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Hands up who’s tired of the nightly nagging session? You know how it goes: ” Sit up straight, lean over, use your fork, put some clothes on for goodness sake, sit down in your chair –  you don’t have to act out every part of your day, and for the love of Pete, stop talking with (chew chew) food (bite) in your (swallow) mouth.”

My kids are getting to the stage where they’re old enough to do this stuff without the nightly nag so hubby and I have devised a cunning plan to get them to remember all their manners at the table without a high pitched, frustrated reminder from any of us.

It’s all about consequences and it goes like this:

* If you don’t lean over, you get to clean up the floor after dinner

* If you talk with food in your mouth we won’t listen to you

* If you use your fingers to eat your dinner, you’ll have to use your fingers for every part of the meal, even ice cream (although some kids would love to do this, mine HATE getting gooey fingers… I hope!)

* If you don’t sit down you’ll lose your chair

 

It sounds harsh but seriously, I’ve spent the last eight or so years telling my kids over and over and over again how to have table manners and according to Jamie Oliver it’s important. So if it’s good enough for Jamie’s kids, it’s good enough for mine.

 

How do you get your kids to remember their manners?

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How to produce the perfect child

 

 

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Most of us parents try so hard to give our kids the best start in life. We may invest in their education, take them to soccer training or teach them how to cook, but somewhere along the way we stuff up. There are those little moments in our busy lives where the cracks start appearing in our ‘perfect parenting plan’ or PPP for short. Sure, we’d love to always say the right thing to our kids but sometimes they just get under our skin even though they are as cute as two boots.

There is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ childhood. As much as we try and try and try to be awesome parents, sometimes we just aren’t and I’ve realised that it’s ok if there’s a few moments of ‘reality’ flung in there because it keeps them grounded. Real life will not be such a shock when they’ve had a parent full of flaws, as long as I am humble enough to apologise when I’m in the wrong and as long as I can shake off the ‘perfectionistic parenting’ thing and the guilt that goes along with it. As long as they know I’m trying and that I love them, I can’t ruin them too much can I?

On certain days I feel like I’m at the top of the parenting scale; I’m ticking all the boxes, giving my kids the encouragement they need, and squatting down and looking them in the eyes as they tell me the detailed story of ducky and the garden full of bears for the umpteenth time. Ah, yes, those are the good days. But, as with most things, it can turn in an instant and I can go from super-mum to super-dud-mum depending on my mood and spitty-spatty words that somehow just come flowing out of my sometimes careless mouth. And then it’s like I’m hit with an anvil of guilt which hits my head and pounds me into the ground like a hammer to a nail. And it’s a bugger trying to climb out of that claustrophobic hole.

As much as I try not to ruin my kids, I know that somehow, sometimes I do hurt their feelings and build horrible walls between us that may last for a moment or longer, I’m not sure. But above everything else I’m just desperately in love with those two little souls and I tell them that every day which, I’m hoping, will cover over a multitude of sins…as they say.

Do you have those bad-parent moments as well or is it just me?

I must say outright that my little girl is gorgeous. Nearly every time I take her out in public some one will comment on how beautiful her hair is or what she is wearing. I know people mean well but I don’t want her to think that is all she has to offer.

I just read a great article on the topic of how adults relate to little girls and here’s the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-gir_b_882510.html?ref=fb&src=sp. This is a humbling read. I’m sure many of us have seen a cutie patootie of a little girl and said how beautiful they look or how gorgeous their dress was or something similar. I have. Heaps of times. But it’s time to get smart.

When I was a kid, I grew up thinking that the most important gift I had was that I was pretty (without being too vain). My brother was a great artist and I was the passably good looking out-there kid. In the end that’s all I felt I had to offer. I did ok at school but I was no child genius so I thought I was dumb. But, at least I had my looks… right?

