As parents, it is only natural to take a dictatorial approach as far as our children are concerned. There is no manual or handbook on parenting, and, believe it or not, children have personalities, even when they are very young. We all want to be the best parents we can be. Hopefully even better than our own parents were to us. Having said that, we can sometime be a little overbearing. Ok, a lot even.
Parents assume that children do not know what they are doing or what they want. A common pitfall, which even I fall into from time to time. Having dealt with children from different backgrounds at the Kids Book Club, my general parenting methods have come into question. Not a bad thing, as I have learnt so much, and continue to learn.
The 3 major things I’ve learnt through parenting and caregiving are:
Be A Facilitator
Children are not mindless creatures or machines that are waiting for us to feed them commands. They come fully loaded with their own programs, and our jobs as parents or caregivers is to help them put these programs or personalities in modes that they can understand and follow, without feeling overwhelmed. The best way to do this is provide rules, guidelines and choices. When you want a child to do something, let them know that they can make a choice. Teach them to make choices as early as you possibly can. For example, you decide you want your child to have a new toy. Carry them along. Depending on how young they are, start with 3 toy choices. Tell them they can pick whichever they like. At first, the child will want all of them, and it may even be a struggle. Gently, but firmly, inform them they can have either one toy or none at all. Stand aside, and only intervene when the child requires you to. In the end, they will pick one. With time, they will develop their own ‘choice’ mechanism and in the process, they will not feel stifled, and you will not keep wondering what your child likes.
Accept That Children Will Have Good Days And Bad Days
As an adult, you sometimes wake up feeling out of sorts. Overwhelmed even. Tired, like you have not slept for days. This also applies for children. They will wake up cranky. They do not know what is happening, as these may sometimes be new experiences for them. You are not doing yourself or the child any favors by yelling at them, or forcing them to be a certain way, or trying to cheer them up in annoying ways. Try reversing the roles and imagine your friend or your spouse or partner trying these stunts on you when you are in a funky mood. Your every instinct will be to punch the lights out of them! Be there for your child. Speak kindly and when they scream, don’t join in the match to see who can yell the loudest. Speak in a firm, soft tone and inform them that they need to sit down and only talk to you when they can do it in a reasonable manner so that you can understand what they are saying. I have done this on a continuous basis with my son and at the Kids Book Club so I know how well it works.
Lead By Example
Let’s take the above scenario as an example. Your child is in a cranky mood. That means that they will yell or cry at the drop of a hat. You decide to take the approach of yelling back. Do you see that going anywhere productive? Let’s even go further and say you are in a cranky mood yourself. You go around kicking everything in site, including the cat, and yelling at your child when they come trying to talk to you. What has the poor cat done to you? What has the poor child done to you? Are they really the cause of your foul mood? What if, instead, when your child comes to you, you gently let them that mommy or daddy is not feeling very nice today and you would like a few minutes to relax? And of course, steer away from the cat? If you have already set good communication between you and your children, you will be surprised at how willing they are to help you get back to feeling good and they will leave you alone, even for 15 minutes stretches at a time before coming to check on you. For some reason, this show of concern by a child is so endearing, you will find yourself back into a close to normal mood in no time.
For reasons only a mother can understand, I tend to hang on to Junior a little tight (er). You know, my world revolves around him and all those cutesy things that mothers blurt out which end up embarrassing their offspring…? But I can be quite flexible when I want to. Every child gets to hear of camping and camp fires at some point. They watch a movie or hear older kids talking about it and they get curious. Me being me and Junior being Junior, we got into a debate on camping. He watched ‘Mulan’ an animation that has all these heroes and villains and camping and camp fires. That’s when he decided he wanted to build a tent.
Creativity is essential when you enter the parenting realm. I was either going to help make a tent or buy him one. Buying was not going to be done so after racking my brain, and with help of Junior dearest, we set on to build a tent.
Building time is the one time I can get him to concentrate on something that is not school related, without him jumping about and wheezing by in a blur. After 30 minutes of arguing, discussion, compromise plus deciding which items of clothing and furniture in my house were suitable (read disposable) we came up with a pretty good tent look-alike.
So excited is the boy that he has declared that he is going to spend the rest of his nights there. His ‘Sleep Room Tent’, he calls it. If this is what I have to agree to in place of the dangerous outdoor camping trips, then by God I will make it work! And so, Junior will spend his first night in the tent today. He has everything set out. His sleeping clothes, blankets and his water bottle.
This I will indulge him until he tires of it. Which will probably be 2 days tops. It’s the only time I can afford to give anyway, seeing as said tent stands smack in the middle of my living room. No guests expected this weekend, hence we are good for the 2 days.
Junior gets to go camping for the weekend. Mummy gets to be a hero. We live happily ever after. The End.
I’m not necessarily a tree hugger, but I’m a nature lover. If you have followed me long enough, you probably know that during some free time, I can be found at The Arboretum lying on my back, chewing on a blade of grass contemplating the skies. And with my current balcony farming undertaking, I am beginning to get along with insects. To a point that my savage self does not yell murder at the sight of one and deliver a one-way ticket for poor insects to insect heaven with my over-sized foot.
In particular, there are the wasps. You should know that I’m not afraid of wasps. In fact, there is this colony of wasps that we have harmoniously co-existed for quite a while. Not in my house though. At the balcony. They mind their business and I go ahead and offer accommodation at the top corner of my balcony.
That is until the other day. Weekends have become twice as exciting in my house as Junior and I go crop tending at the balcony and he is able to assess how well his crop is doing. Remember I mentioned he has planted a few seeds on some margarine tubs? Yes he is quite excited especially since we are about to harvest those and utilize them in a meal soon. Back to wasps. As usual, after morning chores on a bright Saturday morning, Junior and I go to the balcony to look after plantation. Out of nowhere, this wasp comes zooming down and delivers a sting to Junior’s hand. I have never seen the boy as terrified as he was that day. You have never seen an angry lioness as I was on said day. How dare they attack my offspring? Do they see me flying up their nest to attack their almost offspring (they are eggs at the time)? Of course not! Haven’t I been paying rent on time and ensuring there is a roof over their offspring? Darn right I have! And then they go and do this? I did not care that it was probably one rogue wasp that did the ninja attack. This mama went savage on the whole colony. And this is where things got interesting.
You see, wasps are not exactly the kind of insects you hold a committee with and kindly request them to leave because they have violated some unspoken terms in some contract. No. They never go quietly. Not even with a can of bug spray. So it was an all out war. Face painting and all. I locked junior in the house, after administering some overkill (really, pain killers, antihistamines, vaseline, ointment, dettol) yes, overkill first-aid, picked up a long broomstick (I keep those for various reasons which you probably don’t want to know), covered my face with a large scarf, red, no less, strategically placed myself and yanked the hive off and took off like the devil was after me. Because believe me, he was. All this time, Junior was watching the action through the window in amusement, momentarily forgetting his hand was in pain.
Let me tell you, never expect respect from sub-letting tenants or for them to go away without drama during eviction. The wasps were adamant. They were categorically refusing to be evicted. Did I mention? We had an arrangement, the wasps and I. An unspoken arrangement but an arrangement all the same. I pay rent, provide room and occasional snack from my farm and we respect each other’s boundaries. When it’s time to go, they were to pack up and go. Without causing damage. Well, after hours of running battles with the wasps, I won. I wasn’t going to have it any other way.
I’ve seen one coming to scout the place, probably trying to determine if it is safe to return. Wasps tend to get attached to their ‘homes’ like that. But make no mistake. My home is no longer their home. I am putting my foot down. Pun if necessary.