Tag Archives: parenting

16Jan/13

A Day in the Life of an Emotional Mum

reward chart

Zach still responds to reward charts…thankfully!

I’m feeling low. Tired and battle weary. And it is only 9.30am. Zach was up at 4.45 this morning and refused to go back to bed. I didn’t have the strength to fight him so since Chris was getting up anyway (I know – it’s crazy) I said he could sleep on Chris’ side IF he didn’t fidget. If he fidgets he goes back to his own bed. It’s been a long time since he has come into our bed during the night and so I was expecting some wriggling and chatting ending with me battling to take him to bed. I felt that I was just postponing the inevitable.

Surprisingly however, he stayed as still as a person can do. I think he moved twice until he got up at 7.19. He always tells me the exact time he wakes up. If I was taking the positive from the situation I could focus on how his self control has improved. When he got up the second thing he said to me when he came downstairs was ‘Mum, I tried my best and stayed very still.’ I praised him enthusiatically and said I was really impressed. This is progress, but I know it is only one side of his personality at the moment.

At breakfast – when he was showing signs of resuming his fight against the world – I told him that it was time for things to change. I said that he knows now that we love him, and that we still love him when he is naughty, or when we are telling him off, or when he hates us. He knows we love him whatever. [We’ve been telling him this for 6 weeks or so now so a lot of it has gone in. See previous post for more on this.] Now it’s time to stop fighting us. He has to do as he is told. I’ve done a chart for him to get ticks whenever he does as he’s told, when he accepts me saying ‘no’, and whenever he realises he’ s fighting us or pushing us away and stops doing it. It’s a big ask but the prize is going swimming with Daddy and/or using Dad’s telescope – if we can find it in the garage. I also told him that I would be making another chart for black marks. Whenever he doesn’t do as he’s told, or fights us, he will get a black mark. These will add up to him losing privileges like his ipod, TV, going to bed, pudding, treats doing activities with Chris at the weekend. I will decide what these are when I am calm (hopefully!!).  Part of me knows this will work for a while and then he will slip back into not caring, and hating us all. But the more optimistic part of me knows that I have to keep going. I have to keep the faith, even though it’s so hard to fight every day with someone you love.  I try not to fight but I have to provide the boundaries and he keeps choosing to fight them. This week I feel emotionally exhausted. I have no idea whether I am doing the right thing.

In the car on the way to school Jas chose the gratitude topic, and she said ‘Think of 4 things we love about Zach.’ Very intuitive of her, I thought. Even Harvey joined in the spirit of the exercise despite being very annoyed with Zach and his behaviour at the moment. I was very proud of both of them.

Harvey:  OK, let me see…mmmm…I love Zach because he’s really great to play with.

Zach: [a big smile on his face.]  I was hoping you would say that!

I think it helped. As I said goodbye to Zach at school I told him he had earned 2 ticks that morning for getting dressed when I asked him and for getting into the car nicely. He seemed proud so I said: ‘ Does your heart feel better when you are not fighting us?’ He said yes.

Now, back home, I am noticing that I need to be kind to myself today.  I need to build up my energy and resilience so I can cope with round 2 at pick up time.   It makes me sad that I find it all so emotional, and that it knocks me off-centre so much.  I’m sure that a lot of families experience similar problems everyday, and just get on with it without so much angst and emotional upheaval.  But I have to accept that this is who I am. This is how my brain has learnt to deal with emotions.  The positive is that I am gradually learning to be less emotionally involved and more calm in the difficult moments. So today I’m not going to beat myself up for allowing it all to wear me down.   I’m going to keep going, take things slowly and be kind to myself.

I feel low, tired and battle weary, but that’s ok. If I’m kind to myself, that’s ok.

27Nov/12

“Everybody Hates Me!”

Zach with his bags packed ready to leave home.

Recently I’ve been having a bit of trouble with my youngest son, who is 5.  One minute he’s the most loving, thoughtful and happy little boy, and then suddenly he can change into a crazy ball of dynamite hurling punches, kicks and hateful words at anyone who is in the area. I know that all young children can switch their mood at what we adults think is the slightest upset, but he has always had more of a tendency to declare that he hates his family, is leaving home, and packing his bags, than my eldest two.

At first I put it down to his personality – he was just different, perhaps more independent, maybe more fiery, than his siblings. But then he started saying he didn’t want to go to school.  He would refuse to get in the car, or get out of the car at school, but I knew that he actually loved it when he was there.  He always talked about what he had done at school, he loved learning and ‘working’ in school more than many 5 year olds do, and the teachers said he seemed happy, and had many friends.  It was really hard to see him obviously upset about something, but not knowing what it was, and how to help him.  And then when he wrote to Santa and said ‘I rile need a noow famlee’, it broke my heart. We are a loving family and are always telling him we love him, and giving him cuddles, playing games with him, etc.  Why was he feeling like this?

Last week as he was telling me again that the reason he didn’t want to go to school was because there were bullies and he had no friends, it finally dawned on me what was happening.  I realised that he believed that whenever someone disagreed with him, or was mean to him, or told him off it meant that they hated him.  So when that happened he went into attack mode to protect himself.  After talking some more it became clear that where his friends at school were concerned, if they had been mean to him once then it meant that they hated him forever.  He now thinks that one of his best friends hates him because he pushed infront of him in the dinner line.

Given that this little 5-year-old spent most of his day with other 4, 5 and 6-year-olds at school, and then with two older bossy siblings at home, and a mum who is a control freak about behaviour, then there was no wonder that he wanted a new family and a new school.

