Saturday, December 31, 2011

Aspire to be a better parent, and you will be

It’s New Year’s Eve and this time every year we party like it’s 1999 and the next morning decide to make resolutions to be a better person for the year ahead.
I don’t really “do” resolutions. It seems to me that they are always made to be broken and that the really important ones should be thought of all year through, not just on January 1.
But with a new year ahead, it’s natural to have hope and optimism. 
Everyone can remember a “bad” year that they have had in the past where one horrible thing after another occurred in their life.
So we start 2012 with hope that it will be a good one, and this is where parenting resolutions – let’s call them aspirations instead can help.
The following words of wisdom I found written on the back of a bookmark printed by Just Kids, an early childhood organisation in Parramatta Park.
If I had my child to raise over again,
I’d finger paint more often and point the finger less.
I’d do less correcting and more connecting.
I’d take my eyes off my watch and watch with my eyes.
I would care to know less and know to care more.
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
I’d stop playing serious and seriously play.
I’d run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I’d do more hugging and less tugging.
I would be firm less often and affirm much more.
I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I’d teach less about the love of power and more about the power of love.
To add to this are some of my personal aspirations which you may also recognise in your family life:
I will yell less often, and listen more.
I will read Hairy Maclary at bedtime, even though I’ve read it 50 times before.
I will cut up your dinner, even though you can probably do it yourself.
I will let you watch ABC4Kids, but I’ll watch it with you and we’ll dance together.
I will rock you to sleep, even though my arms are aching.
I will let you fill up your room with box constructions, even though I find them messy.
I will be a good role model and stop swearing in front of you.
I will try hard to stop saying “I’m busy” when you need me.
I will toilet train you.
I will not think about the housework when I’m snuggling with you.
I will continue to say “I love you” many times a day.
I will care less about the small stuff.
I will take more photos and videos of you.
I will allow you to express a range of emotions without putting a good or bad tag on them.
I will try to be more patient.
I will not say “stop crying” when you are upset and need to express your emotions.
I will not say “shut up” when you talk non-stop.
I will try to be more organised.
I will try to take each moment as it comes and not get worked up about you peeing on the floor, drawing with pen on the couch/quilt/floor/walls, or screaming at the dinner table.
I will try to be more tolerant of the chaotic times.
Being a better mother or father or grandmother or aunt or sibling  of a child is something you won’t give up on, you’ll always strive to do better.
So may 2012 be a year where all families connect, love and prosper with good health and happiness.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Are we there yet?

Road trips with children don’t have to be a painful experience
So Christmas is just around the corner and many families will be packing the car full of presents to travel to family in other far flung places (that is, if you haven’t made plans to fly there instead).
Road trips when you’re 22 and carefree are fantastic because you can stop where and when you want and there’s no stress about where you eat and sleep each night.
But add a child (or children) to this scenario and you’ve got a full-scale operation complete with contingency plans, accommodation bookings and a boot load of “equipment”.
For those of you taking long road trips with children this year, I’ve compiled a list of ideas they may prevent you tearing your hair out at the end!
* Get the car serviced before your go to make sure it’s roadworthy and so you don’t have any unexpected breakdowns. Do the same for your tyres.
* Take rubbish bags for rubbish or car sickness, and some zip-lock bags for keeping souvenirs, toys or for snack packs.
* Take spare batteries for iPods, handheld games, etc.
* Take a small first aid kit, tissues, wet wipes, spare toilet paper and anti-bacterial gel.
* Rolls of masking tape can keep kids amused for ages as they mark out their territory in the back seat.
* If travelling at night, take a book light or small torch so children can read or play after dark.
* Make an enlarged copy of the route map and cover with clear contact paper. Let the kids mark the route and discover on their own “Are we there yet?” Get them to identify landmarks on the way.
* Try story CDs or podcasts of classic children’s literature read by actors. Local libraries have them to hire and it will entertain everyone including the driver.
* Take favourite music to listen to including children’s choices and a lyric sheet so they can sing along. You can also get your kids to create their own “mix tape” of favourite songs.
* Hands-on toys and art projects with washable crayons, stickers and felt kits will keep young children amused, and to limit the mess give them large placemats to put on their laps.
* There are plenty of mini board games in toy shops and department stores from checkers to snakes and ladders, and most have magnetic pieces so they don’t fall off the board.
* Card games are good for older children.
* Show a movie on a portable DVD player.
* Keep babies amused with cloth books, dangly toys, soft cuddly toys and plastic mirrors.
* Start your journey after a good night’s sleep and breakfast. Some parents swear by the early morning start but from my experience, this only works if you can get your child to the car without waking them. Otherwise, you end up throwing their sleep routine out the window.
* Stick to the same routines as home and take lunch at the usual time as well as regular stops for breastfeeding, nappy changes or toilet breaks, as well as a driver reviver.
* Take lunch breaks near parks or playgrounds so the children can let our their pent-up energy.
* Take plenty of snacks and finger foods such as fruit, sandwiches and muesli bars, as well as water but not orange juice as this is notorious for making young kids carsick.
* During night drives, simulate bedtime by putting children into their pajamas and share a story or book.
* Long periods of confinement and constant car motion will make most children under three very sleepy, so expect restless babies at night.
* Reward patience and good behaviour. Some parents hand out extra pocket money or some start with a set amount and then deduct money for each squabble they have. You could also stash a bag of sugar-free sweets in the glovebox and hand them out for good behaviour.
* With a carload of kids, try changing seats at regular intervals for a change of scenery.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The curse of Christmas shopping

