Simply Parenting – Screen Time

As with all things in life, I believe that screen time is fine as long as there is balance. So yes, when you are all at the end of your tether, vegging in front of the TV can be just the ticket. When meeting your friend for a cuppa and a chat, your phone will keep your toddler distracted so you can actually enjoy it. Giving children access to your laptop or tablet so they can ‘Google’ something (used to be called research), is a very valid part of their social and educational development.

Research and what-not!

Research and what-not!

We can start to go wrong by relying too heavily on all the screens available to us. We may ‘officially’ allow them to play a game on the Wii for half an hour but more realistically this will be 45 minutes or an hour. How many times have you agreed to half an hour of TV only to finally turn it off after an hour and a half? Am I the only one who lets them google Titanic and then spend 30 minutes watching funny videos on YouTube? Then, before we know it, they’ve had three hours of ‘screen time’ without even thinking about it!

But what harm is it really? I can’t purport to be an expert on the effects of screen time on the youth of today, although we are all aware of the correlation between screen usage and obesity in children.

However, I do know how screen time affects my own children. When it is time to turn off whichever screen, there is often a melt-down. They are always a little grumpy and less inclined to play together after watching too much TV.

Zombified!

Zombified!

In fact, they can become irritable, sluggish zombies for what feels like an eternity, completely negating the peace and distraction that the screen usage gave me in the first place!

So here are some tips to consider when managing screen time.

  • People come first: This is actually ingrained in me from my own childhood. We always had to turn the television off if a visitor came, and now the same applies in our house. Also includes if I’m talking to them and they do not look at me, they know TV will be turned off.
  • One screen at a time: So if you are playing on the XBox then the TV or iPad is off.
  • Keep it social: Watch TV together. Choose multiplayer games rather than single player games. Oversee any and all internet access or use parental controls.
  • Strike a balance: For example, thirty minutes screen time equals one and a half hours activity, playing outside, colouring, reading, puzzles etc.
  • Interaction: Discuss what you watched/played/researched after the fact.
  • Keep it appropriate: Absolutely NO screens in the bedroom, or after a certain time of the day. (The earlier you start this the easier it will be to enforce during the ‘fun ‘teenage years.)
Watching together.

Watching together.

Get out and do something too!

Get out and do something too!

Then there is the amount of time I spend looking at a screen. ‘Mum please put your phone down and watch me’ or ‘are you finished on your phone yet Mum?’ are all too common refrains in this house. And while I’m not about to start beating myself up about it, I am becoming increasingly conscious of not looking at my phone when I am in company, be it with friends or family.

So how do you manage screen time?  Feedback is always welcome, so please feel free to comment below!

Thanks for reading,

Aisling

photo credit: tug of the screen via photopin (license)

photo credit: After-dinner Gangnam Style via photopin (license)

photo credit: Robo-Nazi via photopin (license)

I Stopped and Looked.

I stopped and looked – you were playing away with your Lego but you were also taking the time to match the colours. I had never noticed that you did that before.

I stopped and looked – you were racing your little sister but you were letting her win. I didn’t realise just how mature a six-year-old you were.

I stopped and looked –  you had built your very own ‘Hogwarts’ and were lost in a wizarding world far away. I sometimes forget how real your imagination is.

I stopped and looked – you kicked the scooter because you hurt your hand falling off it. I realised the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

I stopped and looked – you weren’t ignoring my calls to hurry up, you were trying to tie your own laces. I need to remember how hard new skills are to master.

I stopped and looked – you broke off half of your biscuit and gave it to your sister unasked and unannounced. I often forget just how generous you can be.

I stopped and looked – you were shouting in the game because you were playing the part of ‘mummy’. I was reminded that children do what they see.

I stopped and looked – you weren’t delaying going to bed, you were waiting for your brother to come to bed so you could help him with his reading.  I always ask you to help after all.

I stopped and looked – you were filthy dirty because you had to pick the ‘best’ flower for me. I am learning to love dandelions.

I stopped and looked – you grabbed your sister’s toy from her because you saw a cracked, sharp edge on it. I remembered that you do nearly everything for a reason.

I stopped and looked – you put your arm in front of your brother, not to boss him but to stop him from crossing the road until you had checked for traffic. I need to learn to trust your instincts.

