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Hacked By HolaKo

Posted by Samantha on Nov 19, 2015 in Being consistent, Boundaries, Consequences, Letting Go, School, Spirited Children

Hacked by HolaKo

Hacked By HolaKo

Mess with the best, die like the rest..

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by w4l3XzY3

Posted by Samantha on Oct 9, 2015 in Parenting Dilemmas

by w4l3XzY3

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“Get a move on!” Road safety and parental rudeness

Posted by Samantha on Sep 18, 2015 in Communication, Conditioning, Consequences, Safety, Worry
Crossing fields...easier than crossing roads

Crossing fields…easier than crossing roads

I pulled to a stop at a red traffic light the other day. Two teachers began ushering a long line of primary school kids across the road right in front of my car bonnet.

All the children wore those bright-yellow high-visibility jackets and were around six and seven years old. The teachers were so close that I could hear them clearly through the open window of my car.

 

“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, go, go, go”, said one, touching each child on the shoulder and kind of shooshing* them along.

 

(*Shooshing – a cross between a shove and a push, not truly rough, but not gentle either.)
A second teacher also did this shooshing thing and added her own “Move, move, get a move on”.

***
Both teachers seemed harried and irritated. Both teachers seemed afraid of the danger the children were in while crossing the road.
I felt sad watching this. How tragic is it that the teachers were so worried for the children in their care that they treated them like that? How awful is it that they thought there was even a tiny chance that I would begin to move my car before the children had all crossed the road?

***
Did they think these fear-inducing thoughts consciously? Were they aware of how their fear was making them behave rudely? I don’t know, but their behaviour certainly betrayed the fear they felt.

***
This is a classic example of how we often unthinkingly speak to our children in ways that demean them; that are offensive to their innate dignity as human beings.  We usually do this when we move  out of love and care and into fear. Most of us would not dream of speaking to an adult in this way. And if we did, that adult (if they were emotionally healthy) would not spend long in our company.
And yet our children cannot escape. Day in and day out they have to listen to our fearful exhortations. They have to suffer the indignity of being shooshed and barked at.

***
The situation was not all the teachers’ fault either. It was a busy junction. Maybe another driver would have revved or moved their car forward as soon as the light turned green. Our roads and drivers are frequently hostile to young pedestrians. Getting the children across the road as fast as possible was the right thing to do.
And I know I’ve spoken to my own children in ways that have demeaned them so I certainly don’t condemn those teachers for how they treated the children in their care.

***

But understanding where behaviour comes from doesn’t undo the consequences of the behaviour. Right before my eyes I witnessed adults behaving rudely under pressure to children.
Rest assured, the way we speak to our children will come home to roost.

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Who’s in charge in your family?

Posted by Samantha on Jun 4, 2015 in Boundaries, Communication, Connection, Expectations, Respect, Trust

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” John 2:1-5 (NASB)

 

One of us has to be in charge...while he is this age....it's me.

One of us has to be in charge…while he is this age….it’s me.

I am convinced that the story of the Wedding at Cana contains many great lessons for mothers and sons (and daughters) everywhere, in every time.  I am deeply grateful that St John recorded it for us.

For starters, Mary is quite indirect and yet her son understands what she means.  He doesn’t give her a lecture on saying what she means!  In this I hear validation of parents’ sometimes indirect way of requesting things.

Jesus disagrees with her that it would be appropriate for him to do anything and he says so – with a touch of irritation according to some translations. What are we to make of his “Woman”?  Newer translations try to soften it by saying “Dear woman”.

But I read “Woman!” as evidence of a slightly jokey, loving relationship between them – a little bit like when I address my own Mom as “Mother!” when I’m a tiny bit irritated but also amused.  In fact, I know my own brother sometimes says “Woman!” to my mother in exactly that kind of jokey, loving tone that yes, is slightly irked, but amused because of course she’s right! (He also has an equivalent “Wife!” thing going on with my sister-in-law that is very cute and amusing for all of us).

My first ever bible from junior school translates what Jesus says as “You must not tell me what to do”, which makes me laugh nowadays because it reminds me of how annoying my own daughter finds it when I tell her what to do!

Then – and this is vital – Jesus does what his mother asks.  Let me type that again: JESUS DOES WHAT HIS MOTHER ASKS.

Most bible commentators I’ve read emphasise Mary telling the servants to do whatever he tells them.  Her trust in him and submission to him is a lesson to us they say.

But I think they’re missing a crucial point: he did what she asked.  In other words, he submitted to her.

This is so very important, I’m even going to say it again: Jesus did what his mother wanted him to do even when it was not what he wanted to do.