This is something I don’t want for any kid. The pressure of fitting in, wearing the right clothes and hanging with the right people can be downright disastrous for anyone, let alone an awkward teenager or child. Our culture is drowning in this message. We still put make up on kids in the school dance groups. They are eight years old for goodness sake. I know it’s tradition but what are we teaching our kids?

I want my daughter to know that beauty is all about your heart, your words, your actions and how you live your life. Roald Dahl puts it perfectly in his book The Twits. He says,

If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it. A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly…if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.

I do not want my daughter growing up with the pressure to be something hollow. I want her to be a whole person using every gift she has to make her mark on the world. I want her to understand that in some countries people spend hours walking to get water. They don’t have the luxury to be self obsessed.

It’s time we taught our kids that some of the ‘littlest’ people in the world are the best. I want her not to judge others by what they look like but how they live their life. And I want her to look in the mirror and see more that a mouth, nose, eyes and that amazing hair.

So, Lisa Bloom, I will try to change my ways. I will try not to just compliment girls on their looks. I will dig deeper so that they know that there is more to life than what they see in the mirror.

I once sneezed in a lecture hall and no one looked my way. It got me thinking. Sneezing is acceptable but if I shouted as loud as I sneezed all would turn around, stare and question my sanity. How funny is our world?

I wonder if there are places where spontaneous shouting is the norm? Perhaps sneezing is frowned upon? The body does funny things… like farting. Every child finds fart jokes so tummy-splittingly funny. And every adult with even a mild sense of humour cracks a smile when the word ‘fart’ is uttered. It’s a funny word for a ridiculous bodily function. FART! Girls fart too, did you know? And I find it’s best to fart when someone is talking about trumpets or baddies or wind. Because it makes it even funnier… or is it just me?

Burping is less funny because it is a controlled thing. You can burp for attention and it doesn’t come out of your bottom, so the funny-o-metre would rank it low on laughs. Sneezing is funny, especially in kids who don’t know how to do it politely. And then for the adults there’s all kinds of sneezes: tiny, lady sneeze; spray sneeze; loud-echo-around-the-neighbourhood sneeze, cough-sneeze, silent sneeze, silencer-sneeze (the one you try to hold in but escapes nonetheless). Hilarious!

On the other hand being smelly is not funny. Deodorant was invented for a reason as were baths, showers, shower gel, shampoo and Glen-20. No one wants to walk into a bathroom and faint. We’re delicate creatures these days, so please do your best and use what is available to smell like roses (or good man smell).

Which brings me to hiccups… (great segue no?). They would have to be the funniest, most frustrating, uncontrollable bodily function (correct me if I’m wrong). What are hiccups? According to the internet, is when the diaphragm contracts over and over again, closing the vocal cords, making the hiccup sound. It can be caused by allergic reactions, spicy foods, carbonated drinks, eating too fast or MORE! It can make you hurl, burp or cause major frustration, cos you know that there are no cures in most cases, except for time. And, mostly the people who find hiccups hilarious are the onlookers not the sufferers themselves.

Ah, the human body; a complex combination of ick and oooo. It can be wildly beautiful and overtly disgusting. It can cause poets to poem and writers to swoon but at the end of the day, what goes in must come out. What could be funnier than that?

God bless our Japanese friends!

 

Image by Jon Bragg

A while ago we were travelling down to the ‘gong to visit the grandparents. Outg of the blue, my son says, “Maybe Nanny will have a present for us!” And I, in all my motherly wisdom retort, “Oh sweetheart, I don’t think so, you can’t expect that everytime we visit.” His answer? “THINK POSITIVELY!!!!!”

Well, was I put in my place! This was an idea we had been drumming into him for some weeks prior. You see, my lovely son is a little like me sometimes. We both suffer from the disease I like to call ‘Silly Talk’. This syndrome rears its ugly head when one feels unloved, unimportant and unfairly treated. For example, if little sister forcefully asks to play with certain Star Wars toys, in the past big brother has been known to say, “Fine, you can have it forever, she can have all my toys!” = SILLY TALK. (And little sister happily takes his word for it! Good times for her!)

