Behaviour, Powerful Parents, Proactive Parenting, Stay Present

SIBLING RIVALRY AND THE ART OF INTERVENTION

So, you survived another half term holiday, but secretly are jumping for joy that your little people are back to school or childcare right?

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You’re not alone.

Spending Us time with our children is precious but often it can feel more of a challenge for most of us.

If your child’s behaviour can be difficult, spending Us Time together may not be something you relish doing.

You may or may not be surprised to know that many parents have admitted openly to me that, they actively look for distractions away from their children. And lots of parents feel a sense of relief when they drop their children to childcare or school and go to work.

This is not because they don’t love their children, quite the opposite, they really do love their children, they just don’t understand their behaviour or how to manage it, making time together more like hard work than fun, and they don’t want to upset their children or themselves any more than necessary.

At least at work we get a lunch break!

 If that sounds familiar, then you may be interested in reading my book The Powerful Proactive Parent’s Guide to Present Parenting because when we can understand our children’s behaviour better and they can understand us, Us Time becomes a more pleasurable experience.

Children need and want our attention, and they don’t mind how they get it.

That means if they don’t feel they’re getting enough of it naturally, they will force us to pay attention to them, usually by misbehaving.

When we have more than one child this spreading of our time and attention can be difficult, we’ll look at this in a minute when we address individual Us Time for each child, but first let’s uncover the art of intervention.

THE ART OF INTERVENTION

Knowing when to intervene in our children’s behaviour and when not to is a fine art to master. It takes a lot of thought, patience, and practice. We have to stop ourselves from flying off the handle at every incident and decide if it’s really such a big issue.

Does our children’s behaviour warrant a reaction from us that is likely to upset not only our children, but ourselves too? 

If it’s not that important, then we have to learn how to let it go. Nine times out of ten, none of its really that serious anyway.  This is not an excuse to get out of correcting our children’s unacceptable behaviour though—they have to abide by the rules in order to keep themselves safe and healthy.

IF IT’S NOT YOUR BATTLE THEN DON’T

FIGHT 

It’s knowing the difference between those times when we need to correct them and knowing when they have to learn how to correct themselves. For example, when they are squabbling with friends or siblings, it’s not always necessary or helpful for us to jump right in and intervene.

It’s important to step back and let them get on with it at times and let them argue amongst themselves and learn how to resolve their own issues. This is the only way they’ll learn how to get on with other people and how to resolve conflicts in a safe, nurturing environment. 

When our children hurt the ones they love, it teaches them when they have overstepped the mark. It offers them the opportunity to apologise and make up, or forgive the other person too if they feel they were justified. Silly little squabbles can be resolved between children without adult interference, so if it’s not our battle, then we don’t need to fight.

We have to find ways to proactively involve our children in the process of managing their emotions.  By making our children part of the solution today, we equip them to understand and manage themselves in the future. This potentially removes unwanted behaviour in the future.

Our children can be part of the problem or solution. We are not going to eradicate tantrums and unwanted behaviour, but how we approach it and involve our children in resolving it, is what makes all the difference.

TOMMY VS JOHNNY

Let’s say toddler Tommy has hit baby Johnny on purpose because baby Johnny was holding Tommy’s favourite Teddy and wouldn’t let it go. Auto pilot Mummy may smack or shout at Tommy and say ‘You’re the big Brother, you should know better.’ But obviously, Tommy didn’t!

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Now, Auto pilot Mummy has reinforced hitting or shouting to resolve conflict.

But Tommy still hasn’t been taught how to share. That was the lesson there that auto pilot Mummy completely missed. She could’ve taught and coached Tommy by explaining that Johnny was a baby, who, like Tommy, doesn’t understand the concept of sharing and that certain toys belong to certain people.

All Tommy knew and was interested in was it was his favourite Teddy not his little brothers, and he wanted it back!

Johnny didn’t want to give it back though, so Tommy would do anything in his power to reclaim his beloved possession. And he did, he hit out. Proactive Mummy would have first made a fuss of baby Johnny who was hurt, not a fuss of toddler Tommy.

PROACTIVE PARENTING

Cue proactive Mummy’s chance to explain and teach Tommy, once baby Johnny had calmed down and was okay.

