Time Sharing: More MOPS Mothers’ Questions

Question 3: How do you balance your time between being a wife/partner and a mother so that no-one feels they miss out? What about when you have more than one child?

 

I used to think that I should spend lots of quality time with my husband and each of my kids. It drove the family mad and I nearly went nuts – not to mention, never had time to do anything else – such as housework (Well, that’s today’s excuse).

Then I learnt about the Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman.

I discovered that everyone gives and receives Love in different languages. In other words, we connect with each other in different ways. Gary Chapman has identified these as Quality Time, Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Touch, and Gifts.

My preferred method of connection is to spend quality time with someone, or, in their absence, make them something or spend lots of time thinking about them. I even go shopping for hours by myself in order to find the perfect gift for them, just to spend quality time with them, even though they’re not with me, and sometimes I don’t purchase anything.

However, my husband does things to show me he loves me; the housework, cooking, gardening and fixing things. My daughter writes letters and notes. My son gives gifts…to everyone. My other daughter loves to be hugged. And our youngest? We haven’t quite figured that one out yet – probably because with the five love languages covered in our house, he is never lacking in any of them.

Diagnosis: A waste of time?

I used to go around and ‘diagnose’ everyone else’s love language. That wasn’t particularly conducive to relationship building.

Then someone reminded me that we generally operate in our own love language. However, if we consciously operate in all five, we can cover all bases, and it conserves our time and effort. It means that as mothers, we need not spread ourselves so thinly that someone misses out. And we don’t need to miss out on being able to top up our own energy tank. 

For example, in preparing a meal in the evening I can incorporate all five love languages; I do something in service for my husband, I can spend time with whomever is in the kitchen, give a meal to my son, have a hug with my daughter or give her a back rub while something’s cooking, and use encouraging words to my other daughter. All bases covered: Everyone feeling loved in their own language, without requiring five times the amount of energy from me. 

There’s also a great question that I was taught and I’ve asked,

‘What am I doing, when you feel loved the most?’

The answers have sometimes really surprised me. But it’s always made our relationship better.

So, being aware that we connect and love differently frees us up to be more effective in all our relationships.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He did mend it.

He loves this towel.

He’s used it for longer than he’s known me.

 

He pulled a funny face when I suggested that I could give him a new one.

I already had: For Christmas a couple of years ago.

Bright and stripey.

And in one piece.

 

But this one’s better. Apparently.

 

I’ll mend it, he says.

If you’ll just get the sewing machine organised.

I can do it.

 

I know he can.

He sewed the plastic and vinyl cover for his stereo, on his mother’s Singer treadle machine.

It looked like a professional had made it. I wouldn’t have been so patient or meticulous.

 

But he has no idea how my newish fancy machine works.

Nor that it will take ten minutes to pack up my stuff, mid major project.

Another five minutes to change threads – because anything other than cotton would shred what’s left of the towel.

Another ten to show him how to work it.

About thirty seconds to sew it.

And another fifteen to reset the settings and get my project back to how I had them.

 

It’s a bit like cooking a barbecue really.

I’ll do it and you can relax. 

Yeah, right.

 

And slightly reminiscent of a tempestuous two-year-old.

I do it. I do it.

 

You’d better do it.

If I get my hands on it, it will be in the rubbish.

 

But before I get to think about it for too much longer, it’s going  through the machine

with the scientist looking as excited as if he’d just discovered the cure for cancer.

 

He did mend it.

 

He holds it up for me to admire.

It’s still old and faded and frayed.

But he loves it.

 

Reassuring – for the wife

who’s growing older and faded and frayed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Yes House: Changing from No to Yes

 

In days gone by, theirs had been a No House.

If the children asked for something, the answer was,

‘No’.

If the children reached out to touch something, they were reprimanded with a no!

If they stepped one metre outside of their mother’s reach — in the supermarket, in the shopping mall, in the playground — they were called back …

‘No!’

Even if Mum and Dad wanted something for themselves, they thought the ‘godly’ answer was no.

Where on earth Mum and Dad learnt this, they weren’t sure. They’d heard it on the radio in Southern USA. They’d read it in books about raising ‘godly’ children, and they’d certainly heard it over and over again from several older members of the community who had observed the three-year-old son’s mischief.  Those people loudly disapproved and proclaimed his behaviour was due to a ‘lack of discipline’.

