Each day, most of us struggle to complete our necessary chores. In the midst of all these necessities, it’s easy to forget to slow down and pay attention to the little things, like spending quality one-on-one time with your kids. Everyday chaos means that some of life’s opportunities to create good and long lasting memories are often missed. Children won’t remember whether or not you took out the trash or made dinner, but they will remember the time that you built a fort out of sheets and blankets in the living room.
These times matter because they make each child feel special and loved. At the same time, you get to know your child better.
Why One-on-one Time?
Family time is excellent for building strong relationships, but these moments don’t work the same way as alone time with each child. All that time telling kids to do this or that makes it seem like everyone is operating on autopilot. One-on-one time is a great chance to really teach your kids with actions. This time is especially important for younger kids.
During this time, it’s easier to get your point across because there are fewer distractions from brothers and sisters. You may even find that you pay better attention to your child during one-on-one time and get to know how they think and what’s going on in their lives. This strengthens your bond with each other. If your child has been acting out in order to get your attention, this time will help to reduce these negative actions. You may even be able to help build your child’s self esteem as you show them that you value their individual needs, desires and strengths.
Spontaneous or Scheduled?
One-on-one time with your child can be either spontaneous or scheduled. Some spontaneous time might involve doing some household chores together, running errands, taking care of the family dog, playing a game or doing some volunteer work. A planned date is also a fun way to spend with your child, as the anticipation makes it more special.
Plan the event in advance by putting it on your digital calendar or a paper calendar that your child can see. Make it something that your child likes but that your other kids won’t feel jealous about. Leave the electronic devices at home and don’t fall into the temptation to finish any errands. Just enjoy the moment.
How much time is enough?
The number of minutes isn’t what is important. The important part is that your child has your undivided attention. Be available during these moments and really listen to what your child is saying. If being spontaneous doesn’t suit your child’s personality, schedule things and start small, such as a half hour trip to the park or a pet shelter or whatever suits your child’s abilities and interests. So long as you both enjoy the time together, you’ll both benefit from the experience and be more likely to do it again.
BIO: Patricia Dimick is a Denver based freelance writer and a fun stay-at-home mom. This passionate coffee drinker loves to write about parenting topics and enjoys DIY projects. Patricia spends her free time playing table tennis or enjoying trips to nature with her precious daughter and loving husband. You can reach her @patricia_dimick.
Two year olds get a bad rep. Everywhere you look and listen you read and hear about the so-called “Terrible Twos.” To be fair, many young tots are going through a phase of disequilibrium at age 2 1/2, according to many child development experts.
Add to that the fact that most parents are trying to potty train at this age, and Mom may be pregnant or already have another child, and it’s no wonder the 2’s can be a bit challenging.
Here are a few tips to help you deal with your toddler and even enjoy this phase!
1) Remember that a toddler is nothing more than a baby on wheels. Meaning, toddlers are active and can get into a whole lot of trouble, fast… yet they’re still so immature emotionally. That’s why tantrums are so common at this age. Toddlers have a hard time dealing with the overwhelming emotions they experience. Reading about the developmental milestones children are reaching at this age can help. I recommend Your Two-Year-Old: Terrible or Tender. This book is actually part of a series for children of every age and they are very attachment parent friendly.
2) Don’t forget babywearing. Or perhaps we should call it Toddlerwearing! Wearing your 2 to 3 year old in a soft cloth carrier, backpack or sling can still be a huge lifesaver. When your toddler is tired, overstimulated or otherwise out of sorts, wearing them will help them to settle down and maybe even go to sleep! The same is certainly true of breastfeeding. Dubbed “baby Prozac” by many, nursing can soothe the boo-boos and help a reluctant napper settle down.
3) Take care of Mom. By the time the baby is a toddler, we moms often expect life to get back to “normal”. We think that we should have it all together, be back at our prepregnancy weight, and have the house spotless like it was before baby came into the picture. This is unrealistic, especially for a mom who is expecting another baby and caring for a 2 year old! Life with a toddler is often more fatiguing because toddlers are heavier, require more supervision and discipline, and now that they’re mobile they create much more housework too!
Mom would do well to not expect too much of herself and to make sure she’s taking a break from her duties once in awhile. Most toddlers are getting closer to their Dads and Grandparents, so asking these loving people to take over for a few hours so you can read a book, exercise or nap is a priority.