It’s frightening for a toddler to see how he can actually hurt someone he really loves, and at first glance, to auto pilot Mummy, Tommy’s reaction looks deliberate, as if he wanted to hurt his baby brother. But despite what morally he thought was right, it was his teddy after all, it wasn’t intentional, he hasn’t developed morals, this is something he’ll learn from his parents and being in these uncomfortable situations. The truth of the matter is, he simply couldn’t control his emotions.

Instead of ostracizing Tommy and sending him to the naughty step or giving him a label such as naughty or bad boy, proactive Mummy needs to involve him and show him that she loves him, but his behaviour was not appropriate.

It’s proactive Mummy’s moral duty to make it clear that Tommy must never put his  hands on anyone and to empathize that she  understands he was hurt that Johnny had his favourite teddy, and she knows why he reacted the way he did, but hurting someone else because he feels hurt doesn’t resolve things, it makes it worse. Giving him examples helps him to make connections with how his actions make others feel, for example, explaining to Tommy that what he had done was not acceptable and that baby Johnny now feels hurt like that time when_______, then filling in a blank with a time when Tommy was hurt and upset.

This invokes empathy. He may cry as he realises what he has done was wrong. He’s learnt a powerful emotional lesson here. This is proactive Mummy’s cue to offer a little reassurance, such as a kiss or a hug.

ALL EMOTIONS ARE OKAY

This way, she demonstrates that’s it’s okay to get angry and have these emotions, they are not bad, they are trying to teach us something, and that she accepts that he was angry and that happens sometimes, but there are other ways to release that anger. So next time he feels that way, he can come and talk about his feelings. This helps open up a channel of future communication.

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On the other hand, he may still not see that what he has done was wrong, so, as proactive parents, we have to be on the lookout for any repeat behaviour again so we can reinforce that lesson until he gets it. 

We also need to encourage him to make it up with his baby brother, maybe kiss baby Johnny better to show his affection and forgiveness, which is important. Having a family group hug makes Tommy feel forgiven and included again and Johnny feel better too, and as a parent, peace and love feels restored.

Coaching behaviour shows unconditional love, a naughty step shows our love comes with conditions.

Anything other than unconditional love will feel like hard work because it usually relies on our children meeting our expectations, which is always going to be difficult.

MAKE DAILY INDIVIDUAL US TIME FOR EACH CHILD

It’s great to spend family ‘Us Time’ together, but trying to please more than one child at the same time can be difficult. Each will have different interests from the other, and will likely try to compete for individual attention, but being blessed with more than one child can make finding time for each one challenging.

Although generously giving of our time can become a stretch, each child will benefit from the attention of one on one time, making them feel special and important.

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That’s why it’s important to factor in ‘US Time’ for each individual child by asking each one to write a list of the things they would like to do during US Time.

One child may be a football fanatic but if your other child isn’t, then taking them to football matches isn’t going to be the time they will enjoy. Of course, there will be times when they will have to tag along, but this isn’t what we class as ‘Us Time’.

Family Us Time is still important, and finding things we all like to do is a lot easier when we have a list to look at and see where everyone’s preferences lie so we can plan to do those things together, alongside individual Us Time.

If you would like an issue covered in next month’s blog posts, please email me the issue to emma@happychildcare.club

Until next time, Stay Proactive, Stay Present & Stay Powerful

Em x

Thanks for featured image Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Behaviour, BELIEFS, Esteem, MEMORIES, Proactive Parenting

STUPID STICKY LABELS

What negative beliefs to you believe about yourself?

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Self-limiting beliefs stack up, and children are constantly adding to them over the course of their lives as they discover more and more things they can’t do.

If not overcome, self-limiting beliefs can become the enemy to success and happiness. Especially potent are those beliefs created by authority figures such as from parents and teachers.

If a child is told that they ‘Will never be any good at_____’ fill in the blank with a subject, these negative comments stick in their subconscious mind. They then believe them to be true, even if years later they have proved them to be wrong. Often, they will look for ways to prove those authority figures right, albeit subconsciously. Then, when their negative self-beliefs and attitude inevitably causes them to fail, they’ll think ‘Well, the teacher did say I would never be any good at it, and look—they were right!’

We need to challenge our children’s self-limiting beliefs and find out where they came from and whether or not the source was correct or reliable? 