More often than not, that statement sounded something like: ‘What that child needs is a good smack!’

Smacks did not solve the problem.

It’s not entirely surprising that the joy of parenting had gone from the daily lives of this family.

The children each expressed in their own way that life was not as it should be. The four-year-old took control of everything — and everybody. The three-year-old bounced off walls and grabbed attention any way he could. The baby became an expert tantrum-thrower.

Mum appeared calm on the outside — most of the time — but on the inside she was screaming, stressed out and miserable.

Dad, devoted and meticulous, attended to all the needs that Mum did not have the energy or motivation for. His life revolved around working at his place of employment, then coming home to pick up everything that hadn’t been done in the home all day, every day.

If anybody had asked him, he may have answered that he could not remember the last time he had laughed with his family.

Thank God, the family had chosen a local church where they felt they would be cared for. It took a year or two, but the family was nurtured and loved by that congregation. The congregation tolerated the boisterous activities of the three-year-old boy and provided care for the one-year-old baby while Mum sang in the choir. The eldest was placed in a loving Sunday school class. And the whole family attended frequent Sunday school family days.

One day the Sunday school director, Miss Irene, (who also happened to be the three-year-old’s preschool teacher) took the mother aside and asked in her deepest, sweetest Southern USA accent,

‘Mizz Julie, is there a reason you never say yes to your children?’

That question was one of those moments that changed our family’s life path.

That day, when preschool ended, for the first time I squatted down and held my arms out as wide as I could, and my children came running. I’m glad they knew what to do — because it was new to me! But it restored that smile that had gone missing.

From then on, at every possible opportunity, I would watch people like Miss Irene in action — in the preschool, in the playground, in the supermarket, in the classroom. And then I’d go home and practise.

I didn’t make it obvious to anybody else what I was doing. I certainly did not ask questions. But I took everything in, and our house gradually became a Yes House.

Miss Irene and her helpers organised a parenting course — a video with Gary Chapman (author of The Five Love Languages) and Ross Campbell (author of How to Really Love your Children). While we watched a video and had discussion, Miss Irene and her helpers fed pizza to our kids and kept them occupied in the Sunday school classrooms.

So we became part of a group of parents who were also separated from their own parents. We formed our own little community to encourage, laugh and support each other.

If Miss Irene had criticised what I was doing wrong, I would probably have got in a huff and run off in the opposite direction.

Instead, she prayerfully, lovingly and gently came alongside me and trained me to love my children and my husband.

She invited me to pick up the children early from preschool and let me sit in the playground to observe — and to gradually learn how to join the children in their play, allowing them to sort out minor quibbles by themselves but intervening when necessary.

She taught me to sit with children and debrief with them after they’d had a moment or two of ‘thinking time’.

She taught me two very concise but brilliant rules which we were able to adapt to our home rules: ‘Please be gentle with the people here. Please be gentle with the things here.’

But most importantly, she taught me how to love in a very real way — unconditionally, practically, positively and with an element of fun.

Eighteen years later, our kids have grown into beautiful young adults — and our house is definitely a Yes House. Ironically, for a few years I was employed to stand alongside other parents to encourage them — just as I was mentored through that process all those years ago — and to  facilitate parenting courses. And, for years, I wrote a column  about family life called ‘Heart and Home’, in The Lutheran magazine in Australia.

Frequently I am asked about smacking, discipline and many other hot topics. But among the most common comments I receive is,

‘It’s a shame that the parents who really need it won’t come to these courses’.

I reply that every family needs community.

Every family needs to know that they are not alone and that there are some tricks that can make parenting easier and even enjoyable.

As far as those parents who don’t come to the courses … there is plenty of evidence that says that for every family that goes to a course or receives parenting help, another 20 families in that community benefit.

Perhaps other families also watch other parents in supermarkets and playgrounds — just like I did!

 

First published in ‘The Lutheran’ , 2011, July edition. The Lutheran

 

As an experienced mother, if you could tell yourself one piece of advice…: Question 2 from MOPS

‘Now that you are an experienced Mother, 

if you could tell yourself one piece of advice

to really listen to when you became a new mum,

what would it be?’