Doing so means she’ll have fresh energy and perspective to devote to her favorite little person – her busy, intense and lovable 2 year old.
A question from reader Jess:
My husband and I are having a hard time getting our 7 year old to clean his room. His room gets so bad that I am afraid someone will kill themselves trying to walk through it. Yesterday we decided he needed to clean it but he just wouldn’t do. He kept sneaking out or he sat and played in it and didn’t clean. We resorted to yelling and then eventually to a spanking and yet he still didn’t clean his room. I also felt terrible after he got spanked and he sat in his room sobbing. But he needs to be able to clean his room on his own. What should we have done differently?
Sorry that you are having such a tough time with this issue. Here are a few ideas to help avoid this scenario in the future.
First, it sounds as though your son’s room would take a lot of time to clean if it was as bad as you described. That was probably too much for a 7 year old to handle. Not only was the thought of cleaning that room overwhelming to him he may not have the skills required yet. When my oldest son was exactly the same age he would also let his room get out of control if we let it go too long. When that happened I would go in and clean it with him, giving him jobs to do and showing him first hand how to get it clean. I didn’t worry one bit that he wouldn’t learn to clean it himself….how could he learn unless I repeatedly showed him how it was done?
Before bed each night I would also go in and do a quick once over for him…perhaps giving him one job to do…like taking his laundry downstairs or picking up his art supplies. Doing this little bit each night helped us keep it from getting too bad. Cleaning his room together allowed me to teach him how to clean and it allowed me to see what activities and art projects he was working on and discuss them with him. We both enjoyed this time spent together and now I am repeating this process with my daughter and youngest son who are 8 and 9.
For what it is worth my oldest is now 13 years old and keeps his room clean, entirely on his own. In general he is an excellent cleaner, even going so far as to wash windows and steam carpets. I truly believe that we have to model cleaning for them in THEIR environment. They may see us cleaning common areas of the household but that isn’t always sufficient. Cleaning with them and in areas useful to them (like their bedroom) is advantageous.
Next time your son’s room gets out of control get your hands dirty and clean it with him. I don’t think you are really afraid he won’t know how to clean a room as an adult if you help him as a child. So why worry about making him do it on his own? In fact, when my bedroom needs cleaned I often ask the kids to help me out or my husband and I do it together. I CAN clean it on my own but it goes much faster and it is more enjoyable if I have help. Just put yourself in your children’s shoes….if it was your room would you want to be stuck in there cleaning it all day by yourself? Probably not.
What do you think? How do you tackle this issue?
By Ashley Allman
My sister, who is not yet a mom, recently shared this quote with me:
“When a child hits a child, we call it aggression. When a child hits an adult, we call it hostility. When an adult hits an adult, we call it assault. When an adult hits a child, we call it discipline.” ― Haim G. Ginott
This quote means something. It speaks to the harsh reality of our society’s view on parenting. In reading recent articles and responses to them, I’ve been surprised by the great number of people who fully endorse physical ‘discipline;’ and beyond that, there are many more parents who simply resort to harsh discipline out of anger, frustration or a feeling of helplessness.
If our children are going to learn how to respect others, empathize and peacefully resolve conflicts, they must be shown how to do so starting from day one. We as parents must dig deep within ourselves to break the patterns of anger, yelling, criticizing and spanking that often come as knee jerk reactions. We must find gentle, loving ways to be authoritative and firm with our children, relying on teamwork, love and mutual respect to help shape them into happy, healthy, functioning members of society.
For me, discipline has by far been the hardest aspect of being a mom. Positive parenting is a challenge for me. I have never questioned the rightfulness, effectiveness or justness of this approach. However, I’m naturally impatient, a bit of a control freak, emotionally sensitive and sarcastic; traits that don’t easily lend themselves to a calm parenting style. Conversely, I’m nurturing, sensitive and empathetic, which balances me. But when your personality gets in the way of the type of parent you want to be – like it sometimes does for me – guilt, doubt and inconsistency creep in.
I have two very active, energetic and strong-willed young boys. Their father and I have strong personalities and we are both passionate and often forceful communicators. As expected, our sons are the same way, which creates a charged home environment that can turn to chaos when stresses or emotions run high. My husband and I have always instinctually gravitated away from using force and toward a more diplomatic approach to raising our boys. But with such powerful energy in our house, it has been difficult to walk the line between being consistently authoritative but gentle, and letting our kids run the show.