The fact that she immediately turned to the servants and said do what he tells you, suggests to me that she was sure of his cooperation.  In other words, she was confident in her parental authority.

We can certainly learn from Mary’s ceding to Christ’s authority – and I believe this was a turning point in their relationship, when the authority swapped as Jesus stepped into the role which his mother had helped prepare him for.

But we should not overlook the fact that when his mother said in effect “You are ready, go”, he paused for a moment, and then trusted his mother.

Thought for the day

God, help me to find the quiet confidence of Mary.  Help me to trust my children to do the right thing, to listen to me, to show me respect and acknowledge my authority over them.  Help me also come to them with a spirit of quiet assurance and love.  I do not have to be forceful if I am sure of my right to be in charge.

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Should gay couples have kids? Should any of us?

Posted by Samantha on Mar 16, 2015 in Relationships
I love her....and yet....sometimes I wound her deeply

I love her….and yet….sometimes I wound her deeply

Courtney Love has tweeted she wants to burn her Dolce & Gabbana clothes because of the “senseless bigotry” of Stefano Gabbano’s beliefs that a child needs a mother and a father; that he could not imagine his childhood without his mother.

I feel for Courtney Love: a woman whose own daughter has had to somehow integrate the suicide of her father when she was only an infant.  A woman who (I’m guessing, based on her immoderate over-reaction to the Elton John / Dolce & Gabbana dispute) is working hard to deny the impact of her and her late-husband’s historical drug and alcohol abuse on their daughter.

Elton John (a man not well known for moderate reactions) is understandably offended by Stefano Gabbana’s comments, though I do not believe the comments are inherently offensive.  They seem to have gone right to the core of Elton John’s insecurities.  He is hardly unique in wondering if he is a good enough parent; in secretly worrying that he might – at least on occasion – be doing a terrible job.

There is hardly a parent out there who will not deeply wound their own precious child over the course of their childhood; just as there is not an adult child out there who has not been wounded by their own parents.

When this wisdom about the nature of the parent / child relationship is treated without compassion we get attitudes like those exemplified by Oliver James’ famous book title “They F**k You Up”.  Or what I’ve now heard referred to as “parent-blame”.  Parent-blame is a sad blight on the life of the modern family.

But perhaps even more achingly sad is how parents struggle to keep at bay, the painful awareness of how their choices (or their powerlessness over their choices) wound their children.

Whether it’s your work, your hobbies, a divorce, infidelity, chronic arguments, a tendency to criticism and negativity, depression or other mental illness, a physical illness, the illness of another one of your children, your children are hurt by these things; sometimes deeply.

It goes without saying that being the offspring of Elton John and David Furnish will bring unique advantages.  It also has the potential to bring unique pain.  Will the deepest cuts be because Elton John’s children have two Dads?  The truth is that we have no idea.  But in a world where bullying can happen as a result of the slightest sign of difference, I would say it’s not difficult to imagine that it isn’t always easy to have two gay parents.

I don’t think that should be a controversial statement.

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What do you mean “Do I work?” I have two children and a husband!

Posted by Samantha on Mar 10, 2015 in Hope
Family games night - unpaid....but worthwhile....

Family games night – unpaid and unglamorous….but worthwhile….

I’ve just read a BBC article which concludes with the sentiment that the Japanese government wants to “fully utilise its female workforce”.  This means they want to get women out of full time at-home employment (i.e. supporting children and husbands and running a home – which is still called being a housewife in Japan) and into full-time out-of-the-home employment.

I don’t know about Japan, but I know here in the UK, on top of work supporting children, step children, husbands, partners (and often exes), parents, family members, friends and neighbours, not to mention running households, many women without full time paid jobs (who are therefore apparently not being “fully utilised”) are also a vital part of our society doing work on a voluntary and unpaid basis in schools, churches, charities and communities up and down the country.

Are we now also to be unappreciated for this as well as unpaid?

Creating school notice boards....more unpaid work undertaken by mothers....

Creating school notice boards….more unpaid work undertaken by mothers….

I also, thanks to the miracle of the internet, manage to run a small business from home as well as doing occasional (under)paid work in schools and children’s centres when I can. There are increasing numbers of women like me who supplement their family’s income with this type of child-friendly working arrangement.

I have the greatest admiration for women who manage to juggle their unpaid life commitments with a full-time paid career.  I could not do it.

Contrary to what many in governments seem to think, children remain a lot of work beyond the age of three.  For the sake of my health and my sanity, I simply cannot afford to work full time outside the home, no matter how much I might like the extra money, or how much the government might like the effect on the economic statistics of the country.