 

Follow your heart,

Get down

     to your child’s level

Slow down

to your child’s pace

 

Consider that ‘career’ means a pathway through life

and being a mother is great professional development

for every job in the whole world  (and one day, someone will appreciate it!)

and,

Be gentle:  on yourself, on your kids, on your partner

and even on those folk who offer their advice,  whether or not you asked them for it.

 

I’ve been a mother for 26+ years.

When I look back at how I went, let’s just say that I’m so glad that others stepped in to show me how to do it better, and, eventually, how to enjoy it.

If (when)  I was stressed, it was usually because I was trying to fulfill what I thought were the world’s expectations of me.

When I wasn’t comparing what I was doing as a mum, I seemed to be using charts and measurements to compare my children with other children, or to what someone in a lab had figured my child ‘should’ be doing, or eating, or pooping.

Of course there were illnesses, teeth, (moving overseas didn’t help), school issues, things that got stuck up noses, bumps, rashes, stitches, ambulances and all the things that happen with living in busy houses with different people and different needs.

But, if I was less focused on my unrealistic expectations of myself, and was able to drop the comparison game, I believe much of my energy would have been better used on the kids – and life would have been more enjoyable for all of us. 

If I was able to slow down to be just a bit quicker than my children, perhaps I wouldn’t have been as tired.

Perhaps if I wasn’t trying to manage every other person I met on the street, or in church, or at pre-school, I might have had more time to get down and enjoy my kids.

Perhaps if I hadn’t been so caught up in trying to gain the approval of everyone, and instead, learnt to watch and listen to my kids,

I might have had more of an idea of what they needed,

and would have been able to enjoy being a mum much sooner.

know that if I’d trusted that God loved my kids even more than  I loved them, life would have been a whole lot simpler.

It’s much easier to see all that in hind-sight.

 

 

If there was one piece of information that I could give myself:

To me, it seems that mothers of small children are often intent on saving the whole world,

Yet, to their children, they ARE the whole world.

 

Life is like a Patchwork Quilt: Life lessons from quilts

‘You need to learn to quilt!’ a friend of mine suggested.

Our family planned to move to the USA for several years, and I worried about being isolated, at home with my three very young children. So I asked my craft group how I could meet others when we arrived there.

Having no idea what a quilt was, I soon found myself enrolling in a class with other equally silly stitchers—and so began a brand new hobby.

Twenty-four years later, I’m still quilting. I’m reluctant to tell you, though, that I’ve only recently finished some of the projects I began way back then. Now that my children are adults and I am no longer the full-time family taxi-driver, I am getting much more time to quilt. So I finish quilts in weeks rather than decades.

As I quilt, I learn about life.2016-05-11 15.43.47

Patchwork quilts are put together like a sandwich—with a bottom or backing fabric, a filling called wadding or batting, and a quilt top which is made up of lots of patches stitched together to form a whole cloth.

Quilting is the process of stitching through all three layers to keep them together. A ‘quilter’ is a generic term for anyone who does patchwork and/or quilting.

Patchwork-quilt tops are made up of different patches of all sorts of colours, shapes, sizes and textures.

Some pieces are bright and colourful. But the colours would lose their appeal if there were no contrasts. It would be like going to a party where everybody screamed for attention and nobody was happy to take notice. If life were full of only bright colours, we would be exhausted.

So in most quilts, there are neutrals. In a fabric shop they often appear bland and uninteresting; hardly noticeable. But they are the aspects of a quilt that make it work. They are like the quiet, faithful friends who keep up with what’s going on and know exactly when an encouraging or informative phone call is needed. They are the ones who often work in the background, seeing to the important stuff, even though nobody notices that it’s done—until it no longer gets done!

Quilters intentionally add pieces which are dark. Though we might not choose them as our main focus colours, they bring striking contrast to enhance all the other colours. All of us have dark chapters of our lives. We can’t chop them out without leaving gaping holes. Sometimes we can cherish them and stitch them tenderly into the fabric of our lives. Or sometimes we might even need to add a different patch, just like we mend the worn-out knees of a favourite pair of jeans. But every stitch and every patch adds more texture, depth and character.