The many parenting books I have read (Raising a Son, Raising your Spirited Child and Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child are my favorites) have given our family some great tools. But I’ll be the first to say that when you are dealing with daily power struggles, children who question every bit of authority, and public unruliness, it is hard to stay cool and calm. More and more parents seem to be looking for ways to maintain parental authority while leaving behind the negative methods that leave everyone in the family feeling guilty and betrayed.
Doing the right thing for our kids can be exhausting – but the hard work pays off for the well being of the individuals, families and society as a whole. Below are a few tips that have helped my husband and I achieve the balance of being positive, empathetic parents who enforce fair, solid boundaries for our kids.
1) Love comes first: Of course kids need boundaries, but most importantly, above all things, they need love. We all love our children desperately, so this is the easy part. Making sure you put time in every day to nurture your relationship with your child will help build the security, safety and bond that he needs in order to recognize and respect your parental authority. Without a solid relationship as the foundation, your child will continue to question if you really know what’s best for him, and whether or not he should listen to your guidance.
2) Sometimes the “bad guy” is really a “good guy”: It is like a knife to the heart when one of my boys calls me a ‘bad guy’ and genuinely means it. I want to be their hero, friend, comforter and safe haven, not the bad guy. But the old adage ‘you’ll thank me later’ does sometimes ring true, and we must be consistent for our children to learn right from wrong. I have accepted that it’s OK to be the ‘bad guy’ if I’m being empathetic and if I know that by doing so, my boys are learning an important lesson that will benefit them later on in life. Plus, putting in the hard work now is what ultimately solidifies our spot as our children’s lifelong heroes. I look forward to that.
3) Find an outlet: I need outlets for venting my frustrations and for recharging my energy. Exercise, good music, time with other adults and fresh air are mine. If we’re having a tough day, I usually find that getting outside or a spontaneous dance party in the living room can instantly turn moods around – and refuel my body to make it through calmly until bedtime. I need a good long talk with my husband every night to unload anything I’ve been holding in through the day. This is sometimes hard for him after a long day of work, so when he doesn’t have the energy, I call my mom or sister. It’s amazing how just talking can be such good release. Figure out how you alleviate your tensions and how you regain energy and make those activities a top priority every day.
4) Celebrate small successes: There have been countless chaotic mornings, when after I drop my son off at preschool, I begin to reflect on how we could have had a smoother start to our day. I think about all the things I nagged my oldest son about (getting up and down from the breakfast table a dozen times, not putting on his socks, refusing to let me comb his wild hair, etc.), and immediately regret how I forgot to applaud the good things he did that morning (fed the dogs, helped his brother find a toy, put his dishes in the sink). I realize we all could have had a happier morning if we would have focused on the positive. Most recently, our family has been working on celebrating our small successes and letting the small “failures” go with nothing more than a simple correction. The more we applaud our children’s deeds, good choices and cooperation, the more of it we’ll see.
Parenting and finding a discipline style that fits your family is a journey. I know mine still has some rugged terrain ahead, like most families do. But we’re working on it and focusing on love and empathy each day. Please share your tips too, so we can all navigate these crazy seas a little better.
Ashley Allman is a Seattle-based writer and co-founder of online natural products boutique, Ash & Alys Babes. She spends most of her time playing house with her two spirited sons, husband and two dogs, all of whom she uses for inspiration in every aspect of life. Ashley is committed to raising her children green and focuses a great deal of energy on feeding her children a healthy diet and raising them to be responsible stewards of our beautiful Earth.
I admire attachment parenting philosophy quite a bit and that is primarily what guided me when my babes were little. I have mentioned in the past though that my endeavor to be a good, attached parent kind of lead me to a place were I was lost, frazzled, and on the verge of a divorce. I felt like I was a slave to my kids every need and only now with more modern books on AP, like Mayim Bialik’s Beyond the Sling am I seeing warnings to make sure that marital and personal relationships as well as career not be sacrificed to the AP Gods. It is really easy to let AP or other similar parenting philosophies turn into permissive parenting with the parents being afraid to be the authority in their own homes.
