As parents, we all long for our children to be happy, well-adjusted kids. But happiness is something so fleeting and circumstantial. Joy is the emotional homeostasis we are truly trying to achieve. When your child has joy, they don’t sweat the small stuff so much. They are able to weather the storms of life and grow from their failures. Happiness is purely dependent on external factors, which tend to fluctuate up and down through various seasons in our lives. Joy, on the other hand, brings resilience, hope and optimism.
So how do we help our children to find real joy? Here are 7 steps that parents can work on to help their children get there:
Seven years ago, I went in early for an emergency scan. I knew I was pregnant but had strong stabbing pains that made me think it may be an ectopic pregnancy. Turns out it was just my round ligaments taking immense strain at the degree of stretching needed to make space for TWO babies. Twins…TWINS??? My mother is a twin and we have a few sets of triplets in the family too, but I was quite happy in my bubble of “it won’t happen to me”.
Fast forward 7 years and my precious gifts are now 6 and a half. Almost daily I thank God for choosing me to be their mother. But I’ve got to say, I am so very thankful that I was a trained and experienced Parenting Coach (with a background as an Occupational Therapist in paediatrics) before they were born. Otherwise, I may not be loving it half as much as I have been. Having 2 premature newborns, 2 crawling babies, 2 mischievous toddlers etc comes with its challenges, especially when there is an older singleton sibling in the mix. But with some very useful practical parenting tools on my belt, I’ve been absolutely loving it! And today, I would like to share some of what I have learned about these precious creatures.
I don’t know about you, but I feel like the sound of moaning and whining tends to have a direct line to triggering my “reptilian brain”. It’s hard to be rational when a tiny human is making the hairs at the back of your neck stand on end. So, why do they do this? And what can we as parents do about it?
Let’s start with the why. You see, as babies, the only way that our children could communicate that they would like anything to be different to the way it was (hunger, boredom, poo nappy etc) was by moaning or crying. So, once they become toddlers, unless we teach them a better way to communicate, they will continue to use what has always worked.
‘Tantrums come in various forms, depending on the child’s age, their temperament and the consistency in boundaries within your home,’ explains parenting coach and occupational therapist Celeste Rushby of munchkins.me, a collective of coaches who empower parents to help transform family dynamics for the better. She says that, despite all prospective parents dreading the ‘terrible twos’, tantrums actually begin at between 10 and 18 months.
Education and training are central to the modern, Western world. We go to school, invest in vocational equipping, and attend workshops to perfect our crocheting or to learn the art of home brewing. Within this culture of knowledge and skill accumulation, parenting is also increasingly deemed a worthy enough subject in which to receive training – hence the overwhelming ocean of parenting resources: from articles and books to DVDs and TV shows to workshops and courses! Ever heard people complain, “Kids don’t come with a manual!”? They lie. Kindly point them to the Internet or any given bookshop.
So, should parents “go to school”? There are many good reasons why we should consider it!
Let’s begin with a quick quiz!
Which description sounds most like you as a parent?
- I love to cuddle my children, I go out of my way to meet their every need and I tend to indulge them.
- I keep a firm grip on my children and enforce many rules in my home.
- I oversee my children’s lives, teaching them life skills and helping them apply these lessons.
- I support my children in everything they do, but I stand on the sideline and let them take ownership of their own lives.
- I love having fun with my children and spending time with them like I do with my friends.
Can you see yourself in one of these? Are more than one applicable to you?
Most of us have a preferred parenting style – a way of childrearing that comes most naturally to us. Yet, most of us can (and should learn to) adapt our style according to a given situation and our children’s developmental age.
Okay, so let’s unpack the differing styles and see where you fit in most comfortably.
“Discipline” has received swearword status in many modern parenting circles. It is now quite trendy to withdraw from being the disciplinary figure in favour of being a child’s friend. While this is mostly well intended (and evokes wonderful images of parent and child roaming around like Calvin and Hobbes all day), it can be harmful to both parties.
Imagine you came to a traffic light that flickered red-orange-green-red-orange-green. You’d probably be confused (Should I go or stop!?), and possibly anxious (What if I crash? I may be stuck here forever!).
The same process is likely to happen to our children if they receive mixed signals from their primary caretakers. Just like the faulty robot in the example leaves it up to you to decide when it’s safe to go, your child will also need to figure it out on her own. And “crashing” may be the result.
All of us hate red lights (Just my luck!), but there’s nothing like the stress caused by a broken robot to make us appreciate a light turning red when it needs to. There’s safety in this mechanism. Likewise, there’s protection in receiving clear-cut messages at home – even if it’s “no!”
The new school year comes with many stresses for parents (especially the newbies): lunchboxes to pack, school fees to pay, carpools to organise, school uniforms to launder, homework to help with…. and on top of that extra-curricular activities to choose and manage.
The latter troubles many parents due to the pressure these ventures place on our time, finances and sometimes even on the relationship with our children. We may ask, “What is enough or too much? Which activities are essential?”, and this uncertainty only adds to the tension.
Maybe we could simplify the matter. Let’s start by asking why we let our children participate in such activities in the first place?
“Grandparents” and “grandchildren” are two well-coined terms, as few relationships in life are so “grand” than the one between these two parties. However, for the parents sandwiched in the middle, this connection can sometimes pose “grand” challenges that may even result in conflict between the senior and junior adults.
Yet, if everyone involved is respectful, willing to compromise and able to focus on the privileges of the situation, the grandparent-grandchild bond could greatly enrich all three generations. To help with this, consider following the ABC for grandparents and parents below.