Once we’ve made our patchwork-quilt top, we select our backing. Our backing supports everything we’ve put together in the patchwork top. It’s not usually particularly glamorous, and we often take it for granted. But without the backing, the seams of the quilt top may fray or be pulled or torn apart. It’s like the support structures we build around our lives. It’s like our friends and family, our community, our church and especially our faith.

In between the patchwork top and the backing, we sandwich the wadding. Usually I use cotton, but I’ve seen wadding made from old blankets, clothes, rags and even newspaper—anything that will add warmth to the quilt. This is like the added extras that give an extra dimension to our lives—the aspects that perhaps nobody else will ever see: the books we read to broaden our experience and understanding of others, the courses we attend, or the advice from our parents, grandparents and elders in our community. The more we put into it, the warmer it can become.

The actual quilting process is the stitching together through the sandwich of the three layers: the top, the wadding and the backing. This can be quick or slow, decorative or plain, stitched, tied or even glued. But it’s the important process that holds the quilt together. I’ve seen some quilts that have been put together poorly: After the first wash the top, wadding and backing separate, and the quilt ends up resembling an old beanbag.

Life requires some effort to keep everything together too. Good communication and some systems of order are necessary for all of the layers of life to work together and to add stability … otherwise chaos rules.

Finally, there is the binding that goes all the way around the edge.This is my favourite part—possibly because I know then that the quilt is nearly finished. I always hem the binding by hand and make every stitch with love.  Sometimes the binding on quilts becomes a little rough around the edges from wear, so we need to make the choice of putting the quilt away for safekeeping, or reinforcing it and using it again.

The third quilt I ever made had a huge mistake in it—huge to me, anyway. So it sat, unfinished, in a cupboard for fifteen years. One day I realised that all quilts, perfect or not, can keep somebody warm. I finished the quilt and gave it to a dear aunt as she was recovering from a stroke. For the next few years, for the rest of her life, she kept it on her bed as her prized possession. And not even I could see the mistake!

I learnt that we can hold on to our mistakes and allow them to clutter our lives. Or we can forgive ourselves, get on with doing what needs to be done and in the process become a blessing to others.

In the words (almost) of Forrest Gump: ‘Life is like a patchwork quilt. You never know what you’re going to get.’ But if it’s stitched together with love, even the rough patches and mistakes can keep you warm.

 

 

Originally published in The Lutheran2013, March edition.

Mother’s Day

On one particularly frightful worst-mother morning, I threw a particularly frightful tantrum because the family had seemingly forgotten my birthday. Though there had been some efforts to help me to celebrate—one out of the four of the kids had made me a home-made card, and my husband had gone shopping at 10-minutes-before-closing time the night before—I remember feeling particularly unimpressed by the lack of thought.

It seemed I was being taken for granted.

I also remember my performance – to my shame.

But on the following Mother’s Day, the family made up for the previous              un-celebration. I was smothered in flowers, gifts, cards and hugs, and the obligatory, celebratory ‘Stacks On!’ where all five of the other members of the family piled on top of me.

I was required to stay in bed where I received a cooked breakfast followed by coffee, the paper and a puzzle book. Bliss! Lunch was served eventually, complete with Oysters Kilpatrick and Prawns. I don’t remember the rest of the menu, but I do remember how I felt…like I was the most important mother in the world.

I wanted to write something wonderful and inspiring about mothers in preparation for Mother’s Day – a definitive article on mothers. But the story of my tantrum reminded me that I am probably the least qualified of all to write such an article.

So I looked for help.

I asked my friends what I should write about mothers, but they raised more questions than answers:

How do we define ‘mother’? Who is a mother? Is ‘mother’ a job description? Are all mothers female? Why are mothers from different generations so tough on each other? Does becoming a mother make one weaker or stronger?

I wanted to make it a light-hearted article so people might want to read it, but realised I needed to be sensitive to the grief that surrounds motherhood.

I wanted to remind people not to take their mothers for granted, but remembered that many who will read this have lost their mother.

I wanted to remember those who have yearned to be a mother but will never hold their child in their arms. And those mothers who have said their final good-bye to their children.

The harder I tried, the more I was reminded that motherhood cannot be restricted to a thousand words.