I stopped and looked at how quickly you are all growing up and realised that sweating the small stuff is for the birds. I promise to stop and look a lot more frequently  lest I miss you growing up altogether in the melee that is family life!

2015-06-29 17.08.02This piece originally appeared in MummyPages . Why not pop over for a look?

All feedback and comments welcome.

Thanks for reading

Aisling

The Following.

‘I follow you?’ is the constant refrain from the toddler these days. As much as I love the little lady, this particular phrase drives me to distraction. I find it hugely irritating that wherever I go there she is right behind me.

Now, I am mostly for my children following in my footsteps, except for a few times, where I possibly made the wrong choice, that time in Mexico springs to mind… but that is another story and definitely not fit for publishing here!

'I follow you?'

‘I follow you?’

In my footsteps is one thing but following my actual footsteps is a whole lot of GRR. My husband who thinks she can do no wrong anyway was all ‘aw, that’s lovely’ so I stopped trying to explain how irritating it was to him and didn’t even consider complaining about how the ‘I do it’ for car seat straps and tights and such, causes me to count slowly to ten whilst breathing deeply. Or the walking beside the buggy which doubles no triples the length of any and every journey!

'You going somewhere?'

‘You going somewhere?’

However, even as I am giving out about the joys of toddler-hood, I know, that only too soon she will stop following me everywhere and I will miss that. The reason I know this is because I already miss some of her irritants needs that I wished away at the time.

Night feeds being one. I was not a mother that loved being up during the night. I resented my husband, my children and everyone else who got to go to bed – to sleep. I hated going to bed not knowing how many hours nay minutes of sleep I would  get before being awoken by her hungry squawk. Wondering if this pattern of broken sleep that began (as any pregnant lady will tell you) at least seven months before the actual birth would ever, ever, end. Now, I look back at that time , when it was just me and her, having a feed, whispered chats, cuddles  and face tickles whilst the world slept and I MISS it.

No need for nigh-time comfort anymore!

No need for night-time comfort anymore!

Spoon feeding as ridiculous as it sounds. At the time, I hated how my own meal always had to wait as I fed my children first. Longed for the days when we could all sit together and eat our own meals, while they were still hot. Well, those days have been upon us for a while now and it is great, but in all honesty a teeny part of me misses not having to help.

We are about to start the process of toilet training, I really do not think that nappy changing is something I will miss. But who knows? When she cracks it, it will be the first time in 8 years that our household will be ‘nappy-free’. Actually having worked in childcare since I was 17 it will be the first time in ,cough, 25 years that nappies have not been a part of my day to day!!!

A good place to toilet train!

A good place to toilet train!

So, as unlikely as it is that I will miss nappy changing and all that jazz, I have after eight years of being a Mum, finally learned to stop wishing the time by. From this day forth  I promise to stop inwardly groaning when she says ‘ I follow you?’. Because yes, of course you can follow me, for as long or as short a period of time as you need. ( I just need to watch that creak in the floorboards as I tip-toe to the loo!)

She will go her own way soon enough!

She will go her own way soon enough!

Thanks for reading. What do your children do to drive you bananas? Please comment below.

Aisling

The original version of this post appeared in mummypages, why not check them out?

Addressing Anxiety

One of the most delightful and equally annoying traits young children have is their utter fearlessness.

I've got this!

I’ve got this!

Me too!!

Me too!!

They are the untouchables! They are immortal! Nothing embarasses or fazes them.

Delightful to watch when you are in the mood, annoying as all hell when they are too busy being ‘titanium’ to do as you have asked!

Frustrating as I find the ‘I not do that’s’ and the ‘I can do that’s’, toddlers’ utter belief in themselves is far preferable to the anxiety that begins to creep in at school age. My eldest has displayed a few anxious moments since she started school. Nothing to set off alarm bells so far, but enough for me to be to be aware of it. She swings from total confidence to anxious despair within a few hours. For example, yesterday she was channeling The Queen of Sheba as she modelled her communion dress for Granny, but then an hour or so later she blurts out ‘Mum, I am really nervous about my communion!’

Now, I know this isn’t exactly a display of crippling anxiety, and could be viewed as a comment to brush off. There is a very fine line between over-parenting and under-parenting, and one that we are all most likely going to cross as we try to steer our babies through their childhood. I would definitely have a tendency to expect my children to get up, dust themselves off and move on. That said, one of the things I have learnt over my years in childhood education is to deal with anxiety as soon as it raises its ugly head. I would rather err on the side of over-parenting when it comes to any anxious comments my children make.