Why do kids push all the wrong buttons at all the wrong times?
I still don’t know why I thought it was a good idea.
Perhaps it’s because I had my Mum with me as a kind of back-up should things go bad, and who doesn’t count on their Mum when you’re ready to have a mental breakdown?
Perhaps I was feeling a little anxious that it is getting close to Christmas and I hadn’t bought one gift?
Perhaps I just wanted a change of scenery and thought that this change of scenery might be a good thing for all of us?
But it wasn’t. It was a nightmare. And worst of all, I don’t think I have ever seen my children be so naughty in so many public places in their short little lives.
If you haven’t guessed already, I thought it would be a good idea to take my two children and my Mum to the big smoke for the whole weekend to shop till we dropped.
And when it was all over, I literally did drop into my husband’s arms pleading with him to pour me a big glass of wine and take over the parenting duties.
The weekend started out okay... well, apart from the youngest screaming for at least one hour of the car journey.
Once in the shopping centre, she continued screaming, which only made the older one scream too (why do kids have a fascination with high pitched noises?).
Department stores like Kmart turned them into monkeys wanting to climb the shelves, test out all the toys, open all the books and throw christmas baubles down the aisles.
Clothing stores were ideal for hide-and-seek which is normally fine if they leave the clothes alone. But not this time, as the youngest one (who I’m now calling Miss Firecracker) thought it would be fun to pull all the clothes off the racks and climb into the window display.
The eldest one joined in the hype and decided to lock herself and her sister in a change room.
“Great,” I thought, “I wonder if I can sneak out and leave them there for a bit?”

Monday, December 5, 2011

No more sipping on air

There are plenty of sippy cups for toddlers on the market, some with retractable straws, some with leaky mouth pieces and others with lids that are tricky to attach correctly.
But I’ve found a sippy cup that is leak-proof, light weight, is easy to assemble, and has the unique feature of a weighted straw that moves with the liquid.
This means that whatever angle the cup is tilted, your toddler won’t be sucking on air, they will be able to drink every last drop.
The new Essential Sippy Cup from is free of BPA, Phthalates and PVC, dishwasher safe, has a soft silicone straw, easy grip handle for little hands and a flip-top lid is very easy for children to use.
My daughter, aged 17 months, took to the cup with ease. She is not yet old enough to understand that some sippy cups have to be used on one side only, so she often has the spout on the wrong side and tries desperately to get a drink. 
However, the essential sippy cup can be used from both sides as it is the straw that does all the work making sure it stays in the fluid and not in air.
The cup is available in apple, blueberry and raspberry, and is only $14.95.
After all the accidents we’ve had with other cups, I wish I had this sippy cup months ago – it’s a definite winner.
For more information visit

Remember common sense?

Nurturing clear thinking needs to come from parents who set an example

I read a story this week in that left me wondering if parents today lack one basic skill: common sense.
The story was about how feuding parents are turning to the court system over petty disputes.
It described a number of bizarre cases arising in custody battles in the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court.
Examples of cases in recent months included a father ordered to put sunscreen on his children when they were outside; parents who were ordered not to allow their children to watch R-rated movies; parents who were ordered to toilet trained their children aged four and five; and a father told not to swear around his children.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t these orders common sense?
My next thought is what kind of parents let their children watch R-rated movies anyway?
But rather than go into a rant about bad parents, I thought I’d write about why teaching common sense to our children is so important.
Common sense is defined as sound judgement based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.
We learn common sense through nature and nurture, but the best way children can learn is by parents leading by example.
However, if parents lack common sense, what hope have the children got?
Gertrude Stein once said “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense”.
She may well be right. Parents today receive such an overwhelming amount of advice from books, television, websites, magazines, doctors, educators, friends, family and so on, that they lose confidence in their ability to raise their offspring.
They no longer trust their own minds to make good decisions for the benefit of their children and turn to these endless sources for wisdom and encouragement.
Parents today need to feel that they are doing a good job, otherwise we would all start rocking in the corner in the foetal position.
Some people believe common sense is either something you’re born with or not and can’t be taught. I disagree.
Common sense tells us that we should foster our children’s common sense as they grow up, and cultivate their capacity to think clearly and act wisely.
But this isn’t something that they can learn overnight.
Studies have shown that children’s brains function differently to adults.
The frontal lobe is late to develop and it is this part of the brain that regulates aggression, long-term planning, mental flexibility, abstract thinking, the capacity to hold in mind related pieces of information and even moral judgement.
So it’s no wonder some kids appear to not think before they act, and why teenagers can make bad choices.
There are endless common sense lessons that we can teach our kids right from their first steps.
Some examples include teaching them about rules and boundaries such as why we don’t play soccer on the road and why we wear seatbelts, good manners such as why we should be quiet when someone else is talking, stranger danger, why we must brush our teeth everyday and why we don’t spend all our money on lollies.
Help your children learn from their mistakes, rather than avoid them, and talk to them about the choices they make.
Allow them to work out solutions to problems and eventually they will seek out problems to solve before the obstacles are in their path.