Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Let's Talk- Parenting Basics

So every few months I get into kid mode and answer some basic parenting questions.  This is actually the topic that the blog originated with for Tuesdays, mainly because it's the topic I get asked about the most.  I wonder why!

These are the most frequently asked questions not just of me, but also by me and by most parents!  I am in no way an expert, but I will do my best to throw out any ideas that I personally have found helpful.

1) How can I get my kids to behave??!
This is always asked with an air of frustration and urgency, and I totally get it.  The thing you need to keep in mind is this: you never "arrive" when it comes to parenting.  There is no finish line, Im sorry to say.  You may master one stage only to be greeted with another shortly thereafter.  But one very helpful tool that can be used across the board is consistency.  You need to decide how you want things to look in your house and what kinds of behaviors you want to see from your kids.  Then, you need to find a method or two that works best for you and your kids and stick to it like PB&J in your kids' hair.  My kids are not perfect, but they are pretty well behaved.  I do not typically have to say things more than once or twice, and when I ask them to do something they generally do it without complaint.  No, my kids certainly were not born this way- in fact, it took (and still sometimes takes) a lot of hard work.  I have about 2 or 3 weapons in my arsenal, and that's really all I need because I am consistent with them.  My kids have learned from experience that I say what I mean.  If I count to 3 and they have not done what I have asked, then they know they will get a consequence. Every. Single. Time.  I am confident you know a whole bunch of methods, so you don't need me to be redundant.  Just hang in there and be consistent- it takes a long time to see results but I assure you that you will.

2) How do you handle bedtime?
This is a big one for me, because bedtime has always been something I was very diligent about.  I NEED time to unwind- both as a woman and as husband and wife.  It really is crucial that there is a time where you can decompress and be with one another without any roles or work attached to it.  And nights have become even more important with my illness- I need to be laying down as soon as possible to avoid having issues.  So I have always been stringent about bedtime.  The main thing you need to figure out is what time works best for your kids.  People laugh when I tell them what time my kids go to bed (7pm) but in reality, kids this age really need a good 12 hours of sleep.  My kids are up around 7am, so this is perfect.  Some kids need more, some need less but it is completely reasonable for you to have a bedtime that is early enough to still give you some time to relax at night.  Bedtime is the same as any other area in my home- my children have been taught to respect me and Jeff.  Yes, they get up a bunch of times for a drink, or to pee, or because "you forgot to give me extra hugs", but all in all my house is pretty quiet by 7:30.  Same principle as the above question- pick a bedtime that WORKS FOR YOU AND YOUR KIDS, and stick hard and fast to it.  Eventually your work will pay off and they will go to bed relatively easily.  I remember when my kids were younger, bedtime used to be a nightmare!  Anthony was a strong willed child and would leave his room or play all night.  It took time and it took me adjusting his bedtime and finding his inner sleep clock, but eventually- like most areas of child rearing- the hard, consistent work payed off and now things go very well at night for the most part. 

But I will say this- sometimes you really need to just do whatever the heck will get you through the night.  Sometimes I have brought kids into my bed, other times I put up baby gates and doused them with baby oil so they could not climb out.  What can I say?  Parenting is sometimes just about surviving...and I don't feel the least bit guilty.   :)

3) I can't get my kids to eat anything.
Yea, neither can I.  You just really have to make some house rules and then not let it occupy your mind, cause you really don't need to add undue stress to your life.  Here are my rules: 
-When you are served you say "thank you"- you do not comment on what you do not like
-If you want seconds of something, you have to eat all your firsts (so if they want more chicken, they must first finish the carrots)
-You do not have to eat anything you do not want to eat- but you also will only be given food at designated times- meal/snack time.  So you do not have to eat anything I ever serve you, but do not come whining to me an hour later saying you are hungry.  You will have to wait until the next meal or snack.

I made these rules because they were rules I knew I was willing to live with and enforce.  The key here is WHAT YOU ARE WILLING TO ENFORCE.  Don't make this parenting thing any harder than it already is.  Make rules that you are willing and able to follow...and then rest confidently in that.

4) Potty training?
I am pretty sure you probably remember that I am useless on this topic.  I get asked about potty training a lot, and I always give my advice with an apology, because I know the parent asking wants help and I offer none.  I have never potty trained any child of mine.  All my kids were potty trained between ages 3 and 4 on their own.  I have never had any tears or fights over the potty- when they were ready, they did it.  Sometimes they went back and forth, other times it was a one-and-done deal.  I just believe that no amount of training or cajoling is effective if the child is not ready or simply doesn't want to for whatever reason.  I am also not comfortable with making the potty a source of stress or a source of fighting.  Sure, maybe I have had to change diapers a little longer, but that is perfectly ok with me.  This is not a battle I ever wanted to wage for many reasons.  So I'm sorry, I do not have any real advice on the matter.  But if you are struggling, please remember that while it seems all consuming now, I promise you that your child will go pee pee and poo poo in the potty eventually. 

And while these have absolutely nothing to do with anything, they are some of my favs:

I hope you have a really awesome week, and I will see you Friday!!

Me and some of my little munchkins!

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