When children vocalise something they are anxious about, they are seeking reassurance that you (a) understand them and (b) know what to do next. So here is my tuppence worth for dealing with anxiety.

  1. Get them talking: Give them the chance to have a chat with you or if they don’t want to talk to you, encourage them to talk to a favorite relation. A problem shared is definitely a problem halved.
  2. Don’t dismiss it, rather look at it from their point of view: So rather than me saying ‘Sure you have no need to worry about your communion’ because of course I know that she will get on absolutely fine, I said ‘oh, I remember being nervous about my communion too, I thought I was the only one who was going to wear a long dress! What are you worried about?’ She couldn’t articulate exactly what was worrying her, but she understood that I ‘got it’!
  3. Make a plan together: Break the issue down to its individual parts and work together to figure out a plan of action. Our plan was to practice her prayers together and have a good few test runs in her dress so that when the day came she would be comfortable. I came up with the prayers and she suggested that she was just not used to her dress. Everything is easier with a plan and you are also giving them the tools to deal with future problems themselves.
  4. Rally them: Rather than brushing it aside and forgetting about it, focus on the positive outcome you are hoping to achieve. I tried to ‘normalise’ her communion by talking about communions in general. I made a few off-hand comments about how much I enjoyed my communion. I told her how her Aunty donned her communion dress anytime we went anywhere the summer she made her communion, in the hope she would charm some ‘donations’ from passers-by. 😉 I asked her what she is most looking forward to about her communion and focussed on that.
20140815_133155

Making a plan!

Although this example is only dealing with very minor levels of anxiety, it is just as effective for more serious issues. Tackling anxiety head on, showing you understand and can see things from their perspective and keeping communication and positivity alive will help your child through inevitable anxious moments. However, if you feel like you are getting nowhere, and the situation is not improving, then taking them to talk to a child counsellor is definitely a step to consider.

Have you had to deal with any anxious moments yet? What did you do? Please share in comments below!

Thanks for reading

Aisling

Bad Mothering

I love my children. I want the very best for each of them. I want them to grow into confident, capable, happy, content and independent people. And so I insist on being a “bad” mother!

Here are some examples of my bad mothering.

1. I don’t put their coats on. I provide them with coats (and hats and gloves and scarves).I advise them that they should wear their coats when it is cold. However, from the moment that they learn to put on their own coats, I no longer put their coats on.

You'll be grand!

You’ll be grand!

2. I don’t pack their lunches. I make their lunches (although my eldest wants to start making hers soon), I fill their water bottles. I leave them out on the counter for easy access but I don’t ever put their lunches in their school bags.

3. I don’t carry their school bags. Ever. (OK, I confess I did for my son last summer but
he had a broken arm at the time).

Seriously Mum, can I have a little help?!

Seriously Mum, can I have a little help?!

4. I let them out of sight. If we are walking in the woods, I let them go off exploring
amongst the trees, I tell them to keep me in sight but I don’t follow closely behind.
5. I let them fall. Once I gauge that the jump is not going to result in any more than a
scraped hand or bloodied knee, and they insist that they can do it, I let them try.
6. I make them wait. If I am busy doing something big or small, and they interrupt me
with a need of their own (which is of course far greater..), then I insist they wait until
I am finished.

7. I don’t organise their toys. I will fix broken toys when I can, and I will give them aplace to keep their toys. However, any question about ‘where is Teddy/my lego/ myprecious stone collection?’ is answered with ‘it‘s your toy, you tell me’.

8. I break the rules. For example – all meals are at the table, except for today when we will have our pizzas under this camp we made!

With the time pressures and constant bombardment of fear by the media we tend to over think our parenting and can end up doing too much for our children which we think is helping but will ultimately hinder their development. So as Victorian as some of these practices may seem I do them for a very good reason!

Keeping her balance...I hope!

Keeping her balance…I hope!

To encourage independent thinking, and build self esteem. Because I want them to develop good reflexes and instincts, and because I want them to learn their own boundaries and when it‘s okay to break boundaries. Who knows, it might even work! 😉

Do you practice ‘bad’mothering too?

Thanks for reading
Aisling

I originally wrote this post for MummyPages, why not pop over there for a look-see?

Nurturing Children’s Self-Esteem.