An adult version of Silly Talk would be, “Fine, be that way, I don’t care.” But you really do… care. This places yourself firmly in the ‘victim’ role, hard done by, sad, frustrated with no way out; a silly place. The treatment for such a dire condition is called Positive Thinking. A simple but effective solution. Instead of big brother getting upset at little sister’s request, perhaps he could think, “Oh, isn’t this nice. She likes what I like! She must like ME!”

But no, human nature dictates that we often read each other incorrectly. We take things the wrong way, we think the worst of others and ourselves. This leads to Silly Talk, sadness and a life lived in a bubble of self-pity. Which is why I was humbled when big brother/little son came out with “Think Postively!”

It is nice to see that some things get through!!

Image by Vaikunda Raja

Image by Bidgee

The stupid rain wet my five loads of washing today. Stupid rain. Twas such a lovely day yesterday. And so, first thing this morning, I yanked on my old sneakers, my hooded jacket and stomped up the backyard and started pulling my favourite clothes off the line and then my less favourite and then the necessary socks and the like!

Lucky for me the rain was light but my body was in shock. Don’t wanna be in the stupid rain taking off the stupid washing while I wake up. It’s all stupid, stupid, stupid. No, I am not a morning person. Sure, I can fake it if I need to when with company. But as my lovely family can testify to, mummy’s smile does not often make an appearance until around 8:30 am. And so the “stupids” continued.

Later on my little daughter pulled me up on the fact I had said, “stupid”, when I

Image by Mary Harrsch

returned from pulling the half wet stupid washing off the stupid line and then with forced calmness, hung up the stupid washing on the fabulous back verandah. I was hoping that my coffee wouldn’t arrive before I had finished and lo’ and behold, it came right on time as I returned, “stupids” in tow, to the kitchen table where I was greeted by some mildly amused, mildly shocked little faces and one large one looking apprehensively at me, perhaps thinking, “what’s next?”

Another “stupid” perhaps? But back to the main point. I encourage my kids to use kind words, words of life, positive words to inspire, to guide them in the way they tackle the many challenges of life. So when I crack open a “stupid” it creates confusion. I’m not sure what I think of “stupid” as a taboo word in the household. It’s neither here nor there for me personally but all the cool mums tell their kids not to say it, so who am I to think differently?

And so the ‘stupid’ conversation led to the hypocritical conversation. This is the one where the kids learn the truth about adults. It is (if you haven’t worked it out already) that we are all hypocritical at some stage in our lives. We don’t always mean to be but there you have it. So when mummy releases the “stupid” after a frustrating encounter with rain, I encouraged the kids to simply see it as mummy being a hypocrite and that is all. It doesn’t give them permission to do the same, but I am comfortable knowing that my kids do not see me as superwoman, but as a normal, hypocritical adult who sometimes must let loose on the rain in a fairly tame manner really.

Stupid rain! But as my son reminded me, “At least your grass will be growing mummy.” The subtext = think positively!!!!!!!!!!!

Life Lessons for children: How we stuff them up!

1. Stranger Danger. How much do we go on and on and on about stranger danger? We tell our children not to talk, go with or accept gifts from strangers. And then there’s Santa Claus. As a story or a fun activity, Santa is great. Bring him on. When it comes to enforcing the stranger danger message, this is where, we as parents, stuff up. “Look Cynthia, a funny man with a beard covering his face. Why don’t you go and sit on his knee without mumma and have your photo taken. Awww look Cynthia, he’s got a present for you!” FAIL.

2. Violence. Smacking is a controversial thing in our society. Remember the ‘good old’ days when your father took a wooden spoon, stick or belt to your rump? A while ago, my daughter lashed out at me and hit me on the arm. Now, I don’t often smack my kids but this was a big “no, no”. I held her hand and gave it a quick smack while saying, “Don’t hit”. FAIL.

