When it comes to being a parent, we have to make 9000 decisions before they are conceived in most cases. From the pregnancy vitamins, we take, to if we play Mozart to our bellies in the hopes that it will make them a little bit smarter.
Once that new life arrives, it’s a million miles an hour. If the birth was a standard delivery, there are still so many things to think about. Vitamin K? Tongue tie? Breastfeeding? Formula feeding? Not to mention the days and weeks of check-ups for you and babe. Then it’s vaccinations, and before you know it… They’re getting married.
But how can we ever know the choices we are making are the right ones? Well, the truth is we may never know. But maybe, just maybe a few of these little tips will help you when it comes to making decisions.
There is an art to a conversation, and it is our duty as parents to hand that down. Social skills start very early on, we begin to talk to our babies very early on. But it is more than that, we need to start asking them questions. Asking them about themselves, and then getting them to expand on their answers.
These style of questions will give them a guide, and if you encourage them to answer that question however they wish, and then have follow up questions ready. If your child asks you questions, try and answer them as thoroughly as you can too.
As soon as you can, when you talk to them come down to their level and look them in the eye. Encourage them to do the same in return. This will build their confidence in very subtle ways, and put them in good stead for when they head out into the world.
We spend a lot of time telling kids to stop crying, stop being silly, be quiet. In a not so gentle way, we are asking them to be less ‘emotional.’ If you turn the tables and consider a time you’ve been upset, if someone said ‘shhh stop being silly, stop crying’ – you’d likely feel worse. Although of course, the difference is you aren’t likely to be crying about a spoon being purple.
It is better to try and tackle emotions with how you’d like someone to deal with yours. Lead by example here. Listen to them, let them explain why they feel like they do and talk it out.
There is a big wide world out there, and you are the shield between what should and shouldn’t make it to your kid’s knowledge bank. A great example is some of the youtube videos that on the surface look fine for kids, but the content is simply not.
You can learn alongside your children too. New languages, sign language, how to bake, even swimming and riding a bike.
Encourage them to learn from an early age. Kids are naturally curious, so make the most of that. Before you know it you will be having deep conversations about what university they want to go to, and the courses that they specialize in. From Exeter to Aberdeen and beyond the world will be their oyster.
Manners & Gratitude
Never underestimate the power that good manners have. Please, thank you, and simply appreciating what they have or what has been given to them is a skill that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
But manners extend beyond the simple please and thank you. Showing gratitude is something that they can learn from you. From sending a letter of thanks when you receive a gift, to being sure you say ‘I appreciate your help’ if they do something the helps you.
Big or small if someone has helped you in any way, then show them what it means. Talking about what it means to be a good person (to the best of your ability) will stick in their minds. Explain in detail, of an age-appropriate standard, what your personal values are and the difference it makes when you give and receive respect.
When they’re old enough, you can show them how to give back to their communities, volunteer and make a difference in their own way.
It is very easy to lose faith in yourself as a parent. Some things do go wrong, and it might be things that you never saw coming and can’t prevent. Give yourself a break, because sometimes parenting, and life in general, can be really tough.
If you think something is wrong, it usually is. There is a lot to be said for that motherhood instinct. Your child’s health and wellbeing is, of course, your top priority – and when it matters those instincts rarely let you down.
Know when it is all too much. There is only so much you can give at any one time. Adding school stuff, work, homework, Dr’s appointments, extracurricular clubs… it can be pretty full on loads of the time. You should be aware that you can say no. In fact, it would be beneficial for your little ones to see you only take on what you can comfortably manage. Saying ‘no’ is essential.
Lead by example. Take care if your own health, so that they can see you doing it. Get things like flu vaccines, take your medicine when you’re poorly. Ignoring aches and pains serves no one well.
Vaccines, although millions of people are split on the topic, you have access to life-saving vaccines from birth. Take advantage of them.
The skin we live in is important, and many of us make the mistake of not putting a simple thing like sunscreen on daily. Stopping harmful rays from giving you permanent sun damage is vital, so encourage the kids to apply it every morning. You can even use a spray to make it quicker and easier.
Oral health is no joke. Bleeding gums, cavities, bad breath, all stem from not taking proper care of your teeth. Which can be avoided if you get into a good routine with the kids nice and early. Set a timer for brushing, so no one skips out on those two minutes, ensure mouthwash and flossing regularly are part of that routine too. Buy toothbrushes of good quality and in the right age bracket, and check what is in the kiddos toothpaste also.
Dinner times can be a serious sticking point for many families. Kids that are refusing to eat their veggies, loving something one minute and hating it the next can be stressful for parents, and then the kids too.
Keep serving it up. Just because they didn’t like the green pasta on Monday, doesn’t mean that the next money will be the same. Keep dishing up the same dishes, and you’ll both learn if they really don’t like it or they just weren’t sure.
Family time is the best time. Sitting together at eating a meal is a great way to unwind and connect. You can share what happened during the day, fun stuff and talk about what you all have coming up. Because you are talking, your kids are more likely (slowly but surely) to finish their plates easier. But, rather than promote ‘mindless eating,’ serve up a measured portion.
Know when just to let it go. Making the same time everyday ‘fight time’ gets into a nasty habit where the lead up to dinner becomes tense all around. No one will eat properly, and more than one person usually ends up in tears. You have to pick your battles, and sometimes peas aren’t worth the argument.
Choose together. Most of the time, because mom cooks, mom also decides what is eaten every night. Sometimes we get in a rut. Once a week (at least) let the kids pick what should be on the menu. You can swap out anything unhealthy for the healthy version too.
Don’t Underestimate Your Words
If you say things like – how stupid can you be? Are you stupid? Don’t be so pathetic. Negative comments stick, and they stick hard. Things can be said in the heat of the moment, and it should be made clear that you were in the wrong. Take stock of the power of your words when small ears hear them.
You can never say “I love you” enough. It might sound OTT and even a bit mushy but say it as often as you like. Likewise for a great old two-minute bear hug.
Positivity reigns supreme. Positive words, much like April showers, help great things bloom – in this case, their confidence and self-esteem. Skip the ‘you’re so pretty’ for ‘wow, you’re so great at XYZ.’ Positivity spreads rapidly and easily, so throw it around like confetti and shower your kids in it as often as possible.
There is no one size fits all for parenting, children all have different personalities – as do the grown-ups. Each family unit would come with its own quirks and interests, so while you might read 80 baby books on how to swaddle a baby – they might hate it. Go with what gives you the most joy.
This is a collaborative post.