I looked to the bible for what it said about mothers. Though there are plenty of examples of godly mothers, there are no specific instructions.

Mothers such as Hannah and Moses’s mother are upheld as examples of women who nurtured future leaders in their homes. The bible gives specific instructions to fathers, but talks only of the mother’s role as nurturer and carer, and that she needs to be respected, honoured and protected in that role.

 

Mothers have a tough gig. Always have had, always will have, I suppose. Perhaps that is the pain to which God was referring when Eve sinned – not the pain of child-birth which everyone is terrified of but soon passes from memory. But the pain that Simeon prophesied to Mary: ‘the sword that will pierce your soul’  (Luke 2:35); the solitude of becoming a mother – giving everything she has, to bring her child into life; having to stand up for what she believes is the best thing for her child, despite the pressures of outside observers and her own heart breaking.

 

I read a book in which an author called his mother ‘a quitter’. She was an accomplished pianist, he said, but she had a whole house full of unfinished projects. I wondered how he became ‘successful’. His mother’s work was obviously invisible to him. If he had looked at her through eyes of love instead of criticism, he would have understood that a mother’s life happens in seasons rather than schedules. He would have seen her as ‘the one who dropped whatever she was doing for herself, for the good of those she loved’.

 

A few weeks ago, I was wandering in our local shopping mall and saw a family struggle.

‘What are you looking at?’ the mother snarled at me.  I concentrated on the blank, non-judgmental look on my face.  Two of her three children were screaming: one because she’d been hit by her big brother, the other because his mother had hit him.

One day I’m going to get in big trouble for doing this, I thought as I made the decision to walk toward this screaming family, instead of away from them. She watched me come close to her and we both stared at each other in an uncomfortable space.

God. Words, please? I prayed.

At last, I broke the silence between us.

‘This mother-thing is tricky isn’t it?’

That’s all I said. But a dam full of what she had been holding inside just burst out in a tidal wave of words. She told me about what had been happening in her home: why the kids had been fighting, why they were crying now, how she felt about it, that she didn’t know what she was going to do about it, could I hold something while she picked up the stuff that she’d dropped, how life was so tough at the moment, how she loved her kids but was struggling especially with her son’s behaviour…

While she talked and I listened, she packed up all the bags around her, organised herself, placed the older kids either side of the stroller and began to push. We walked together for 100 metres until she stopped.

She looked at me and she smiled.

‘It’s just a stage. It’ll pass. Thanks.’ she said and we headed off in different directions.

I smiled back, knowing that though I could not walk in her feet, for a few short moments I had walked beside her.

 

 

 

Originally published in The Lutheran magazine, 2014, May edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: How to manage conflicts in different parenting styles

How do you resolve conflicts in different parenting styles between yourself and your partner? e.g. where one parent is stricter than the other

According to The Gottman Institute, in every successful relationship most (69%) of the conflicts are unresolvable*.

Some of those conflicts might be about inconsequential things, such as our favourite flavour of ice-cream. But many of the unresolvable issues are more important than our taste buds. Knowing they’re unresolvable helps us to manage them, rather than waste our time and energy arguing about them.

What about our attitude and parenting style in bringing up the kids?

I’m an ex-nurse and used to bandage the wounds of other people’s adventurous kids who ended up in the Children’s Hospital Emergency Department. So my heart sinks to the pit of my stomach when I see a child anywhere near where they might possibly fall. I am a scaredy-cat.  I would happily ban trampolines and all kinds of other adventures – but there wouldn’t be much fun left.

DH (dear husband) grew up climbing trees, rambling over rocks and yabbying in dams and creeks. He has several scars which show that many wounds heal by themselves, eventually.
He encourages climbing – with the theory that if you let them climb, as long as they know how to climb down, they’re safer if you leave them to it than if you make a fuss.
Our way around that was for me to stay well away from the adventurous parts of playgrounds – so the children couldn’t sense my fear. Chris would be in charge of the kids in playgrounds. And I left him to it. It meant that my kids learnt to climb, and jump, and do normal kid things without my unfounded fear.And the kids knew that if he ever said ‘That’s enough!’ their lives were in mortal danger.

That’s pretty much how we still handle situations on which we disagree .