I am the ultimate draughts champion!

I am the ultimate draughts champion!

Children generally have  high self-esteem; however, low self-esteem in children is most definitely a problem for our generation. A combination of busy schedules, lack of support, over-protectiveness and constant rushing means that it is all too easy for our children to develop self-esteem issues and even easier for us not to notice. Low-self esteem and lack of confidence can go hand-in-hand. Beware though, a shy child is not necessarily suffering from lack of self-confidence or from low self-esteem – they can just be shy.

Children struggling with their self esteem may display the following traits:

  • Negativity – a lack of belief in themselves or their ability to attempt a task. i.e. ‘there is no point in me even trying as I always get it wrong.’

  • Mood swings – tearfulness, anger, frustration or quietness.

  • Becomes socially withdrawn – not wanting to play with his friends, sticking to the outskirts in the playground.

  • School work declines – if your child has always excelled but then stops excelling in a certain subject, that can be a signal that all is not well.

Children will inevitably display a few of these traits along the journey that is childhood, but if they are displaying this behaviour repeatedly, you may want to address their self-esteem. So how do you do that? Our instincts would be to kill them with kindness, tell them everything they do is amazing and generally not let the wind blow on them; however, this could cause more damage then good.

A few steps you could take though are :

Enhance security and trust: Reinforce the fact that your child can trust and be trusted. When your child is talking to you, give them your full attention and listen to them. If you make a promise, keep it.

Increase their self-worth: Give your child a few chores to do – sweep the floor, make their own sandwich, even just put away their own toys. This gives your child a sense of purpose, along with a sense of pride in what they can and have achieved.

Children love doing simple chores!

Children love doing simple chores!

Removing his own stabilisers!

Removing his own stabilisers!

Encourage decision-making: Allow your child to be involved in a little family decision-making, just something as small as choosing where to go for a family walk, or choose a dinner they would like to have that week.

Teach them to accept weakness: It is okay to not be the best in something. It is okay to make mistakes. Maybe try a different way next time!

Parental encouragement: Positive feedback and encouragement are so important to children – you will not give them a ‘big head’ by telling them something they did well was well done! Avoid negative criticism such as ‘oh you fell over again, I am not surprised you are always so clumsy.’

It is O.K. to lose!

It is O.K. to lose!

A positive home: There is no point in speaking positively to your child and then turning around and biting your partner’s head off. As a family, treat each other with respect – focus on each other’s strengths not weaknesses, and take the time to enjoy doing things together as a family, be it a jigsaw puzzle or a hike up the Sugarloaf!

Happy Family Outings!

Happy Family Outings!

The more positive and secure your child feels about themselves and their immediate environs, the more likely it is that their sense of self will strenghten. I have studied childcare and I know children – however, I am not a healthcare professional. If you have serious concerns and don’t feel you can address them properly, a visit to a child health specialist will help you figure out the next steps!

Thanks for reading,

Aisling

I love all feedback, please feel free to add you thoughts and comments.

Breathe Through the Fear…

 

Protectiveness is one of the strongest instincts we have as parents. We would walk over burning coals, fall out with friends and family, and literally take a bullet to protect our children. Have I mentioned what I would do to someone who harmed my children in any way before? However, over-protecting our children is not good. In doing so we are stifling our children’s instincts, possibly to detrimental effect.

 

From the moment they are born, children are curious about the world around them and do everything instinctively. This can be scary to watch as they wobble trying to sit up, teeter between sharp-cornered furniture whilst learning to walk, and climb sheer heights on unstable home-made towers of anything that comes to hand. Just terrifying for us who know that they could bump their head, cut themselves or possibly break a bone or two if they fall – but brilliant for the children that are allowed to follow their instincts as they will learn and develop as nature intended.

 

I thought I was pretty relaxed in my parenting. I generally let my children figure it out for themselves, with a few ground rules in place. I take them on walks along unprotected quays, safe in the knowledge they will not run lemming-like for the edge. I have taught my eldest daughter how to light candles and handle sharp knives. So far so good, right? However, I recently went to Powerscourt Waterfall with a friend, and realised I am not as ‘zen’ as I imagined. As she let her children galavant about the lake, I was anxious. I took a leaf out of her book and let the children navigate the lake on stepping stones – they got stuck here and there but, as they were left to their own devices and allowed to follow their instincts, they figured it out (and had a ball). Worst case scenario was that they would have gotten a little wet, which they also did!

