less bored.
  • They stopped looking for distractions. My oldest is the worst with this. If she can’t watch her screens, then she asks for food, friends to play with, all in that order! But, during this week, all of that stopped.
  • They played more with their toys and stuff around the house.
  • I had more time! Yes, can you believe it?! I’m not sure how this worked… but I think it’s because I was more connected to them, and they weren’t as needy.
  • My house was more peaceful.
  • They ‘behaved’ better. Not that they’re out of control to begin with, but the biggest change was in my son. Little ones are so so super sensitive to screens! And, he would get all crazy if he watched even for a little while.
  • They ate better (presumably because they were more active and their minds were more settled).
  • We spent more time doing fun stuff! ‘Cause sitting on your butt around the house and watching shows on the iPhone isn’t actually that fun…
  • More time connecting, which = better behaviour
  • We were late less often! This one surprised me. If they ever got sucked into the screens before we had to leave somewhere, it would take so long to get them unglued and fully functioning for us to get out of the door.
  • They were more creative.
  • They played better together… held hands and did cutsie stuff that normally never do.
  • My son was less aggressive and destructive. 
  • My son’s speaking improved dramatically (in one week… really).
  • My son made it to the toilet more often.
  • They put on dance shows and did more craft. 
  • They fell asleep more easily and slept more peacefully. 
  • They read more books. 
  • Their reading improved dramatically. (In one week… really…)
  • At 22 1/2 months my son FINALLY started walking (could have been a coincidence, but still, it happened during the screen ban).
  • My 6 year old FINALLY learned how to swing herself (coincidence again? could be…)
  • They ENJOYED the break and asked for another week break in three day’s time!

It could have been a pure coincidence that all of my kids had huge developmental leaps during their screen break… but I have to wonder how screens were not helping anyone all that time. On the week that our ban was over, my 8 year old, the one who I knew would be feeling the screen ban the most, actually said, “Can we use the phones for three days and then have another week break?” My eyes nearly fell out of my head! I’m sure she might say something different after a few days, but her response was epic.

I think that taking breaks from screens are going to be a thing in our house from now on. While, I won’t ban them permanently, I will definite be more mindful and not use them as a crutch so often. We’re a tech friendly family, and I love how technology and screens has enabled us to do things we could never do before. I also DON’T feel guilty about the time that I let my kids use screens. At the time, maybe it was necessary to get me through a short period of chaos.

There Are No Such Thing As Crocodile Tears

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Kids cry. Some of them seem to cry a lot more than others. And, their crying can be super annoying to us!

Especially when we feel like they’re crying over nothing. Or, if we think they’re crying to get attention. Or, if we think they’re crying just to get their way.

But, here’s the truth, and it’s not very convenient… Kids cry when they have an unmet need.

Some reasons kids cry:

  • Pain
  • Frustration/feeling of being incompetent
  • Seeking connection and comfort from a parent or carer
  • Fear or overstimulation
  • Accumulation of pent up emotions

While crying does indicate that something is ‘wrong‘, crying is not alway something we need to stop. Obviously, if see that they’re in pain or very sick, and maybe need medical attention we should respond appropriately. But other times, the reason for our child’s tears are not so obvious and we get annoyed because we think they’re crying over nothing and they should just shut up.

But… can you cry on demand? Unless you’re a well trained actor, chances are that you can’t. So, if an adult can’t cry on demand, a child can’t. Aletha Solter, the founder of Aware Parenting describes the need to cry similar to the need to defecate. If you don’t feel the urge to poo, you can’t just poo on demand! Similarly, a child who has no reason to cry, won’t just start crying.

What we can do when our child cries ‘crocodile’ tears

  • Listen
  • Observe how it triggers you
  • Don’t try to interrupt or distract their crying (think of it as better out than in, letting their emotions out now, will reduce whining later).
  • Understand that there’s likely an accumulation of emotions and the event or situation that they’re crying over (like cutting their sandwich into squares instead of triangles) was just the straw that broke the donkey’s back.

And, just as a reminder, we don’t have to feel bad when our child cries and we find it annoying. Crying triggers a response in us that probably comes from our past and/or our conditioning in society that leads us to believe that crying is ‘bad’. We don’t have to analyse our child’s every tear and wonder what we did wrong to cause them to cry. Even in the most attentive families, kids get upset or have an unmet needs. It just happens!

(My daughter was totally posing for this photo. So, I guess these were crocodile tears after all)

Why I Don’t Make My Kids Clean Up After Every Activity

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I heard a knock at the door… it was an unannounced visit from a lady who lives in our building. And, my house was a MESS!!! My 5 year old daughter has recently been on a rampage of creating things using BIG pieces of paper and sticky tape. The photo above is what it looks like just at the start of one of her creative moments. She can sit there for an hour, ferociously cutting, and taping, and trying out her inventions. This is what it looked like after only half an hour.

The other day, she stayed up until 10pm and made a ‘cage‘ for her Beenie Boo out of rolled up paper (she had taken a nap that day and we homeschool, so it’s not like she had to be anywhere the next day).