We go on the side of the person with the most factual knowledge or experience about a situation:
Anything requiring medical or nursing care, he leaves to me.
Anything microbial i.e. what’s safe to eat that we find in the back of the fridge, we leave to him.
Anything we’re not sure about, we still err on the side of caution – unless it looks like fun and we feel that it can’t do too much damage.

Interestingly, the issues we used to find most difficult, we can’t even remember now.

Perhaps our ways aren’t what every couple would choose. But that’s the beauty of families. We’re all different.

When it came to our natural parenting styles, we’re opposite. But we discovered the Parent-Coach style, through ‘Toolbox Parenting Groups’ from The Parenting Place. Both of us could work together on that, with the same goal in mind.

Doing whichever courses came our way, about relationships and parenting, we learnt new tactics and decided together which ones we didn’t think would work for us, and happily tried ones that sounded hopeful.

We made time with each other a priority. When the children were small, we hired a student once a week to mind the kids while we went on a date. Later, when the kids were at school, we had a regular Wednesday morning ‘date’ at a coffee shop next to the bus stop.

Making time for each other helped us to understand how we were travelling, and what made us react and respond to our kids and each other in different circumstances. We could talk things over when not in crisis mode, and often made decisions about the kids in semi-relaxed circumstances. It really helped us with our communication during crisis moments that inevitably have happened.

And our parenting decisions are guided by our family values. More about that in the article about family values – but, in summary, when we have worked out together what are the most important values to our family, all sorts of decisions are much easier to make.

*(John Gottman & Julie Schwartz Gottman, 2014 Bridging the Couple Chasm: Gottman Couples Therapy: A Research-Based Approach)

The Parent-Coach Approach

As a young mum, I loved to help the kids to explore and make discoveries. Freedom and creativity were abundant in our house. Being the lovely mother that I was, I tended to become child number four and join in making a big mess. We would all have a wonderful time.

The Parenting Place from New Zealand* would classify my natural parenting style as a ‘Jellyfishicus’ parent—somebody who is warm, friendly and loving to their kids, but who, for whatever reason, does not use any form of control, does not set boundaries or make any rules.

But if the kids fought, or the noise got too much, or the mess became hugely overwhelming, my niceness wore off. My attempts to take control relied upon very public, personal explosions.

It sounded very much like: ‘Don’t leave this big mess to me. You made it with me. If you don’t clean up, you’ll have to go without dinner.’

Unfortunately, lovely Jellyfishicus parents tend to become overwhelmed when they have lost all sense of control. Then they turn into a different type of parent—the ‘Sergeant-majorcus’ parent. Sergeant-majorcus parents like to be ‘in control’ all of the time. They like order and yelling out orders. All family duties are carried out in a military style. There’s lots of control—lots of rules, but little, if any, warmth.

What would happen after I’d started shouting was that the kids would end up cowering in the corner—if they hadn’t already been sent to their rooms. Nothing would get done, and inevitably I would wind up with a headache.

There is another style of parent that would emerge after the headache appeared: the ‘Parentus Absentus’ variety. Though I was there, I wasn’t really there. The kids were safe, largely supervised by the big sister, and I was conscious enough to help out in the case of fire or blood. But anything not constituting an emergency was pretty much ignored.

Thank God for older, wiser parents and teachers who showed this mother other ways. They taught me a parenting style that works most of the time and that anybody can learn to apply, no matter what their natural personality might be. It is the ‘Parent-Coach’ style.

Most of us can think of great coaches that we’ve encountered during our lives. They may have been sporting coaches whom we were privileged to train with, or coaches (such as NRL or AFL coaches) whom we admired from the sidelines. They may have been teachers, choir or orchestra conductors. Or they may be mentors who walked alongside us.

Great coaches show respect to their players and in return earn the respect of the players. Great coaches apply a balance of warmth and control, encouragement, discipline and independence. Great coaches know each of their players, with their strengths and weaknesses, and work with them. They work on inbuilt strengths to compensate for weaknesses, and teach skills step by step where natural ability is lacking. Great coaches teach skills in bite-sized chunks, giving opportunity for the players to practise, and gradually incorporate new skills into the game-plan.