We're fine Mum!

We’re fine Mum!

I recently read an article about a playground in Wales where parents are not allowed in, and I must say I was cheering reading it. That playground seems so extreme to us but what it is really doing is allowing the children to hone their instincts and figure things out for themselves. Invaluable lessons that will stand to them their whole lives. So what are the signs that we are being over-protective with our children? Here are a few examples I have come accross in my twenty odd years around young children:

 

  • Putting a crash helmet on your baby when they start moving about and learning to sit, stand etc. I have seen more than one infant donning a bicycle helmet during these times. Yes of course they will not get that bump on the noggin but, guess what, they need that bump on their noggin to learn how to do these things. They will of course learn these things eventually anyway but the children who didn’t get the bang or bump will be less likely to avoid future possibly more serious injuries..
  • Cutting up all their food into teeny tiny pieces. Seeing babies gag and splutter as they are learning to eat can be scary but they are instintively gagging and spluttering so as to avoid choking not because they are choking. Whipping the food out of their mouths and cutting it in to teeny tiny pieces is hampering their ability to learn how to eat properly and can create bad eating habits to boot.
  • Sterilising every toy, cup, spoon and surface they touch to prevent germs. Good hygiene is of course important but so are germs. Exposure to everyday germs is necessary for them to develop good immunity. I am not saying inject your child with a dose of salmonella, but no-one ever died from the ‘five second rule’ either.
  • Not allowing them out of your sight, at home. Once your house is pretty much child-proof ie: chemicals and harmful objects out of reach, front door and high windows locked (and unreachable), cords and wires out of reach, and so on, give your child a little freedom. Allow them to play alone in their room or the garden for that matter. Keep an eye out of course but don’t constantly watch them. They cannot develop their own independent instincts with an over-protective parent hovering at all times. We have all heard stories of children who have suffered accidents (sometimes even fatal) and their Mum only left them alone for a minute, but I truly believe if you allow your children to learn how to go about their own home and garden alone they are less likely to suffer a bad accident then the constantly watched child left alone for a moment.
  • Following them around the playground, and lifting them on and off every toy. Playgrounds are designed with children in mind, particularly nowadays with the soft surfaces and rounded edges. Let them climb up and down their chosen toy alone! Children really need to learn their limitations when it comes to physical activities and they WILL NOT learn if they are not allowed to. They may well slip and fall, they may even break something or worse still suffer from concussion but they will have learnt their limitations at an age when they can heal quickly and move on. If you lift a child up onto an inappropriate toy that they can not climb themselves, then you are doing them a lot more harm then good.
  • Not allowing them to get dirty. No brainer – a child playing outside in the dirt is happy! They are using their imagination, developing their creativity and most importantly are having fun. The germs don’t matter – get them to wash their hands before eating but a little dirt under the fingernails is a good thing!
  • Keeping them away from water. Be it the sea, a pond, fountain or pool. Water is dangerous and drowning can happen quickly. Rather than keeping them at a safe distance at all times encourage them to touch it, paddle in it – teach your child about the dangers of water by letting them be around it under your supervision as opposed to keeping them away from it at all times. Splash water on their face in the bath, dunk them, let them splutter and realise how unpleasant it is so that they hone their instincts and learn from it.
  • Never lighting a fire! Children have a natural curiosity when it comes to fire but they will feel the heat long before they get close enough to touch the flames and their instincts will kick in to tell them this is dangerous stuff. That said never leave a child unattended around an open fire, they wont purposely touch it but accidents happen and they could fall in.
  • Not allowing them to run, jump and climb! Children do everything at top speed and no they don’t see the dangers that we as adults do. However, they will learn about the risks from their grazed knees and twisted ankles pretty quickly. They will not learn the dangers if they don’t get the opportunity to do so, and this could lead to far more serious injuries when they are older.

     

    Let them climb. Even if it terrifies us!

    Let them climb. Even if it terrifies us!

I am sure there are lots of other examples of over protecting our children but these are a few that I have witnessed and done myself! Protecting our children is a basic instinct that we as parents follow – over-protecting them is something we have learnt from fear, but it will do our children a lot more harm then good in the grand scheme of things.

 

What do you think? I love any and all feedback so please put any thought or comments below.

 

Thanks for reading,

Aisling

 

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