Seeking to prove them wrong, rather than right, and reinforcing the things that our children are good at and can do. There will always be things they find challenging, but they shouldn’t avoid them or believe they are unachievable, nothing is impossible with the right support and encouragement.

OUT OF DATE INFO

Children under seven are very impressionable, they particularly take in things that upset them or stand out as most significant, especially traumatic events. They then sort and store these experiences in their subconscious mind for future reference, which then becomes available to assist them in the future.

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This is helpful if the information is right or is intended to keep them safe in some way, but sometimes it can be wrong, misguided, and outdated. Information received while young is based on a young child’s perspective and may not be appropriate to them as they get older. Even when they have grown up and outgrown it, they may still be acting, thinking, or feeling based on those past experiences.

‘Self-limiting beliefs stack up, and children are constantly adding to them over the course of their lives as they discover more and more things they can’t do.’

This causes them to create fears and restrictions on themselves, and if others impose limiting expectations upon them, they add to a child’s own self-limiting beliefs, especially if they believe them or they remember situations or comments that reinforce them.

Fortunately, with the right encouragement, support, and belief, children can combat and overcome these self-limiting beliefs.

Children believe others over themselves most of the time, so, if they have fallen off a bike many times, their mind will tell them ‘You can’t ride a bike.’

But if we can convince them that they can. With some patience, persistence, and practice, they’ll believe us and start practicing until they eventually learn how to ride that bike. Because we have said and believe they can, they start to believe it themselves.

As Proactive Parents, we need to show them that their limiting beliefs are inaccurate and find evidence to support why they can do something that they believe they can’t.

If they say they are no good at sport, we can remind them of an occasion when they were, such as when they came first in the egg and spoon race. Our job is to question their beliefs and point out how vague they are being, by asking them in a confused tone;

‘Sport? … What sport in particular are you no good at?

 And; ‘What do you mean by no good exactly?’ This will make them think less generally.

If they reply; ‘I mean I’m no good at rugby.’

We could say; ‘Well that’s not all sport, that’s just one activity, but why do you think you are no good at rugby anyway?’

They might reply with; ‘I didn’t score a try last week.’

We could then ask; ‘Did everyone else score one?’

They may respond; ‘No only two people scored a try.’

We could continue; ‘So are none of the others any good at rugby also?’

To which they would have to honestly reply; ‘No some are good.’

STICKY LABELS

Regardless of talent, ability, qualifications, experience, money, or even if they follow ‘The Seven Steps to Success’ which we will reveal in later blog posts, none will make a difference without our children having Self-belief.

If they don’t believe that they can do something, then they won’t be able to do it, even if we are really encouraging and believe in them. Their self-belief influences everything, including their performance throughout school and academic potential.

These self-beliefs often lead to success in areas they feel confident and believe they can do well in, but in those they don’t, they’ll likely avoid or not do so well in.

There will be a variety of subjects in school, some they will not always enjoy, but they will be more likely to persist if they believe they can achieve good results in them, and we can help them build their self-belief by;

  • Believing in their capabilities — If we do, then they will.
  • Giving them responsibilities — Showing them that we believe and trust in them when it comes to important matters and giving them responsibilities makes them more responsible.
  • Helping them — If they are struggling in any subject at school, or any other area of their lives for that matter, mentally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally, we can help them overcome these obstacles and succeed by getting them the help, support, and resources they lack or need.
  • Encouraging them to be proactive — Taking action will give them the confidence to believe that they can achieve anything, even if they fail. It’s the fear of not being able to do a thing that stops them from believing they can. They have to gain confidence through achievement, and self-belief through doing and proving to themselves they can.
  • Complimenting them — Pointing out their efforts as much as their achievements and being specific. A general ‘Well done’ is not enough, we need to elaborate. Well done for what exactly? To replicate their success, they need to know exactly what it was they did so well in order for them to apply that to something else in the future.
  • Not over doing it — If we are too general or praise them when it’s not due, then they will not believe our praise to be genuine. Our children’s self-belief comes from the support and encouragement of others, including ourselves, but words of encouragement or trying to boost their ego with praise alone, will not work. They have to believe and feel good about themselves for genuine reasons. No matter how many times we tell them they are the best at something if they know they aren’t, they won’t be fooled. And the more they perceive us to be lying about what they think they can do, the less likely they will be to accept our genuine praise or compliments.

