Simply Parenting – A series

I am trying out something new for the blog. I am going to write a series called Simply Parenting , stripping away the buzz words and labels around modern parenting such as ‘helicopter’ and ‘free range’ parenting and  try and highlight the basics of what I think we should be doing for our children  to give them the very best chances in life.

Please note that these are purely my own personal opinions developed over my years in childcare and as a Mum. Feel free to ignore or take from them as you please!

We know that what children need to thrive and grow into happy independent adults is love and space. However how we deliver this can sometimes do more harm than good – which brings me neatly onto my first topic.

Love and Space.

Love and Space.

Omnipresence

Arguably the strongest feeling that surges through our bodies when we first become parents is the urge to protect our children. We genuinely don’t even want the wind to blow on their faces, never mind the thought of them coming to any real harm or (one I find myself worrying about) being abducted.

So it is completely natural and necessary to keep our babies within earshot (if not sight) as newborns. However, knowing when to let go and when to give our children some leeway can be difficult. As much as we want to ensure that we keep our children within sight at all times it is just not a practical reality and it is not a healthy environment for children to develop and grow in.

What we need to do is promote our children’s independence by allowing them out of sight, giving them a sense of freedom by letting them climb the rock, wander to the other side of the beach, or walk to the shop when they are old enough.

'I got this Mum...

‘I got this Mum…

..See!'

..See!’

To reach the independence needed to do those few simple things, you need to start as you mean to go on.

  • If you are always with your child then they cannot learn to play alone and become self-sufficient.
  • If you always invent games for them, they do not have the chance to develop their imagination.
  • If you are always on hand to play with them, this could inadvertently stunt their social development which in turn could make it difficult for them to socialise with their peers.

So, in my view –

  • Let your children play by themselves, be it rolling around on a play mat, playing in the back garden or in their room.
  • Let them invent their own games, and allow them to figure out the jigsaw puzzle at their own pace and in their own time.
  • Give them the space to choose their own activity, be it picking up a book or sitting down to an art project.

In stepping back, you are giving them the independence to develop their own set of social skills and to develop into individuals who learn how to handle themselves in this big bad world.

What's the worst thing that can happen?

What’s the worst thing that can happen?

So in a nutshell – step back, give them space, trust their instincts and watch their imagination and independence grow.

Thanks for reading,

Aisling

Next topic in this series will be addressing our children’s sleep patterns.

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Summer Job – Positions Available. :)

I spend every Monday putting the shoe mountain that gathered at the side on the couch back in the children’s rooms and ‘dissappearing‘ the wilted dandelion or stone collection scattered on the mantle-piece. I mutter to myself about how I always have to do it, and I am going to have serious words with them all this time (including Mr Dad who seems to think there is a shoe and sock putter- back fairy living with us!) So, enough is enough.

I'm sure someone will tidy up after me.

I’m sure someone will tidy up after me.

Timing is everything and obviously dishing out tasks on a Monday morning is a surefire way to reach screaming levels of tension in nanoseconds. But the school holidays are around the corner, so this household is about to get chore-tastic! Along with the added bonus of not having to run around and pick up after them all the time, doing their own chores will go a long way towards encouraging their self-respect, self-confidence and independence.

So this summer, I will refer to the list below for little jobs that all three children from the toddler to the tweenager can help with!

Housework: Dusting; putting their toys away (tip: insist they put each toy /game away before starting a new activity); hoovering; emptying the dishwasher; making their beds; sweeping the floor; clearing and setting the table; washing and drying dishes; mopping up (inevitable) spills.

 

Never too young!

Never too young!

Laundry: Sorting out clothes for dark and light washes; matching socks; stripping their beds; folding and putting laundry away; loading and  putting on the washing machine; putting their clothes either in the wash or away at the end of the day.

My sous chef.

My sous chef.

Food preparation: Pouring drinks; preparing breakfast cereal; peeling vegetables and putting peel in the compost; making sandwiches; chopping fruit; turning on oven to preheat; weighing ingredients; using a whisk.

 

Don't forget the wheels!

Don’t forget the wheels!

Outside: Pulling weeds; sweeping the decking; washing the car (inside and out); gathering up chopped leaves and branches; watering the plants.

Obviously the list is not exhaustive but there is plenty there to encourage the children to help out a little every day.

Weeding!

Weeding!

I don’t plan on overloading them with a load of tasks. The aim of the game, for us, is to keep it light and easily achievable. That said, I will not give up at the first “I am too tired” hurdle – instead, I

will try a little negotiation. “So, what do you think you could do to help me out? ” and build on that.