Great coaches teach the rules of the game, showing where the boundaries are—and what the goals are. They inspire by getting a team to have a common goal, to recognise what needs to happen for the team to get there, and then walking alongside each member of the team, so that each individual recognises their own important role in achieving success for the team.

When my children grew, I was able to share the Parent-Coach principle with other parents.  Parents can usually identify to which of the parenting styles they are naturally inclined. Some also recognise that different circumstances, and even different children, can bring out differing styles within each parent. When parents discover the Parent-Coach principle, they soon recognise that this is an achievable goal for them, regardless of their natural style.

In The Parenting Place’s ‘Toolbox’ course, parents are given practical and positive ways to implement Parent-Coach ‘tools’. Usually just ‘tweaking’ some of the things they do already makes a big difference, but sometimes, trying a completely new concept is beneficial to their family.

For example, many parents use timers in their homes for particular roles, such as cooking. I used to use it for ‘Time-Out’ for the children’s bad behaviour. These days I recommend using a timer for more positive things.

I recommend a timer for children who don’t have a sense of urgency in such things as getting ready for school. It helps for parents to first observe what is taking so long and break it down into do-able chunks for the child. Then use the timer for the chunk that seems to take longest for no particular reason.

Or use it when a child asks for your undivided attention, but you have ten minutes of work to finish before you can take a break. ‘Here. When this timer rings, I will be finished doing this work. Then we can play together. Okay?’

One family’s dawdling child made the family late for school every morning. When applying the Parent-Coach principle, the parents recognised that this child loved Mum to stay at school to help with reading each morning. So Mum and Dad began to set the timer for the amount of time their daughter needed to get dressed. If their daughter was dressed before the timer went off, Mum had time to stay for reading. If dressing took too long, Mum would have to use the ‘Kiss-and-drop’ lane at the school instead. The child was in control of her own destiny. Within a week, the family was no longer late for school, and Mum was able to stay for reading every day.

The greatest coaches love their players! That’s the element where we as parents have an advantage over most coaches.

As parents we have more reason to love our children—a lifetime investment. Being a Parent-Coach style of parent is do-able and makes the journey much, much more enjoyable.

*For great parenting advice, and to find a Toolbox parenting group in your area, see www.theparentingplace.com

 

Thanks to the mums from MOPS for their questions

Thanks for inviting me to be on a panel of mums, for mums, at MOPS Elizabeth.

It was a privilege to share my answers to the following questions, which I’ll post as I translate them from note form to readable form over the next few weeks.

  1. How do you resolve conflicts in different parenting styles between yourself and your husband/partner? eg where one partner is stricter than the other
  2. Now that you’re an experienced Mum, if you could tell yourself one piece of advice to really listen to when you became a new mum, what would it be?
  3. How do you balance your time between being a wife/partner and a mother so that no-one feels they miss out? What about when you have more than one child?
  4. If you could have one family rule or value, what would it be?
  5. What are your strategies for raising toddlers? e.g. dealing with whinging?

 

 

 

Year 12 Survival Hints for Families

It was past 10.30 pm in the middle of the week. Our daughter was in Term 3 of Year 12. She probably should have been sleeping, but there was a meltdown.

The cause? An essay that needed to be handed in the next day, and an empty page in front of her.  

How many marks do you need to pass?’ I asked her.

‘Well, this is the third part of a three-part assignment. I finished the others weeks ago.’

When we averaged out how much she had already received for the other two sections, we worked out that in order to pass this assignment, she needed to achieve only about 20 per cent: two out of ten.

‘It seems to me that if you put your name and about three sentences on this assignment, you could achieve 2 out of 10. So, anything more than that is a bonus. Do you think you could do that?’

She looked at me, stunned. ‘Are you serious? Would that really be okay with you?’

‘Would that be okay with you is the more important question. If getting fantastic marks is keeping you from finishing, perhaps you need to relax a little and just do it. I reckon you can get 20 per cent. I’m going to bed. Goodnight.’

I went off to bed, but not before I’d received a big hug and saw her contentedly sitting on her bed, typing away on my laptop. Next morning she told me that she had finished in about 40 minutes. And several weeks later, she said, ‘I got my essay back, Mum. I got 86 per cent.’

Somebody has said, ‘When a child does Year 12, the whole family does Year 12.’ We agree!