No matter how much praise we give or belief we have in our children, it’s what they believe and achieve, and whether it’s important to them or not, that counts, which is down to their own self-image. We’ll look at self-image in later blog posts too but over the last two weeks I’ve noticed the emails I’ve received from parents have revolved around sibling rivalry and arguments, especially during half term school holidays, so next week we’ll address The Art of Intervention.

If you would like an issue covered in next month’s blog posts, please email me the issue to emma@happychildcare.club

Until next time, Stay Present,

Em x

Thanks for featured image Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Behaviour, Esteem, Proactive Parenting, The U URSELF Routine

THE SELFISH CHILD

As Proactive Parents, we are preparing our children physically, emotionally, and socially for life in the real world without us. This doesn’t just mean when they grow up and leave home, it means when they have to go anywhere or do anything without us, such as starting school and childcare.

The foundations we build to support them now, such as having routines and fostering self-confidence and self-belief within them will be essential. 

Our children are our prize possession, so we have to make them feel like the prize. Their self-esteem will be determined by the respect, admiration, and appreciation they receive.

That’s why we are ultimately aiming for a Selfish child!

This word is not to be misunderstood or taken in a negative, egocentric context though. Here, when referring to making our children more selfish, we mean we are helping them to build more of the five self’s below;

SELF-BELIEF – What our children believe they can do, achieve, or be.

SELF IMAGE – How our children view themselves, for example; how they see their intelligence or physical attractiveness.

SELF RESPECT – How well our children look after and treat themselves generally, including diet and exercise.

SELF CONFIDENCE – How our children act or assert themselves and how sure they are in their own ability.

SELF ESTEEM – How our children regard and acknowledge their good qualities and think and feel about themselves in general. Including how much they like themselves or believe that they are a good person, deserving of all the good that life has to offer or not. And how close their ‘real self’ is in alignment with their ‘ideal self’. That is—how they feel they measure up against the version of themselves they think they should or the way they want to be.

These five selves all impact upon one another, but not always. One child may have a good self-image and find themselves attractive, but may not have any confidence in their academic ability. Another may excel at sports but have low self-esteem in every other area of their life, it just depends on what they place value or importance on in their lives.

Children just want to fit in and feel like everyone else. If such a definition as ‘normal’ exists, then that’s how we want to help our children feel.

We can do this by validating at every opportunity that how our children feel is normal and okay, such as, it’s normal to get angry when someone snatches a toy off them. 

This can be difficult, as our first response to our children’s undesirable behaviour is to insist they act or feel a certain way that’s more acceptable. For example, if they get angry and shout or hit out at the injustice they think they’ve received from the other child who snatched a toy off them, our first reaction would be to tell them not to be angry and that ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ and usually we insist they say sorry to the other child they have upset, but we can often forget to validate that their feelings of anger were normal under those circumstances. Because they can’t articulate in words to the child who snatched the toy off them how they feel, they get frustrated and angry. Yet most if not all children would feel the same.

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The reason we don’t validate their anger is because we don’t like to see our children angry as it can be an unkind, ugly emotion at times, so we try to prevent or stop it, and this serves to make our children feel bad or wrong for feeling angry.

We can only go so far in helping our children though, they play the most important part themselves, so it’s time to step back and allow them to be themselves.

This should come naturally, yet with so much influence and input from others, over time, they can find being themselves is not so good. That’s when they try to change themselves to fit in or to become accepted by others. This can be damaging to their self-esteem and can affect their self-confidence in all areas of their lives, sometimes creating unhealthy habits.

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KNOW THYSELF

Our children knowing themselves is essential to their happiness, health, and success. But only they can learn who they really are and discover what they really like, without knowing this, they will be aiming at the wrong goals in life.

Socrates the philosopher once said ‘Know thyself’ but this can be perplexingly difficult for our children at times as they are constantly changing.

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We can support them in their uncertainty by helping them form a positive impression of themselves and life in general while they are young. This is important because they carry their beliefs about themselves as a child into adulthood, and those beliefs determine what they do and who they become in the future. Our children will become whoever they believe themselves to be. Yet a large contribution of beliefs and their self-image will be formed from other people’s perspectives.