Still plenty of time for fun!

Still plenty of time for fun!

By mid-August, I expect I will be having breakfast in bed while the children clean up and prepare lunch, ahh happy days! 😉

What are your summer plans?

Thanks for reading.

Aisling

A ‘Lidl’ Rite of Passage

Courtesy Pixabay

Courtesy Pixabay

They bought milk. She is eight, he is six and last week , they bought milk!

It started a few months ago; actually, we were up at the shops and I was going to buy the paper.  ‘Let me Mum, please!’ came the plea from the then seven year old. ‘Ok so, I will’. I gave her specific instructions on where to find the paper, gave her the exact change and waited inside the door of the shop while she did the necessary. She did with great aplomb, returning with the paper, blushing and beaming with pride. The next time I waited outside the shop doors, and the time after that I didn’t have exact change but she managed just fine.

First stop local newsagent, next St Stephen's Green Centre!

First stop local newsagent, next St Stephen’s Green Centre!

The next step to buying the milk was taking showers. The bath with the three of them was a bit of a ‘squash and a squeeze’ so it was time for the eldest to have showers. Showering a fully capable seven year old is not my style, so I would turn on the shower, let her get started and then come in for hair washing and ear cleaning.  Next, I came in just for ears and to turn the shower off. After about a month of showers I let her get in, wash, get out, dry, dress and then I dried her hair. Soon I was just blow-drying her hair and letting her do the last few minutes herself.

Then she turned eight and one day we were getting ready for showers when I was distracted with Facebook her younger sister. ‘Don’t worry Mum, I will get myself started and call you when I need you.’ Twenty minutes later she arrived back down, washed, changed and with a mane of mostly dry hair! The bathroom was not soaked; her used towel was hanging over the banisters and not in its customary crumpled heap on the ground.

20150331_112623-1

Mini baby-sitter.

20150522_170244

Baking.

We then went from letting her watch me in the kitchen, to allowing her stir sauce in a hot pan, to showing her how to make tea. She makes her own porridge in the microwave too, getting the jam from the fridge and stirring it in with a spoon. In fact, she made her auntie a cup of tea last week, from filling the kettle to handing over the finished product.

So, we needed milk. It was one of those busy school days when we were on the way back from a rushed pick-up and I realised we were out of milk, or would be soon after we got home. So I swung in to Lidl and parked near the door. Because timing is everything, the cranky three year old had finally fallen asleep.  I needed milk, I wanted to get home and I didn’t want to disturb whinge-bob sleep-pants.

In the olden days of course I would have just left the children in the car and popped in, but times are very different now. They are used to being sent down the aisles to grab milk for me, so I knew that she knew where it was. ‘Would you guys like to go in to Lidl and buy some milk?’ ‘What, on our own?’ ‘Yep, sure Mum, no problem, 3 litres, low-fat, right?’ ‘Yes, here is the money and expect to get change.’ ‘Ok, wahoo!’  Out they hopped and in to Lidl they disappeared.

Let loose in Lidl!

Let loose in Lidl!

There then ensued 10 minutes of me worrying, sweating, questioning my parenting, forcing myself to stay in the car, jumping out of the car and trying to crane my neck to see if I could see in the frosted windows, almost asking strangers who had left the shop if they had seen two children with milk, getting back in the car and wishing sleepy -head would wake, berating myself for not having bought milk earlier, wondering ‘what if’ to every dastardly scenario imaginable.

And then there they were, smiling and skipping along, holding hands and giggling. They opened the door, hopped in and fastened their seat-belts.

They had bought milk.milk-312369_1280

Thanks for reading

Aisling

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

Encouraging Independence, Part III

20130726_105937Once you start encouraging independent play and feeding, it should come naturally to both yourself and your child to allow independence in the other parts of their lives. Let them ‘have a go’ at things rather then automatically doing it for them!

Take their grand motor skills such as walking, running and climbing – once they are able to walk, let  them walk rather than carrying them. If you are out and about with the buggy, let them hop out and walk the final few metres to the car or front door. When you are going upstairs and downstairs, let them do it themselves, accompanying them but letting them do it ‘on their own’. Let them climb trees, benches, ladders and slides under your supervision. Allowing them to try it for themselves not only boosts their confidence, but it also lets them find their own limitations; and so even though they will most likely fall, they will learn how to fall without hurting themselves too badly. Bumps and grazed knees are as much a part of childhood as picnics and story-times! 😉

I previously wrote about children learning to dress themselves – this is another great way to encourage independence, even if they only manage to get their head through the sleeve or put both feet into one trouser leg; allowing them to attempt dressing themselves from a young age is how they will learn to dress themselves in time for starting school (when you really need them to have this skill so as to get out the door in time!) .