3. Snacking. I must confess my love of sweets. Lollies, chocolate, biscuits, cakes; you name it, I’ll eat it. However, I am very aware of what my kids eat; they have limited snacks each day. I’m trying to teach them good eating habits that they can carry with them into the junk-filled teenage years and beyond. Do I practice what I preach? Ah, sometimes, yes, sometimes, no! In our house there’s ‘adult’ food and ‘kids’ food. Unfortunately for my kids, adult food is more fun! Perhaps that means that when they are adults themselves, they will go loco with the sugar!? FAIL

4. Manners. At meal times, I take the opportunity to teach my children manners. We have a chart on the wall, an illustration of dos and don’ts to make it easy for the little monkeys to remember. They include things like, “don’t talk with food in your mouth, do sit in your chair, do lean over your plate…”. As my son has often pointed out, “Why do adults talk with food in their mouth?” My answer: “Adults have more to say and more to do.” Double standard. FAIL.

Summary section: I think it’s good that parents fail a little. It’s even better if we can laugh at our failures and move on with our lives. Ha ha! Double standards. Whooo hoo, hypocrisy. It’s not that we want to confuse the little darlings with our duplicitous behaviour. What we want is for them to know we are human and we sometimes get it wrong, so they, too, can feel free to stuff up.

Mothers do the darnedest things out of love for their kids:

* Swimming lessons: Sitting, chatting with fellow parents, ‘thumbs up’ -ing the half drowning efforts of a three year old. Handling the wet swimmers and the musty odors of after, not to mention the exhausted, ratty child desperate for a bit of shut-eye.

* Drop-offs/Pick-ups: This dizzy routine gets crazier as you add more children. There’s long daycare, preschool, school, sport, music, dance, play dates, park plays, beach plays and the list as we all know, goes on.

* Life skills: How to use the toilet, how to wipe their own bottom, how to brush teeth, how to hold a fork, how to change a tyre, how to floss, how to remember stuff, how to be tidy, how to say stuff, how to make beds and walk and talk and sing and dance and pay for things and use manners… that’s just the first five years! What next?

*  Words: As a parent, thinking of the right words, with the right meaning at the right time can be exhausting. They often come out sounding slightly condescending as they are not always delivered wholeheartedly. A mother yawns, stretches and looks at her chaotic house. Mess everywhere. Toys on floor, food on floor, and she just wants to be on the floor herself. Little Tommy pops up out of nowhere. That kid has a knack for it. “Mum, mum, see what I’ve drawn for you.” She squints, she thinks, she says, “Oh Tommy dear, that’s a beautiful house.” “Not a house, Mum, it’s a spaceship”. “Oh, I love the colours.”

*Pain: Obviously childbirth is painful, that’s a given. Let’s look at other pain, parents (let’s include dads here for obvious reasons) endure for the sake of their little ones:                                                                                                                                             -Back pain is experienced when a large child demands to be carried, or won’t get out of the bath, or tackles you when you’re not ready.                                                                    – Hair pulling happens from birth. Those little fingers grasp at long strands of hair, one yank, and the warm and fuzzies explode into something else altogether.                 – Tinnitus often comes in the form of a sort of ‘ringing’ in the ears. It is when those beautiful rosebud, soft skinned girls open their generous mouths and release emotions, thoughts, ideas in the form of a loud squeal/scream. The notes they reach are pretty impressive. But it is very painful when the ear piercing high ‘C’ is directed straight into an ear canal.                                                                                                              – Sleep loss is a form of torture that many parents are familiar with. Your head is getting very heavy, your eyes are snapped closed, dreams float passed your eyelids and you hear, “Muuuuuuuuum! Need to do a weeeeeee”. You commando roll off the bed, stagger through the dark into the child’s room and guide them to the toilet. You squat, head in hands, while the deed is done, then stagger the child back to bed…x 10! Miscellaneous: Kicks in crotches, elbows in boobs, hit, bit, feet stepped on, scratched, tripped, head butted, infected. Muscles spasm, bones crunch, hair falls out but it’s all done for the good of the children.