Unfortunately, other people’s negative opinions about them can stick in their young, impressionable minds, even as adults. These create self- limiting beliefs’ which we will explore in the next blog, that can hold them back if not challenged.

If you would like an issue covered in next month’s blog posts, please email me the issue to emma@happychildcare.club

Until next time, Stay Present,

Em x

Behaviour, Esteem, Learning, Proactive Parenting, SLEEP, The U URSELF Routine

ENURESIS BEDWETTING

The word enuresis derives from the Greek word ‘to make water.’

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When children initially start potty/toilet training, we can’t expect them to be dry at night, overnight. Taking precautions to protect the bed such as using waterproof sheets and putting them in pullups to sleep in is a sensible option, along with expecting night-time wetting. While in a deep slumber, a child’s muscles relax, making them unable to notice they need a wee until they are wet.

Regressive behaviours like bedwetting don’t keep children awake though, sleeplessness is usually a symptom of laying in wet pyjamas or bedding. This can be a good motivator for not wetting the bed in the future, being wet, cold, and uncomfortable at night is not a nice feeling.

As long as we don’t get mad or upset with our child, this is how they will learn.

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PREPARE IN ADVANCE

We can help minimise the frustration to ourselves by changing sheets immediately, with minimum fuss, by always making their bed up twice, with two layers of waterproof sheets and normal sheets, just in case. This preparation means if they have an accident during the night, this limits the time and disruption of having to completely remake the bed. Simply throw off the top layer of wet sheets and waterproof, then underneath there will be more dry sheets and another waterproof sheet.

The actual issue of bedwetting does need exploring, but shouldn’t prevent them from sleeping once their pyjamas and bedding has been changed.

If they are under five, then it shouldn’t present much of a concern, especially in the toilet training stages. Making sure they use the toilet just before bed so they don’t fall too deeply asleep and have an accident or wake up needing to go to the toilet in the middle of the night helps.

It’s also a good idea to limit or stop the amount of fluid they drink prior to bedtime, offering only sips of water after four thirty pm, not milk or juice.

SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE

If they have not gone more than a few months dry at night after successful potty training in the day, they could have a developmental issue with their bladder, this can be hormonal and usually nothing to worry about. There are treatments available, and you can discuss these with your doctor.

They could also have a small bladder capacity, if this is the case, you will probably notice that they urinate often throughout the day and find they are often desperate to go. They may wet at night due to emptying their bladder too frequently during the day.

Either way, it’s always advisable to consult your GP if you are concerned at all. If they’re still bedwetting past six years of age, medical causes, as well as emotional factors, need to be looked into with their doctor to rule out any medical condition.

Once they have been dry at night for several months to a year but then regress back to wetting at night, this nocturnal enuresis would suggest some sort of emotional stress or anxiety is responsible. If your GP has ruled out a physical problem such as a water infection, we can be proactive by looking for any apparent patterns, such as, do they only bed wet on certain days such as school days and not at the weekend?

Does it happen early on in the night or toward the end near morning time, when mum is on night watch or dad, how often a night/a week/ a month does it occur?

Are there any causes that influence the episode, such as, have they been emotional throughout the day because they fell out with their best friend or because dad is working away for the night?

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BE PROACTIVE

Our children’s fears and insecurities may seem so trivial and insignificant to us, but the smallest changes can have a huge impact. Looking at what is currently going on in other areas of their life is helpful.

This is where the U URSELF Routine comes in handy, we can notice if another area such as their eating or exercising and play habits have changed too.

We may even already be aware of a possible cause of emotional stress for them such as having a new baby sibling, bereavement, moving to a new house, starting childcare, or a parent leaving home.

All of these things can be stressful for a small child, emotionally challenging, and are common underlying causes of regression.

If stress and anxiety is the culprit, we have to handle the situation just as empathetically and positively as we would a physical medical condition that is also out of their control.

BOOST THEIR SELF-ESTEEM

This means praising them when they call out mid flow in the middle of the night for making good progress by noticing as it is happening, how we react in response will either help or hinder their progress at this point. Getting frustrated and saying things such as ‘why didn’t you get up and go straight to the toilet sooner, or, not again, or, I thought you had grown out of this’ will only damage their self-esteem. This is the next part of the U URSELF Routine that we will explore in the next blog ‘Esteem’

What we want to do is focus on what we want them to achieve, not on what we don’t want. Highlight the positives, such as the dry nights, and ignore the wet ones as best we can in the presence of our children.