We’ve now survived four of our kids doing Year 12. Anybody else who’s had a Year 12 in their house probably understands what I mean by ‘survived’. We thought that third time round it should be a breeze. We were wrong. Thankfully, by the fourth child, we’d relaxed somewhat. 

Unfortunately, it’s really easy to get caught up in the storm when our kids are struggling with deadlines and the pressure of Year 12. But what can we do to keep the whole family sane?

Here are some things we’ve learnt.

Try to keep Year 12 in perspective.

Year 12 is one year out of a life-expectancy of 80-plus years. Yes, a great score enables our kids to get into their first choice of university courses. But there are all sorts of detours that they can take to eventually achieve the same goal.

What makes people ultimately employable is not their Year 12 score.  Developing people skills, playing in a sports team or participating in a group, as well as working on stickability, perseverance, creativity and using initiative are attributes every person can achieve, regardless of academic ability.

Keep our own lives balanced.

Only then can we help our teens balance their lives. Help them to see the value of maintaining a balance between the mental, physical, spiritual and social aspects of our lives.

Get to know the teachers at the beginning of the year

and keep in touch with them. Teachers work better with parents who encourage and are interested, and want to work with them.

Let the teachers know your tricks for motivating your child. For example, kids often respond better if you speak their love language: Are words of encouragement their best aid to learning? Do they prefer spending quality time with others in order to get their work done or might they benefit by time alone in the library? Does physical touch such as big bear hugs or rigorous activity help them? Do they learn through doing things for others or really appreciate others doing things for them? Do they respond to rewards and gifts as simple as stickers? (Don’t ask me how I know this!)

Use incentives

Make handing in assignments and essays worthwhile in the student’s eyes—for example: ‘Once you’ve finished that assignment, why don’t we go to that movie you wanted to see’.

Give them the opportunity to see where a good score might take them. Encourage them to speak to other adults in different occupations and explore opportunities for work experience.  University open days can also be inspirational for students who are struggling to see the point of studying. They demonstrate careers that our kids (and we) may never have dreamed of.

Let your young person know you’re interested.

Know their schedule. Get them to post their weekly school schedules and assignment due-dates on a family calendar, or print out a copy of their diary – so that you don’t plan a camping trip the day before an assignment is due. (Don’t ask me how I know this one, either).

Remember that you are the adult

You might need to monitor their time management. Plan rest days or weekends in which nothing is happening. Practise a weekly ‘Sabbath’ with them – that means to consciously have a day of rest – with no homework and a complete break from school-life.

Encourage part-time jobs, but not too much!

Part-time jobs help them to see the bigger picture, learn responsibility and accountability. The teachers at our local school have learnt that those who do well work part-time jobs six hours a week or less.

Be on the same page.

If your child wants to achieve, watch for ways to help.

If your child is hoping just to finish, encourage them to hand in all their assignments.

If your child has no intention of studying, it’s no use nagging—although it may help to give them a reality check if you encourage them to get a job and let them manage their own finances. That way they can find out how tough it is to pay for things on a low wage.

Some things you might try: Keep them supplied with healthy snacks and a walking partner. Sit with them while they study and help underline passages, or copy out charts that they need to learn by rote and post them all over the house (especially in the loo). Be a sounding-board – but remember that any expression of frustration is not a personal attack.

In our home, Year 12’s were exempt from doing the dishes. That was a small way that the rest of the family could let the Year 12 know that we supported them.

Be aware of different learning styles.

Recognise your student’s need for suitable study conditions. Some people need bright light and open areas in order to study, while others need dim light. Some need to have noise around them. One of our children found it useful to go babysitting for friends so that she could study there undisturbed. Mozart has been known to enhance concentration. Other music could be left for relaxation time.

 

Life may be tough during Year 12. The less pressure we apply and the more available we are as parents, the better it will be for the students in our lives. By encouraging our students to keep at it, balancing school life with a healthy lifestyle and maintaining friendships, and not too much computer/screen time, we can create positive memories of Year 12—hopefully for the whole family.

 

Originally published as ‘Year 12 Survival Guide for Parents’ in The Lutheran, 2012 August edition. http://www.thelutheran.com.au