I love the attitude apparently voiced by many young female Japanese students in response to this push to get women to comply with such a narrow definition of a workforce: “The government wants me to give birth, raise a child properly and work full time? Are they trying to kill me?”

I find any discourse about female employment that refuses to recognise my commitment to my family and community as worthwhile, quite simply offensive.  More fundamentally, I find the refusal to recognise my work as EMPLOYMENT profoundly sexist.

I will always remember my mother pulling me up short one day when (in the arrogance of my early 20s) I was telling her off for “not having done anything with her life”.  She pointed out to me that she had made a choice to raise me and my siblings as a full time mother, that she would do it again, and that she would not tolerate my unappreciative, feminist-sounding, but profoundly anti-woman and motherhood sentiments.  What a lesson she taught me.

The true point of feminism must be to recognise the fundamental equality – despite differences – of the sexes.

It seems to me that we are coming dangerously close to denying any value to the types of work that women have traditionally undertaken – raising children, making a house a home, connecting with family and friends, showing mercy and compassion to those who need help.

I for one refuse to bow to this pressure to believe that only full time paid employment outside the home counts as “work”.

What I do with my time – most of the time – may be unpaid, but it is unquestionably of immense worth.

It is high time those running the country recognised this too.

 
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Stop reasoning with the unreasonable

We can give them all the fun and play and love we can manage...but if we do not also give them discipline we do them a great disservice.

We can give them all the fun and play and love we can manage…but if we do not also give them discipline we do them a great disservice.

On the last morning of her Christmas holidays, my daughter Nia (8) came into my bedroom to say good morning.  She climbed up on my lap and we’d a snuggle and started to chat.  Soon we were on the subject of bedtime.  I was saying that I thought she needed to go to bed earlier.  She didn’t like that idea.

I was right about her needing an earlier bedtime.  Nia woke that morning at around 8.30am and we would need to leave the house the next day before 8am.  It is also our normal practice to have a later bedtime (and therefore waking time) during the holidays.  We then return to “school hours” during the term.

I suggested a return to Nia’s usual term-time bedtime of 8pm but I was open to negotiation around this and the exact timings of the whole bedtime routine (up the stairs, into bed and lights out).

Nia was adamant that bedtime should be 8.30pm and seemed to think that her immovable insistence on this time was in fact negotiating.  Our conversation sounded a little like this:

“I think you’ll need to go to bed a little earlier tonight – 8 o’clock sounds about right.”

“No, half past eight.”

“That sounds a little too late to me, what about 8.15pm?”

“Half past eight!”

“But you went to bed at 9 o’ clock last night and didn’t get up until half past eight this morning.  Tomorrow we need to get up much earlier than that, so half past eight is too late.”

“Eight-thirty!”

“You need to get up 90 minutes earlier tomorrow so going to bed 90 minutes earlier would be seven thirty.  Eight thirty is too late.  What about 8.15pm?

“No, eight-thirty”.

“8.05pm?”.

“Eight-thirty…”

It was at this point that I realised I was trying to reason with the unreasonable.

I stood up and started to leave the room saying something like “I’ve had enough of this conversation, I’m leaving, you will go to bed at 8pm.”

She immediately followed saying “OK, 8.15 is good.”

Now, at this point I could have agreed to 8.15pm – afterall, five minutes earlier I would have been happy with that.  But I know from years of experience with Nia, that what can sound like me being reasonable is actually bad for both of us.

I needed to find the courage to stick to my first course of action which was actually quite reasonable.  I said something like, “I’m afraid you refused to negotiate when you had the chance.  Now you are forgetting that I am in charge, not you.  Bedtime will be 8pm, and the discussion is over.”

She followed me down the stairs.  She was not happy (read: mild sulk) but she was not whining or protesting or any other form of overtly objectionable behaviour.  I was wrestling internally with a feeling of irritation which wanted to go down a familiar route of moaning silently about another challenging interaction (read: mild sulk!).  But there was a simultaneous feeling of calm attached to more adult sounding thoughts: for the sake of consistency I need to use one of our agreed consequences for this type of resistant, defiant behaviour.

And so, as she sat at the breakfast table I told her that I would prepare some breakfast and while I did that she could write out 10 lines. I quickly flicked to the Book of Proverbs and within seconds found exactly what was needed:  “Intelligent people are always eager and ready to learn.” (Prov 18:15).

I wrote out this verse on a piece of paper and passed Nia one of her notebooks and a pen.  As I did all of this I asked her (very pleasantly) if she would like a warm croissant for breakfast.

As I turned on the oven to heat some pastries and croissants for breakfast, I noticed that it was much easier to be pleasant and loving towards Nia as I disciplined her, while I had this simple “mothering” task to perform at the same time.