And, the night before our unannounced visitor, she had been making HUGE paper airplanes, standing on the couch and launching 2, 3 and 4 at a time. One particular one was a ‘double’ with a bag attached. There were pieces of paper everywhere! On top of that, her other sister and brother were busy making their own creations. Duplos, embroidery string, knitting wool. OMG! The house looked trashed!

So, the neighbour said what she needed to say about the body corporate stuff, and as she was leaving, I sort of apologised for the mess (even though I shouldn’t of) and she felt the need to tell me about how when she was a parent… blah blah blah, she used to know a person who made their child clean up every time they moved to the next activity.

I was like, “Um… yeah… I know… that doesn’t really work for us.”

See, I like when they get all creative and I don’t want to stop it for something as little as cleaning up. To ME it’s important to clean up. But, to my kids, not so much!

I’ll never forget something I heard from one of my yoga teachers who was leading the teacher training of a parenting course I was taking. He told us to be able to recognise the difference between a ‘mess‘ and and when they’re being destructive.

A child’s ‘mess‘ could be their masterpiece! He told us once how he walked into his daughter’s room and there were cardboard boxes and stuff strewn everywhere! He asked her what she had made. She said, “It’s a town, daddy!” And proceeded to show him where all the buildings where. Read the rest of this entry

How To Safely Put a Baby or Toddler On Your Back in a Baby Carrier

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When people see me swinging my babies over my hip, so I can strap them into a baby carrier, they sometimes look a bit worried that I might drop my kids! If only they could know that I’ve done this motion probably thousands of times. Here are two ways to put a baby or toddler on your back.

When you first start, you may want to practice in front of a mirror, or over a bed or couch, or with a spotter (someone to guide you). And, make sure your baby has good neck and back control before wearing them in a carrier like the one I’m showing. The brand of carrier in the video is an Ergo and the model is called an Adapt.

Wearing kids on your back is so great because it frees up your hands even more by allowing more movement. I also love it, because once a baby gets to be a certain weight, front wearing can make your back hurt like you’re perpetually pregnant. I back wear mostly to save my back!

Society’s Screen and Social Media Obsession: It Will Change

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My husband and I were talking about kids and screens. He’s eighteen years older than me. I told him, “You know, I don’t think kids are going to be obsessed with screens and social media when they’re older, because even I’m getting sick of them.” He said, “Of course they won’t. There will be something new to take over!

He told me how when he was a kid, it was the phone. Then, it was TV.

Do you remember our mothers talking on the phone? They talked on the phone for HOURS!

They watched TV.

They read books and the newspapers.

Then, computers came along and they played solitaire. Then, chat rooms. Then mobile phones and texting with one hand holding the phone while driving (yikes, I used to all the time).

So, what’s so different about our usage of screens and social media we’re all obsessed with right now? Probably nothing, I predict. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if in twenty years, the thought of posting about your dinner on facebook and instagram becomes laughable.

Having these super powerful tiny ‘computers‘ that do everything in the palm of our hands, is a new thing for now. Our society hasn’t fully gotten used to this new handheld omnipotent gadget yet. Actually, many of us are still learning that it’s not a smart idea to stare at your screen while you’re crossing the road! Sort of like how it took society a few years to realise that holding your phone while driving needed to be illegal…

Eventually, people will start realising, there’s nothing there… staring at a screen and posting photos of your life and looking at photos of other’s lives will eventually get old. I actually can’t wait for the hashtag to go out of style. Ha! Over time, the technology will change and the way we use the technology will change.

When I was about 12 years old, I remember shutting myself my room and playing this video game for hours a day! It’s all I wanted to do. A year or two later, I wouldn’t have spent a second playing it. It got old.

A lot of people have pre-digital technology nostalgia. Weren’t people were so much more ‘present‘ back in the ‘golden olden days‘… you know, when the dads used to hide behind newspapers at the breakfast table or smoking a pipe and listening to the radio. Yup… nope.

That tendency in society to disconnect from reality has always been there! Just in different forms. Smartphones are powerful tools. All at once, they instantly connect us with friends, family and the world. They’re our phone, our camera, our weather forecast, our email, entertainment, a calculator, a flashlight… and Siri has the answer for every werido question my 5 year old comes up with.

Eventually, most people will eventually learn to regulate, but right now, these toys are new and exciting. Read the rest of this entry

Power Reversal Games: Helping Kids to Connect and Cooperate

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We were sitting at the table, eating dinner, when my 19 month old son initiated a game that he’s done many times before.

He raised his arms up, then we all raised our arms up. Then, he clapped his hands, and we all clapped our hands. The raised his arms, we copied. It was such a simple type of game, yet one that is so powerful and the whole family plays along because we know how important this type of play can be.

He was so happy playing this game!

This sort of play is called a power reversal game.

Do you know why this sort of game is so powerful??

Because, being a little kid is frustrating! Think about how many times we make a child do things they don’t want to do in one single day. We make our kids take a bath, brush their teeth, get dressed, stop playing, get in the car, get out of the car, etc. To make all this accidental ‘bossing‘ around we do worse, a very young child can’t even verbalise their approval or disapproval of what we’re making them do. Which means, that they often have to resort to crying, screaming, and physically resisting the things they don’t want to do! And, when our children behave like that, then they are met with our own disapproval of their behaviour.

Talk about frustration for the child! Read the rest of this entry