We can encourage and motivate them by offering to buy them some nice new pjs or bedding with their favourite tv cartoon characters on them once they have successfully gone a whole week with a dry bed. How we phrase that reward is important, so keep it positive and focused on the dry bed. Instead of saying you can have a new pair of pjs if you don’t wet the bed. We want to motivate them for staying dry, not put pressure on them not to wet the bed. When they do succeed going one night dry, we want to make the biggest fuss possible by showering them with praise and exaggerating how happy we feel for them, this is a chance to give their esteem a boost!

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MOTIVATE TO PROGRESS

What we don’t want our children to do is form a habit of bedwetting for either attention or feeling they have no control over their bedwetting.

In no circumstances should we encourage this behaviour further and be tempted to bring back the pull up training pants for bed time.

Once out of nappies and pull ups for several months, they are through with that baby phase of development. What they need most now is responsibility over their progress, they can’t do this by going backward in how we treat them. They need to feel the wet cold discomfort to register they are wet, and this is something we want to motivate them to avoid in the future.

A nice cosy, warm, dry, comfortable nappy or pullup, only motivates them to stay passive in their development. There’s no urgency to progress by controlling their bladder. I’ve potty trained many toddlers over the years, and I’ve always used pants and knickers over commercial pull ups, a cheap pack of pants are usually cheaper than pull ups, and we can throw the soiled ones away if needs be, the same way we would a disposable nappy. But children learn far quicker by having accidents that they can feel and see.

A pull up still feels like they are wearing a nappy, so I’ve found when parents choose this as a toilet training option, progress is much slower. I know pull ups are safer, easier, and less messy, but long term, they just delay the process. A couple of weeks of accidents, patience, and practise in real pants is the quickest and best long-term, effective, solution.

GIVE THEM RESPONSIBILITY

I always find that children who are given responsibility over their own lives, no matter how young, overcome challenges and progress quicker than those whose parents do everything for them and take control. This doesn’t mean not helping or being involved as a parent and leaving them to sort out themselves, but taking a back seat at times. It’s natural to want to love, protect, support, and do everything for them, but this can serve to make them feel as though they are a passenger on their journey of life. Events and experiences are out of their control and influence. There often seems little point in them making much of an effort to try or change.

Helping strip their wet bedding off their bed and putting it in the washing machine with your help, then choosing what fresh bedding goes back on their bed next or what pyjamas to wear all involve them in their own self-care. Instead of feeling low self-esteem at what can be an embarrassing time, they now display self-love and respect. They are helping themselves, and we are allowing them to feel good in a situation that could make them feel bad if handled insensitively.

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It’s their bedwetting issue to address and solve. This way, they’ll look for solutions rather than feeling helpless and resigned to a life of wet nights, forming a habit that may be difficult to change later on. Now, in no instance are they responsible or to blame for their bedwetting, we are not suggesting that ever, but if anyone has any influence over changing it, they do!

And they will feel confident to try if they are given encouragement to do so. Our aim is for them to take conscious control over their issue, not be a passive allower.

Fostering this self-reliance is what will help them to build self- confidence, making them feel they can handle situations themselves. 

They don’t feel guilty or as though we are punishing them if they feel they are helping in some way and having choices and responsibility.

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SEEK THE CAUSE NOT THE SYMPTOM

Children want to be independent, that is why there is often conflict and tantrums, because they want to be able to do things for themselves. Managing conflict and tantrums is covered extensively in my soon to be published book, The Powerful Proactive Parent’s Guide to Present Parenting. But let’s just say for now that their bad behaviour isn’t always that bad.

The less of a big issue we can make out of their bed wetting, and the bigger the fuss we can make over a dry bed, the quicker the preferred behaviour will become a habit. We can best help, however, by uncovering the source of their underlying emotional issue or anxiety they are currently experiencing and focusing on that, rather than the presenting symptom of bedwetting. Once that has been addressed, the bed wetting, in time, if not left long enough unaddressed to become a habit, will resolve itself.

