Parenting is tough but the most important job any of us will ever have. Sometimes we can pick up bad habits without realising it or let a few things slide – which is to be expected!
1. Put the tech down
We all do it. Check our emails at the school gate or read a text when a child is talking to you. When we need a break, we also allow our children to be distracted by technology – be it a look at YouTube or game to the next level. But our loved ones need to know we are connecting with them and not feel second best to our tech.
On a very simple level, children need to learn the skill of communication and build interpersonal relationships: this cannot be achieved via a device as it leads to social isolation.
- Switch off: Agree set times for when the whole family switches the tech off. This could be at the weekends, or an hour each evening during family mealtimes
- Plan other activities: When older children are tempted to game, have other fun activities lined up. Get outside, or watch a film together as a family
- Be mindful of bad habits; Are you a workaholic? Or addicted to Facebook? Be aware of what keeps you connected and ask the question: do I really need to be doing this rather than interacting with my child?
2. Cap working hours
Easier said than done, but ‘overtime creep’ at work can be managed. We fall into bad habits of staying back at work, or checking work emails during home time. Ask yourself: Will the world stop spinning on its axis if you do not reply to that email right now?
Make 2017 the year that you manage your workload better:
- Are you a good time planner? Try to manage your day better at work so you can get out on time. There are some simple tools such as trello.com that enable you to manage your to do lists and prioritise tasks
- Are you staying back at work to avoid your family? Be honest – are you stalling to avoid bathtime? These are special bonding moments that you will regret missing out on in the years to come. Make the effort to be home before your child goes to bed
- Manage colleagues’ expectations? If you reply to emails and calls out of work, you set the expectation that this is acceptable. Try to set some rules and boundaries.
3. Make one dinner
Why make life harder on yourself by making one meal for the kids, and one for yourself and partner. Eating together is enjoyable ‘family time’ so if you can, try to eat together. It is also better for your digestive system to eat early evening. If this isn’t possible, here are some tips:
- Cook one meal and reheat later for the grown ups
- Cook in large quantities and freeze leftovers for other meal times
- Be strict with your children. It is reasonable to offer one or two choices, but do not start another meal if they refuse to eat it. No child will willingly let themselves starve!
4. Get outside more
Children are naturally physically active, and we should embrace their desire for movement, creativity and exploring outside. Great skills are learnt outside too, such as how to ride a bike, run, walk, jump, climb and rather they do this outdoors than inside the home!
Being outside has lots of health benefits, from the obvious one around fighting childhood obesity and getting our Vitamin D fix. Children outside are proven to be sick less as their immune system is boosted, are less stressed and more confident. Make time for outdoor time in 2017.
5. Find ‘You’ again
It is an honour to be a mum or a dad, but you want to still be ‘you’. This means finding time to do the things that make you who you are and a happy individual. Are you physical and want to go to the gym? Are you creative and need to unleash your arty side? Or a social butterfly who loves being around people?
It is often said, but if you look after yourself, you become a better parent. Put aside the guilt for carving out some essential me time once a week.
6. Be green
It is a good life lesson for your child to protect the planet and play your small part as a family. Start educating children on recycling in the home and saving energy where possible – this can be a simple as switching off their bedroom light when not in the room.
Look at the example you are setting too. Jumping in the car for a quick 5 minute trip that could be replaced with an outdoor walk with the kids is always going to be the better option. Granted, that’s not always possible but why not use it as an excuse to get fit too in 2017?
7. Be kind to one another
Sounds so simple, but when we are tired, our tongue can get the better of us, particularly with our partners. Listen to yourself and try to catch those negative thoughts, or apologize for those comments are harsh and unnecessary. Try not to bicker in front of the children too, be is direct or passive aggressive language. You will be surprised by what those little ears pick up on!
8. Listen to your children
A child deserves your attention: it builds their confidence, makes them feel secure and builds the bond of trust between you. Try to give them eye contact and reassuring body language when they are talking to you or asking questions. Whilst 100 ‘why?’ questions will test our patience at the best of times, trying your hardest to remain engaged makes for a happy, confident child.
9. Be patient
This is a skill many of admit we lack after a long day of demands but it reaps dividends to keep your cool and patience with children. They will mimic your actions, and shouting or sulky in response to their bad behavior will only give you a lot of pain in the years to come!
Quite simply, counting to 10 in your head works wonders with a few deep breaths. If it is safe to do so, walk away for a few moments to compose yourself – and your annoyance. This tactic also applies to your partner!
10. Stick to the plan
We all start with good intentions to stick with plan, be it regarding healthy eating or enforcing strict sleeping patterns. But when we are tired, the easy option is to give in sometimes.
Try to decide what is important and decide to stick to that plan, no matter what. A plan to get a child to sleep a night is important for your own sanity, so try to remind yourself of the end goal when patience is tested. When your child realises no means no, they will give up pushing you to your limits.
For more information or an interview with Jo Wiltshire, please contact:
Amy Walker (on behalf of Childcare.co.uk) at Beattie:
T: 020 7053 6000
Childcare.co.uk launched in 2009 and is the UK’s largest online social networking platform for parents, childcare providers and private tutors with over 1,000,000 members.
ABOUT JO WILTSHIRE
Jo Wiltshire is a parenting author and journalist. She has written three books on parenting – The Potty Training Bible, The Baby Sleep Bible and Sneaky Parenting. Jo was also a contributing writer and editor for My Pregnancy from 2012 to 2014.