And yet despite my love of AP, some of my authoritarian upbringing always popped up and it made me feel selfish and guilty. Should I really just be flat out saying no to this request or should I be looking for a compromise that will show that I am respecting my child’s wishes and desires as an individual? Should I be down on the floor playing Legos with my child to show I am a playful parent or is it okay to do what feels right to me…which is require him/her to self entertain (and quietly) so I can enjoy a cup of tea and a phone call with an old friend? I was constantly questioning how instinct was leading me to react/parent/discipline and how I felt I “should” be parenting because this or that book on AP or cooperative parenting said I should.
In hindsight I wish I had just listened to my instincts more. This is not because I think I made mistakes (though I am sure they are many) but rather because I let parenting become my career and my life as a stay at home mom and my self worth became largely wrapped up in that. With two boys on the autism spectrum that is just a recipe for disaster. It was only after my family almost broke in half that I realized that if mama isn’t happy and satisfied in her own personal and professional life…no one is going to be happy.
I decided to make it my goal to take the upcoming year (2011) and devote it to self care. I didn’t ignore my kids or my husband but I carved out time for myself each and every day, sometimes several hours of the day and did stuff just for me. I went to the library, I went to the movies, I got pedicures and manicures, I went to the gym 4-5 days week, I went thrift store shopping, and I refused to take kids with me if I didn’t want to. Heck, I took a solo two-day vacation and have another booked in a couple months. Previously, I always hated it when I heard women say they were trying to find themselves but I understood it perfectly after that year was up. The pre-child me, who had many and varied interests, was back in full force.
Anyway, that was a really long winded intro to telling you about a parenting book I recently read and throughly enjoyed. The book is Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. It was written by Pamela Druckerman, who is an American living in France and raising three kids there. She wrote the book after seeing how much differently American children behave than French Children. While her 18 month old was bouncing off the walls in a French restaurant and making her consider eating at home forever more, the French babies and children were happy and chatty yet largely docile. French parents were not frazzled and stressed, instead they seemed to really enjoy parenting. After finding a study that showed American parents were twice as likely to consider themselves unhappy with child care when compared to French parents Druckerman decided she wanted to know what French parents were doing differently.
I must say that I absolutely loved the book and it gave me so much food for thought. So much about AP and other child centric parenting philosophies, like radical unschooling, lead parents to focus on the needs and wants of their children to the exclusion of everything else. Radical unschooling even boasts the idea that you never say “no ” to your child…you always find a way to say “yes”. Hearing no will kill their spirits or something. French parents also believe that children should be respected and their wishes honored but only in balance with the needs and wishes of everyone else in the household. French parents believe in teaching their children from infancy how to exhibit self control and deal appropriately with frustration and the dreaded “non” or “no”. The reason those French babies and children were not acting up in the restaurant is because they had already had many months or years or training to wait and be “sage” or in control of himself or herself. And rather than being dull and sparkless children you get happy children who also have amazing manners and self control. This is in contrast to the American idea that exerting that kind of influence or restricting our kids in such a way will kill their spirit and crush them emotionally.
The French seem very rigid and structured in many ways and yet they also believe in letting their children devote time to nothing but pleasures and fun. They believe in speaking to their children respectfully and like they would any other adult, even from the time they are infants because they believe that all babies are rational and capable of learning. That aspect is very AP friendly even if some of their other ideas are not (no co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, etc.). In many ways they are AP parents who just never let the the household become child centric in any fashion and parents who are not afraid to be the authority in their homes. And amazingly enough all the French seem to be on the same page with this. The way the French children are parented at home is the same way they are cared for in government run creches (or daycare), which sound amazing BTW. If France is what right-wing Americans have in mind when they talk about socialism, then we need lots and lots more of that evil socialism please!!!
Overall I think the book has a lot of value and the arguments made for stricter households, proper manners, and not becoming a slave to your children are well worth the read. I didn’t agree with everything of course, such as not breastfeeding past 3 months, but most of it I quite heartily agreed with. It was also a true pleasure to read. How many parenting books keep you up at night long past bedtime?? A resounding A++ and I really hope there will a follow up that deals with parenting French teens, since I am one year away from that milestone.
equilibre (eh-key-lee-bruh) – Balance. Not letting any one part of life – including being a parent – overwhelm the other parts.