So, since then, we’ve been talking to him about how friendships and families work. That we can get angry,or grumpy and do things that are a bit mean and selfish to our friends, or even do things by mistake, but that doesn’t mean we hate each other. It happens in all relationships – especially when young children are still learning about friendships and controlling their impulses. It’s difficult to know how much he is taking in because he is still focussing on a couple of ‘small’ incidents at school as evidence that other children hate him.  But I think if we keep telling him we love him (I also try to say this while I am telling him off or when I’m defending myself from his punches, but I don’t always manage it!), and not take his anger personally, we will in time help him to see disagreements and arguments as part and parcel of school and family life.   And maybe he’ll eventually stop packing his bags and leaving home quite so often!

05Jul/12

Why Happiness is a Necessity for Mums

As a happiness coach, I’m passionate about the many benefits of being happy.

More and more research is showing that being happy leads to people being more creative, more resilient and more successful. Happy people perform better, have better social lives, longer marriages and are healthier too.

So why do so many people – especially mums – think that their personal happiness is not important?

I think this is because firstly our society doesn’t put a high value on happiness – prefering to measure success in terms of career, money, celebrity and power. Secondly, mums are used to sacrificing a lot for their children – sleep, time, social lives, careers, flexibility….the list goes on – so sacrificing their own happiness becomes accepted as just what mums do.  We tend to think of  actively seeking happiness as being an indulgence.

But things are slowly changing.  A new area of psychology- Positive Psychology  – is now looking at what makes people happy rather than how to stop people feeling ill & depressed.  What researchers have found over the last 20 years has been amazing. Not only is happiness evolutionarily necessary (it helped our ancesters invent new tools, be creative and develop more physical and mental resilience) but the key things that contribute to happiness are the simple, everyday things that are accessible to all of us.  You’ll be glad to know that money, celebrity and power are nowhere on the list.

Being a happy mum helps us to nurture happier children who have a better start in life, and develop a mindset and set of skills that help them throughout their lives.  So being a happy mum is not an indulgence, it is a necessity if you want your children to have a happy and successful life.   That’s all a mum really wants for her children isn’t it?

07Oct/11

Parenting with Respect

When I started our Family Project back in July, high up on my list of hopes and achievements for the project was that ‘my children would learn to be more respectful.’

So as usual, when I want to learn how to do something, I buy myself some books. There is nothing more I like in the world (except perhaps food!) than buying and reading books.  My aim was to gather tips and techniques on how to teach children to be more respectful – of themselves, others, their parents, teachers, the environment, possessions, strangers – everything, in fact. It seemed to me that if they could just ‘get’ respect, i.e.understand the need for respect and how to do it, then most of my parenting problems would just dissolve.  In essence I was searching for the holy grail of parenting -I thought that if I could teach my children respect I would have it sorted.

So I picked a couple of books already on my shelves, ordered a couple more, and set about reading them.  At the beginning I read methodically and took copious notes, but soon I became so eager and hopeful for answers that I skipped chapters, read from two or three books simultaneously depending on which book was in reach, in any spare minute. On the loo, in the car waiting for the kids to get out of school, at 6am in the morning, while cooking tea, while the kids were in the bath, and last thing at night.   

But I was in for a big shock.  What I read in those pages did not give me the tools and techniques to teach my kids respect.  They didn’t even pretend to do that, because they said that was impossible.  Instead, I found out that I was the one who needed to learn respect. 

Initially I tried to struggle against this, and deny that I – such a caring, conscientious, loving mother – needed to learn this. Surely I did this most of the time already?  But very quickly I realised that not only were they right, but that I had unconsciously chosen books which matched my true, inner beliefs and the way that I instictively wanted to parent, but didn’t know how to.

The books all stressed that:

  • Rewards and punishments don’t work in the long run, since they are based on fear.
  • Creating a loving connection or bond with your children is the key to parenting.
  • Showing unconditional love and providing a safe, non-judgemental home is the foundation to this approach.
  • How you speak to your children, or about your children, has a huge affect on how they learn respect (or not).
  • A parent can only model respect not teach it. 
  • Listening to your children is a key skill to connect with your children.

Over the next month I will look into these, and many more ideas, in more detail, and review and discuss the books I’m reading.

If you are interested in learning about unconditional, connection-based parenting because you are finding that rewards and punishments, coercion and fear are not working for your family, then these are the books I’ve started with:

  1. How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish.
  2. Respectul Parents, Respectful Kids: 7 Keys to Turn Family Conflict into Co-operation, by Sura Hart & Victoria Kindle Hodson.
  3. Connection Parenting: Parenting through Connection instead of Coercion, Through Love instead of Fear, by Pam Leo.
  4. Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason, by Alfie Kohn.
  5. Playful Parenting, by Lawrence J. Cohen.
09Mar/11

Dear Mum, You don’t have to….

Jasmine's 'grumpy' picture

“Dear Mum, You don’t have to be grumpy. You can calm down when you want to. Remember you have a good husband and 3 children who can make you happy.”

Striving for perfection doesn’t mean your life is always on an upward trajectory.  It may motivate you to improve, and keep you focussed on trying to get better but paradoxically stops you achieving it. Aiming for perfection will often make you feel, perform and  behave worse because you are constantly disappointed by or scared of failing to reach the high standards you set for  yourself.

When my daughter gave me the picture – above – it brought home to me in all it’s innocence who I affect when I am so deeply disappointed in myself (and sometimes others).  Being annoyed with myself and grumpy with the world only hurts myself and the people around me who I love. It doesn’t help me improve. Instead it knocks the confidence, hope and motivation out of me. It makes me forget what a wonderful life and family I have, and that they love me being imperfect.  It’s a shame I needed a 6 year old to show me that.