Giving them the opportunity to take care of their own personal hygiene is another building block to encourage independence. Washing their own hands and face, brushing their teeth and hair and cleaning themselves after the loo are all things that they can learn to do very effectively, all of which encourage them taking pride in themselves – not a bad trait in my book!

Encouraging babies and children to help with general household chores is a fantastic life lesson as well as being a great way of encouraging independence. There are loads of little ‘jobs’ that they can do which they will not only enjoy, but will also help them to grow into socially-balanced and confident people. Setting the table, emptying a section of the dishwasher, helping to clean the car, tidying a shelf in their room, unpacking a bag of shopping, putting simple things away (fruit in the fruit bowl for example), helping with the dusting, putting wrappers into the bin, clearing their plates from the table – these are all little things they can ‘help’ you with. You’ll find that they really enjoy working with you to get big jobs done!

The fact that you have confidence in their ability to do things for themselves does not go unnoticed by your child, and is reflected as their own self-confidence grows and grows. So from here on let your child ‘have a go’ rather then just doing it for them. It will not do any harm, but it will do a great deal of good for both your child and for your family as a whole! 🙂

Thanks for reading

Aisling

I love feedback, please leave any thoughts and comments below.

Encouraging Independence, Part I

20130507_154206Although being parents requires an awful lot of running around after our children, a mistake a lot of us make is doing too much for our children. We should absolutely not be at our childs every beck and call as this only results in creating needy and under-confident children/adults. I think if you want your child to grow into a content, self-led and confident adult, encouraging their independence is an absolute necessity and something you can start from a very early age.

Today I am going to write about encouraging independent play. Doing this not only encourages independence, it also allows childrens’ natural sense of curiosity to develop and so also encourages learning. For newborn and young babies, we have a tendency to hold them in our arms and on our laps whilst playing with them, and there is nothing wrong with this; in fact, it is vital for strengtening your bond and developing your infant’s sense of security. However, it is also really important that you let your baby play on their own!

I would suggest putting your baby down in their play-gym/bouncy chair or just lying them on a soft blanket with a few toys a few times a day. Engage with them for a few minutes and then task yourself with something else and leave them to it. As their confidence grows, you will be able to leave them playing on their own longer and longer.

From when your baby gets to the stage that they are moving around on their own – be it walking/crawling/bum shuffling or that ‘ol classic, the commando manoeuvre – let them choose their own toys, and continue this throughout their childhood. This may sound a bit much but really, it’s not. There are some very simple do’s and don’ts that will help you to encourage independent play in your child.

The Do’s:

Do make sure their toys are age appropriate – toddlers and skateboards just don’t mix!
Do engage in whatever they are doing for a few minutes and then leave them to it.
Do have their toys where they are easily accessible i.e. for babies, a basket or for toddlers, a box with a lid on.
Do rotate their toys every few months.
Do insist that they tidy away one toy before they start another – it’s good discipline for them and will help you ‘let go’ a little if the house is not being overrun with toys.
Do let them figure it out on their own – they can and they will!
Do encourage them to play outside as often as possible.
Do be available but not involved.

The Don’ts:

Don’t ask them what they want to do – let them decide for themselves.
Don’t tell them how to make it according to the manufacturer’s instructions – they will bore easily if you keep interupting their imaginitive play.
Don’t correct the way they are playing – they may want to put the square peg in the round hole; they are experimenting!
Don’t hamper their imagination with adult expectations – they can of course be a hybrid spiderman/vampire/flamenco dancer if they wish.
Don’t get involved when there is a misunderstanding – unless it becomes agressive, let them figure it out themselves.

I am not saying never play with your children, where would be the fun in that? In fact, encouraging independent play means then when you play with your child, it is actually more enjoyable as you are coming to it by choice as opposed to another parental duty you must fulfil. When you encourage independent play, you find that you are not counting down the minutes until you can turn on television. When you encourage independent play, the whining, the ‘muuummmmyyyyy’, the ‘I’m booorred’ will, if not dissappear, then become a LOT less frequent. 🙂

Thanks for reading
Aisling

I love feedback, please leave any thoughts and comments below.

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