Dad’s Patch Words of Wisdom
I was very fortunate to be invited to take part in The Learning Hub Blog Series earlier this year and just thought I’d share my pearls of wisdom with you…
1 – How can I boost my child’s self-esteem?
To begin with, how is your self-esteem level? Yes you, mum and dad. I strongly believe that the basis for any kids self-esteem begins with their parents. Before a child can speak, they depend on an innate natural sense of someone’s vibe and nature, including self-esteem. You’ve been in a room when someone walks in and you can feel the atmosphere change. This isn’t some hippy-dippy aura thing, I just think its a sense which we all have and as we grow older we lose our trust in it, but as infants, it’s what we rely on. So, in order to build your kids self-esteem, make sure yours is OK to begin with so that your children can receive a positive vibe and use this to build their own positivity.
Then the second most important rule when it comes to self-esteem is to convince your kids it’s ok to fail and when they do, they just need to try again. From when our son Taylor was first trying to walk, we would tell him to try and get himself up when he fell, rather than running over and going “are you ok my little darling”, as this wouldn’t have helped. With his parents telling him that he was OK and that he should give it another try, Taylor understood that falling over was just part of the learning to walk. This mentality has been taken right through Taylor’s growth and is the reason why at just two and a half, he isn’t scared of giving anything a try…even if it does result in mini heart attacks for his mum and dad.
And my third rule for boosting self-esteem is to allow kids to develop their own identity. Not all kids are the same and what a boring world it would be if they were. Just simple things like letting your kid pick out their own outfit for the day. What they pick out might look bonkers, but if they feel comfortable in their attire, just go with it. If you’re afraid of what others might think about your kid’s outfit when in public, maybe it’s your self-esteem that needs to be checked, not your kids.
2 – What should I do to help my child when they are angry?
It took me a while to appreciate that Taylor’s anger was born out of frustration, especially before he could talk. My wife Anj was great in teaching me this lesson, as I just couldn’t understand why Taylor was lashing out. When she explained that our little guy just wanted to tell the world what he saw, heard or more importantly, needed, it was a lightbulb moment. I’ll be honest, I was disappointed in myself that I hadn’t realised this to begin with. From then on I would ask Taylor to show me what he was trying to tell me.
Another important thing I did, which I worked out for myself, was to get down to Taylor’s level when he was angry. Again, as adults, we don’t like people standing over us and telling us what to do, so why would you think kids would enjoy this? I find once I’m sitting down and at eye level with the little guy, the anger quickly subsides and he can tell me what is wrong.
And here’s a tip, do not, under any circumstances, say what my parents used to say and that is “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about”. I’m turning forty on 1st February and those words still haunt me. I mean, how in the world is that supposed to stop a kid from crying. However rational or irrational an issue is, it’s triggered the emotions in your son or daughter and needs to be addressed. By discussing the issues and talking them out with your toddler, will help them to be more open as they grow older and be less angry hopefully.
As Taylor is getting older, it’s not just words that are now frustrating him and making him angry. Now he’s trying to do stuff which he can’t quite do and gets him mad. For example, this morning he was trying to build a water pistol out of lego and it kept falling apart. I knew what he wanted to do and loved that his imagination had led him to use his lego blocks in this way. Once I saw that he was beginning to get frustrated and before he got mad, I sat down with him and asked why it wasn’t working. He showed me exactly where his lego squirt gun was falling apart and we fixed it together. He said “Thank You daddy” and I proceeded to get chased around the house by Taylor, pretending to get soaked. My point is, intervene when you can see the anger rising, as it’s a lot easier to calm a frustrated toddler as opposed to a raging angry one.
3 – How can I calm my child when they are hyperactive?
We are very fortunate that Taylor doesn’t get hyperactive too often and if he does, there is usually a good reason. Either he is overtired or he has eaten way too much sugar. A good activity to do when the kids are this way is to try and sit them down to read to them. I mean it might be mission impossible to get them to sit down to begin with, so just start reading the book out loud whilst they’re running around. Eventually, they’ll take notice of what is going on in the book and will want to see whats going on in the pages, as well as hearing you say the words. And then you take a deep breath and enjoy the quiet…
4 – How can I get my child to eat healthier food?
Do you drop the F-Bomb in front of your kids? Hopefully not, because if you did, the more likely they will think it’s ok to say. The same goes for bad food, if they see you eating it, they’re more than likely wanting to eat it too. So, you need to lead by example and eat healthily before you can expect your kids to do so.