Parenthood is a rush! You never know what is around the corner, literally (my kids are great at hiding). For all the pain (and there’s a lot), you have a double dose of love, affection, loyalty and bonds of steel. Bring on the bruises and sleepless nights, kids rock!


It is interesting to see language change as you enter parenthood. Language is efficient between mothers. There are phrases, spoken or written, that instantly make sense to other parents. A tap of the nose, a slow blink of the eyes, they know exactly what you mean.

For example, the other day, one of my lovely facebook friends said that she was having “one of those days”. I could feel hundreds of virtual nods moving simultaneously. ‘One of those days’ for a parent goes something like this:

– MORNING: Sleepless night, followed by whinging kid at the breakfast table, refusing to eat. An hour and a half later, the child is still in pyjamas and you’ve got to get out of the door. Lunches are hurriedly packed, the other child potters around forgetting what he or she has to pack in the school bag, no teeth cleaned. “We need to leave in 10 minutes”, you try not to scream. School child tantrums while trying ever so hard to put on pesky socks. Pyjama kid finally finishes grapes and dismounts chair, and starts fussing over clothes. Tears, screaming, parent tries hard to ignore while a volcano of emotions moves closer to the surface. Finally, both kids are dressed and find themselves in a power struggle over who has the stool while cleaning teeth and who can spit in the sink and who has to spit into the bath. Children meander to the car, taking FOREVER to climb in an sit DOWN. Car in motion, school kid dropped at school. Perhaps tears today, clinging onto legs, “Don’t go!”

-MIDDLE DAY: One child down one to go. You love your kids but this is just “one of those days”. The little one constantly switches between crying sad and painful whinging. Your patience is paper thin. You may use words you promised yourself you never would. You feel worse. You send child to bed for an early sleep after the breakfast behaviour is repeated at lunch. Child refuses to sleep, wants water, toilet, cuddle, story, more water, noises are scary, wants to sing…

-END DAY: Wake up little one. He/she is not happy. Grumpy, tears start again. Refuses to get out of bed. Shoes are put on while still in bed. Cuddle on the lounge before placing bleary-eyed little one in car.  Drive to school.  Little one demands water. No water, left at home! Try not to make little one run as you rush into the playground. Bell goes, school child runs past, dumping bulging, unzippered bag at your feet. You have to chase school child around the playground with bag and little one in tow. Ignored, you start walking out of the playground in the hope that s.c will follow. Eventually get to the car, go home. Afternoon filled with demands, sulks, crying, whinging and then dinner. You place your hard work on the table and you get “I don’t want to eat that”. You put child’s dinner in the bin and eventually they are both in bed!

– EVENING: You want to cry but too tired. You bury yourself in dvds, tv or a good book. You go to bed, trying not to seethe. “I love them, I love them, it was just ONE OF THOSE DAYS!”

“Goodjobsweetheartiwillnottellyouagaini’mgoingtocountto3stopcryingandtellme

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likeyoumeanittryagainnosillytalkdon’tgiveupgoodtryifyoueatyourvegesyouwillget

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kyousaypleaseasknicelystopannoyingyourbrotherspeakkindlynoyoucan’thavethat

it’snotyourbirthdaytoomuchmoneywellit’showwedoitinourhoussitproperlycleanup

yourmessnoyoucan’thaveanotherdrinkstopwrigglingseeiknewyoucoulddoitnoyoucan

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don’tcarewhatyouwanttobeaslongasyou’rehappyfivemoreminutestwomoreminutesok

timeforbediloveyouforeveryouaremygirlyouaremyboyevenwheni’mcrankyistillloveyou.

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