"If you want your children to be happy and joyful when they grow up, you need to lead by example."
Kids Don't Come With A Manual
This month I'm reading a guide to family life called 'Kids Don't Come With A Manual: The Essential Guide to a Happy Family Life'' by Carole and Nadim Saad (published by Best of Parenting Publishing).
Carole and Nadim are a husband and wife team who have written this book after their experience in early childhood education, as parent coaches and as parents themselves. It has been my reading challenge book for April and I've throughly enjoyed it and learnt so much.
The book contains a programme of practical 'tools' designed to empower parents to:
-Deal with everyday parenting challenges without confrontation or anger
-Help children to become happy, fulfilled and self-reliant adults
-Maintain a strong and loving connection with children throughout their lives
-Agree on a balanced and more enjoyable approach to parenting
Bold statements, I hear you cry, but having read the book from cover to cover, I can safely say I feel hugely empowered and have learnt far more than I ever imagined I could from it. The book is set out so that you don't need to sit down and read it from cover to cover in order to find it useful - the clearly marked chapters mean you can dip in and out of it, using it as a point of reference when you're trying to deal with a new 'mis'behaviour, or parenting challenge.
What I've liked most about reading this book is that it has made me stop, pause and really think about the type of parent I want to be. The book has made me consider the way I was parented and what parts of my own upbringing I want to emulate or not repeat with my own children. Life is so busy...we race around at the speed of light, often never giving ourselves the time to pause and think about where we are going, and what we ultimately want to achieve. By reading this book I have inadvertently addressed all of these issues, and have come out the other side much clearer about what my role as 'Mum' really means to me. I like to think of myself as a mindful and reflective person, I see myself as a work in progress, and enjoy self-improvement and development: usually this self-improvement is aimed at me as 'the friend', or 'the wife', or about physical improvement (health, weight loss etc), as a still relatively new parent, it hadn't occurred to me that my role as 'Bert's Mum' needs to be nourished and developed as well.
As I read the book I identified how harsh and overly-critical of myself I can be: I give myself a hard time over the most stupid of things, and as I turned the pages I found that it helped me deal with some of my more negative feelings towards myself as a parent, as I realised that every parent loses their temper and makes mistakes. We are but human after all.
Me and My Bertster! (May 2015)
On the whole being Bert's mum is the best and most rewarding 'job' I've ever had - I feel lucky to be a mum, I feel important and needed and necessary, I feel so loved by him, and my connection with my husband is stronger, and happier than I could have ever imagined since becoming parents. I'm hugely lucky that our parenting methods and our views on how to parent effectively are very similar - we don't clash or disagree when it comes to discipline, and our priorities seem to match across the board. This makes life much easier when it comes to dealing with 'mis' behaviours and those challenging moments with Bert. Some people aren't so fortunate, and they might find themselves in a position where theirs and their partner's parenting style may be completely different - the book deals with this in detail and provides great advice to encourage parents to reach a mutual compromise, a parenting common ground.
Bert is now 20 months, approaching those 'terrible twos' at speed, and every day he is becoming cleverer and more strong-willed. This makes for a hilarious little character - with bags of personality who is a joy to be around - it also makes for some challenging moments when we as his parents have to try reeeeeally hard to keep our cool!
My happy, smiley boy doesn't always keep his cool! Ha!
When reading this book I read it not only thinking about life now as a parent, but also with all of the future parenting challenges ahead of us in mind - at whatever stage of being a parent you're at - whether you've got toddlers or teens, this book will be useful. The advice is simple, clear cut, practical and doesn't advocate or push a particular 'school of thought' - the advice is common-sensical, and more often that not comes down to pausing, taking a breath, and seeing things in perspective before you react to your children's 'mis' behaviour.
TOP TIPS FROM 'KIDS DON'T COME WITH A MANUAL'
Here some top tips that I've taken away from the book, written in my own words:
-Parenting is about teamwork. To be successful parents you need to be singing from the same hymn sheet - you may have differing opinions/approaches/priorities, but you MUST come to a compromise and agree a balance between your differing approaches. You need not be 'good cop' and 'bad cop' but should share the responsibility of parenting across the board.
-BE CONSISTENT. Empty threats are one of the biggest parenting faux pas you can make - children need and understand consistency, they learn from it, and they will respect you more if you show consistency with how you parent - they learn how to make sense of the world from you, their parents, if you are all over the place, then so might they be.
-Give LIMITED CHOICES to your children to ensure they feel in control and have a sense of autonomy. All options you give them should be suitable for you, but they won't focus on that, they'll just be glad to be making a choice, and having some control. For example, you might ask your child "Would you like to go to bed now, or in five minutes?' more often that not they will say 'five minutes' and be so glad of that 'extra time'. Genius!
-Instead of becoming a negative and naggy parent who constantly barks 'no!' you should try positive redirection. This is where you replace 'no' with 'yes', but ultimately drive the conflict to the same outcome. For example - your child might ask you for some sweets at 5pm, your standard reaction would be 'No! You know you don't eat sweets before dinner!" - instead you could reply "Yes! Of course you can have some sweets, but after you've eaten your dinner." This positive redirection usually works a charm, and will ultimately lead to a happier, more positive and harmonious household.
-Use 'I' Statements for more respectful communication between parent and child. For example instead of saying 'Finish your dinner otherwise I won't give you pudding!' you could say 'I give dessert to children who have finished their dinner'. This positive communication will make life so much more enjoyable day to day and will teach your children vital life lessons in a non-threatening, positive way. You might be really cross with your child for speaking disrespectfully to you - you may shout and get terribly cross, but by using an 'I' statement you could teach them how to communicate respectfully even at times of stress and anger, and how, ultimately they will be happier people for it - e.g. 'I listen to people who speak respectfully to me'. Note the use of 'people' instead of 'children' - vital in teaching children that adults need to be respectful in the way they treat people just as much as children do.
-Have quality one-on-one time with your children. Re-connect with them, have fun, play, laugh, be silly - take a step back and remember to ENJOY PARENTING. Life can so quickly get bogged down into a series of things we 'have to do' - school runs, work, meal prep, washing, after school clubs etc - before you know it another week has passed and you might not have managed to take a breath. By making time for quality one on one time with your child, playing with them, listening to them, being truly silly with them, it will force you to slow down and enjoy the ride. Make memories you'll cherish forever - you will never lie on your death bed saying 'I wish I had worked more and played with my children less'.
-I especially loved the Saad's suggestion of holding an impromptu 'family disco' - just imagine your children's reaction should you get the whole family together, put on flashing coloured lights (fairy lights), make the room dark, push back the furniture, pop on your favourite CD, and dance like no one is watching! Magic!
There is TONS more practical advice in the book, and I could go on for hours recounting the tips I'll be using in The Bishop household now and in the future. What I've shared above should whet your appetite and give you a good idea as to whether this book is for you or not!
'Kids Don't Come With A Manual' is available to buy on Amazon for £8.49 (paperback) £6.99 (Kindle Edition).
Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of the book for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions are my own.
*WIN* Your own copy of 'Kids Don't Come With a Manual'
The lovely people at Best of Parenting Publishing have kindly given me another copy of 'Kids Don't Come With A Manual' to giveaway - so if you'd like to be in with a chance of winning, then just use the gleam app below.
Good Luck everyone & happy parenting!
WIN a copy of 'Kid's Don't Come With A Manual' by Carole & Nadim Saad