She focused on writing out her verse; I set the table and generally continued getting breakfast ready.

When the lines were written we’d a quick chat as we ate pastries about what this verse might mean in relation to what happened between us upstairs.  She didn’t get any connection between the two she said.  I told her that I thought what happened upstairs was her refusing to learn anything from me.  She said, “Oh, I see”.  And we moved on quickly.

Our day went well after that.  She went to bed easily (we stuck to the 8pm goal though it was probably closer to 8.15pm when we turned out the light!).

So what did I learn?

There is no point in reasoning with the unreasonable.

I AM in charge no matter what Nia thinks in any given moment.

And finally, if I do not have the courage to discipline my beautiful daughter when she behaves unreasonably, she will have no motivation to behave reasonably.

Spirited children are often given up on or given in to because they are not easy to teach.  Thankfully, love never gives up.  I love my daughter far too much to give up on teaching her how to behave well and develop a character she will be proud of.

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How should you handle moaning?

Posted by Samantha on Jun 18, 2014 in Thought for the day
Everyone moans sometimes...

Everyone moans sometimes…

I picked Nia up from school today in a good mood.  She was in a good mood too.  Less than an hour later she stormed out of the kitchen, slamming the door behind her.  This was the culmination of what began as a request for new pyjamas.  Apparently, none of her pyjamas or nighties are comfortable any more.  She moaned about this in the kitchen.  Then she moaned at me in the garden.  As I made the dinner, she moaned some more.  Then finally, she made her dramatic exit.

For information: it was Nia’s 8th birthday last Saturday.  Part of her present was a beautiful new summer nightie – an old-fashioned, cotton one.  Just like she requested.  I really didn’t feel like taking the bait with her accusations of being unfair and not buying her suitable nightwear.

As she moaned I stayed largely silent.  I pointed out some options for nightwear that I thought were reasonable.  Apparently I was wrong.  I didn’t correct her.  Or lecture her.  Or point out her gross ingratitude.  Or self-pity.  But I didn’t buy into it either and let it change MY mood.

Inside I wondered if I should be limiting her bad behaviour and sending a clear message that I wouldn’t tolerate this level of whinging, or unfounded self-pity.  Previously, I’ve also used gratitude lists to great effect in this type of situation.

But last week, and again today, I’d done week 7 of the 10 week parenting course and we discussed what unfair or unreasonable demands we might be making of our children.

If I’d to mention just one of my potentially unreasonable expectations, I’d say I have a tendency to expect my children to be super-mature in how they express their uncomfortable emotions (e.g. no slamming doors when angry).   So this awareness kept me quiet and non-reactive.  I resolved to discuss it later with my husband.

When I called Nia for dinner she came promptly though it was clear from her glowering that she was still mad at me and my refusal to buy her what she wanted.  She limited herself to just the one sarcastic comment about my “kindness”.

It’s not every day that I manage to be lovingly detached from my daughter’s negative emotions and remain in a good mood when she’s cross or unhappy.  So I just kept quiet and enjoyed my progress.  Next thing I knew she was saying “Well I don’t know what you expect me to wear tomorrow night to Jo and Derran’s!”  And then I understood…

We’re having a World Cup barbeque at some friends’ house tomorrow evening and the kids will be bringing their PJs for ease of transportation home later.

I was so grateful that I hadn’t lectured or criticised or doled out a more serious consequence.  Once I knew what was bothering her (what PJs to wear in public tomorrow evening) a solution became clear.

How about I wash and dry your new nightie so that it’s nice and clean and fresh again for tomorrow evening I said.  That would be perfect she agreed.

Moments later she said sorry for her earlier behaviour.  I kissed her and said that’s ok Nia, I get it now.

All her moodiness evaporated.  Her usual chat returned.  Thank goodness for grace I thought.

 
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Choosing Your Battles

Posted by Samantha on Mar 28, 2014 in Boundaries, Character, Over-control, Spirited Children
Enough willpower to fuel a small city...

Enough willpower to fuel a small city…

Last night my daughter and I achieved a milestone.  For the first time, EVER, she was able to go with my suggestions about how to make an Easter card for her teacher.

Nia, as usual, had her own very clear ideas about what to make and how to do it.  I had different ideas which took into account lots of other factors that my seven year-old daughter considered unimportant.  Things like the difficulty level of the desired card, our combined artistic talent, my daughter’s bedtime (which was fast approaching) and last but not least, the fact that I needed to be presentable for a school-Mum’s dinner that night.

It took a lot of energy and a constant internal pep talk to stick with my desired outcome.