Now, if you’re a big social media fan, especially Instagram, you may be lead to believe that in order to eat healthily, you have to create some crazy acai bowl every morning, accompanied by some green smoothy. Forget that crap, you don’t need to go to this extreme to get your kids to eat healthy (and who has the time). Just find foods that they like, that aren’t too high in sugar or salt and gives them a balanced diet. Again let them chose what they want to eat, to the point of getting them to help with buying groceries. If they pick up something which probably isn’t ideal, like a bottle of coke, just explain why that isn’t the best option and go help them chose something which is. Trust me, the grocery trip will get quicker…eventually.
I’m also a big advocate for kids growing their own food. Even if you just start growing a few herbs in the kitchen, this will give your kids an appreciation of where food comes from and they will want to eat something that they’ve grown themselves. It then gets them asking questions about food in general and before you know it, they’re telling you what you should be eating!
5 – How can I encourage my child to exercise?
The most important thing about exercise is not making it feel like exercise. You’re a parent, not a personal trainer, so just have fun and play. I have definitely got fitter over this last year since Taylor has been walking and then running. We chase each other around the house all the time, pretending to be dinosaurs, tigers, etc. Trips to the playground are a must, especially these days as playgrounds get so much cooler, with lots of different activities. Let them be adventurous and run around, if they want to do stuff which the older kids are doing, let them have a try and help them if needed.
The most important thing is to be a big kid yourself and enjoy playing with your kids, that’s the best way to encourage “exercise”.
6 – How can I teach my child to be more kind and compassionate?
I think parents, well people in general, confuse compassion and kindness with having good manners. A person can have good manners and not give a crap about others. Just teaching kids to say please and thank you, isn’t enough, as this can just become an automatic response and almost meaningless. Teaching compassion is the long game and once again, it has to be demonstrated by those around the children.
I’m proud that our boy is one of the most compassionate kids I’ve ever met (others have said the same). Anj is a nurse and I am the founder of a kids charity, which both require a certain degree of compassion and this has rubbed off on Taylor. When Anj first went back to work at the hospital, I would take Taylor in to see Anj twice a day, so he could see his mum and also get fed, as he was still breastfeeding at the time. He could see the people that his mum was taking care of and I would tell him that mum was making people feel better. I appreciate that not everyone would be able to give their kids this kind of experience, but you can at least play doctors and nurses. Also, if someone you know isn’t feeling too well and they’re not going to expose your kids to anything contagious, pay them a visit and show your kids how you’re caring for someone else.
And fundamentally, just spend time with your kids, show them how a cuddle can make them feel better and they, in turn, will share cuddles.
7 – How do I know if I am doing a good job as a parent?
Well, you could dust off that crystal ball and see how your kid is doing in 2030. Alas, if you’re all out of crystal balls, you’re just going to have to ask your kids. Seriously, who is going to be a better judge of your parental skills than you’re kids? It may well get harder to get an answer from them as they get older, but toddlers are as honest as they come and they will tell you if you’re doing a bad job. I’d say on average, I get told by Taylor about five times a week that he doesn’t like me but get the genuine love you’s around twenty times, so that’s a pretty decent ratio.
Every parenting book will try and tell you what a good parent is and provide different advice on how you become one. Personally, I didn’t read any parenting books. I can clearly remember how my parents raised me and without going into that story, I’ve got a few ideas on “how to” and “not to” parent. We can’t get it right all of the time and most of us can’t blame the nanny, so the sooner you accept this, the sooner you’ll become a better parent, as you won’t be beating yourself up and putting yourself down.
8 – How can we connect more as a family?
Have you been reading this whilst your kids are craving your attention? Maybe you should save these words of wisdom for when they’re in bed. That is one general rule, try not to spend family time glued to your phone. I’ll hold my hands up and say I spend way too much time on my phone and a goal for 2018 is to stop this, as it’s not a good thing.
And don’t save family time for the holidays or the occasional weekend away, make it part of your daily routine, yes, daily. One thing that we do on a daily basis, is to have a meal at the dining table together. Even before we became parents, Anj and I have always eaten dinner together at the dining table and carried on this tradition as Taylor has grown.
Then, there is the extended family. Use these. Being a parent isn’t easy and you will need mum/dad time, a happy mum and dad certainly helps to have a happy family. As an expat, I don’t keep in touch with my family as much as I should, but Anj has an amazingly close relationship with her family, which in turn has led to Taylor being very close to his nan, aunty and cousin. Since he was very young he has been happy to stay with them whilst mum and dad went on a date night. And when we pick him up, we always get the biggest hugs and our little family grows that little bit stronger.