Usually she is so intractable around issues like this, that I just tell myself things like “Oh what does it matter if she uses ALL the craft paper I’ve just bought in one sitting?” or “OK, so it might look “nicer” if she’d let me help, but is it really right to force my will over hers about something as unimportant as a card?”

This time round, for whatever reason, I just tried to keep breathing and stick with my agenda.  I was dimly aware of thoughts like “You have good reasons for wanting it to go your way, stick with it….”

She let go of her agenda eventually.  I could tell she wasn’t entirely happy at first but she went with me.  In the end we were left with a truly collaborative Easter card that she was really pleased with.

As I put her to bed she said to me…. “You know Mummy, I’m really glad I went with you about the card.”  I said “Me too Nia.  Thank you for that.”

I had a wry smile on my lips as I left her room.  Anyone out there also parenting a spirited child will know the sweetness of this moment for me.  My daughter’s will is a thing to behold at times.  And it’s not that her will wasn’t present last night; it was.  The difference seemed to be that I held on to my confidence.  Confidence about my decision.  But also confidence about my right to “win” the battle that my daughter’s will had created.

The result has convinced me that I picked the right battle.  Not only did the card look lovely; I didn’t end up with a mountain of resentment.  AND – I was almost on time for my Mum’s night out!

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How much whingeing is enough?

Posted by Samantha on Mar 3, 2014 in Feelings, Happiness, Ignoring Behaviour, Parenting Dilemmas
Practically perfect in every way...Not yet!

Practically perfect in every way…? Not yet!

I recently overheard an exchange between a father and daughter at our local swimming pool.

It began with a Dad trying to blow-dry his daughter’s hair and not getting as much cooperation as he needed.  His daughter wasn’t facing him or staying still.  She was around 8 years old so it wasn’t an unreasonable request (I thought).

He asked her to keep still and face him.  Then he added that he wanted to get home quickly because they’d been at the pool ages.

I remember thinking “Go Dad” – he was being honest about how he was feeling and he was giving his daughter information that would help her understand and comply.

Clearly his daughter didn’t hear this the way I did.  She requested a trip – between the pool and going home – to buy something that Mum had said she could have.  I missed exactly what she wanted but my impression was that it would require a trip to a (toy?) shop.

Dad said no.  It wasn’t a knee-jerk “no”.  He seemed to think about it.  Perhaps he was thinking “Oh no, here it comes….”.  Or maybe he was considering fulfilling his child’s request despite wanting to go straight home.

And so the pestering and whining began.  “Oh please Dad…. Mum said…..”  He hesitated before repeating his “No”.  So his daughter upped the ante.

She pouted.  She sulked.  She called him mean.  She repeated that Mum had said she could have this thing (i.e. she attempted to play her parents off against each other).  Eventually, she ran off and threw her Dad dagger looks from 8 feet away.  In the end, Dad began to relent on the toy issue and the tantrum / power struggle subsided.

Watching this was very interesting for me because I’d been facing a watered down version of the same basic issue with my daughter a couple of hours earlier.

I said no to some request of Nia’s and she was disappointed and unhappy about it.  So she indulged in a bit of whining.  I was listening to her (with part of my brain), getting on with what needed to be done (with some other part) and contemplating telling her to stop making a fuss and get over it (with yet another part of my brain).  I stayed quiet while I wrestled internally with whether or not saying anything like that would constitute “not letting my daughter have her feelings” i.e. would it be “BAD PARENTING”?

In my kitchen the right course of action wasn’t entirely clear to me.

Watching the exchange between father and daughter at the swimming pool I realised it would have been fine to limit Nia’s whining.  Disappointment may have started her whining.  But her feelings had expanded to full-blown self-pity.

In our rush to move away from repressive, no-emotion-but-happy styles of parenting, we have lost sight of a basic truth about feelings.  All feelings may be legitimate but some are destructive if they get out of hand.

I have come to believe that it is loving to limit our children’s tendency towards self-pity.

And as for the 8 year old girl at the swimming pool.  Her father had taken her swimming that Saturday morning.  He had hung out with her.  He was drying her hair.  He was probably going to put her in a car and drive her home to make her lunch.  Who knows what lovely things he had lined up for the afternoon.  He could have spent his morning playing football or golf.  But he didn’t.  And yet, his daughter wasn’t happy.  She wanted more.

Did she have the right to feel hard done by and act out when he said ‘no’ to the trip to the shop – even though her mother had promised it?  You could say that maybe she did have that right.

Was it good for her to be allowed that right?  Was it making her happy?

I think the answer to both those questions is a clear “No”.

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