If you would like an issue covered in next month’s blog posts, please email me the issue to emma@happychildcare.club

Until next time, Stay Present,

Em x

Proactive Parenting, Routine, SLEEP, The U URSELF Routine

SLEEPING PAINS

After environment, other physical factors such as Illness and pain can be a cause of sleep disruptions. If a child has a fever or rash, are severely lethargic or unresponsive, then we can assume they’re ill and need immediate medical attention. Teething or colic pain is not always visible but should subside of its own accord. Not helpful when trying to get a good night’s sleep, I know, but there are over the counter remedies to help with this period. If constant over a few days, then it may not be teething. You should always contact your GP or out of hours if you are concerned. Even if it turns out to be teething, it’s always best to get it checked, as our children can’t let us know how they are feeling. But we can usually visually tell or sense if our children are responding differently, always follow your gut instinct, you know your child better than anyone else.

If unsure of the severity of their pain, there’s a general test I like to recommend; next time they awake crying at night, let them hop into bed with you. If their pain magically disappears as soon as they jump into bed, it’s not going to be pain keeping them awake.

We can be sure pain is not the cause of their sleeplessness because pain remains, regardless of where or who they sleep with.

If your child has a chronic medical condition or they have experienced stress or trauma, such as a parent leaving, you might feel sorry or guilty and encourage them to co-sleep with you for comfort. We need to reflect on the beliefs we have around our children’s illnesses or circumstances to see if we are trying to overcompensate unnecessarily. Asking ourselves honestly whether they need our comfort to help them go to sleep, or whether we are interfering with their necessity to sleep alone because of our own emotions and beliefs.

Are we looking for comfort and company, or projecting our own fears and anxieties onto them?

If they are ill or under any sort of stress, they will need to sleep more than ever.

It’s tempting to comfort and soothe them to sleep at these difficult times but when will the cut-off point be? The odd night is normal such as when they are sick or have had a bad dream, but if we make it a regular habit, we could still be sleeping with our teenagers!

I know all those attachment parents out there who believe co-sleeping is best will be going wild right now, everyone’s entitled to parent their own way. I’m not saying my way is right and their way is wrong, but I have a strong attachment bond with my children, and we haven’t co-slept.

Attachments come from love, and I believe routines provide all the love and comfort our children need to feel safe, secure, healthy, and happy. Routines make us proactive and responsive as parents, helping us meet the needs of our children before they desperately need them. Mums need a good night sleep to be emotionally and physically available to their children.

We also need to maintain a loving relationship with our partners to keep that bond strong too, something sharing a bed with our children makes impossible.

There were 3 in the bed & the little one said ‘Roll over!’

I’ve encountered many parents who have this attachment parenting style, who reject routine and let their children choose what they eat, wear, and when and where they sleep. Personally, I’ve not found these children any happier than any other child. I don’t think children are experienced or capable of making the best choices for themselves. Given the choice, what child wants to go to bed early, on their own, or eat vegetables over chips?

That doesn’t make us unfair for insisting they do though. But that’s just my opinion. I’m an advocate for having close physical contact with your child. I kiss and cuddle my teenagers, and tell them I love them more than once every day, and have done so since they were born.

Since my children were born our family has benefited from the comfort and reassurance of a consistent routine #TheUUrselfRoutine

I also encourage them to be themselves and express how they feel and comfort and reassure them in times of need. But even though they are teenagers now, I still know what’s best for them, and yes, they both still have a bedtime routine and are in bed at a set reasonable time on a school night. Call me old fashioned, but I want them to get all the rest they can and to feel refreshed for school the next day. Obviously, they’d prefer to be on their electronic devices, but we take them off them at bedtime so they can’t. I’m not punishing them though. I’m helping them.

I encourage you to try letting your child lead the way if you want to experiment, then come back to a routine if that’s not working.

It’s a lot harder to provide consistent routines and to encourage our children to adopt healthy eating and sleeping habits, but that’s the kind of nurturing that being a parent is all about. They can spend the rest of their adult lives making their own independent choices regarding what’s right for them, until then, let’s show them the healthiest ways.

As previously said, we offer our children routines for their own good, out of love. That doesn’t mean that they are going to feel good about them in the beginning though.

If we have co-slept with our child for the last six years, but now would like them to move into their own bed in their own room, then we need to understand how they might feel. From their perspective, we’re telling them to move from the shared, warm, safe comforts that they have always known to the cold, lonely, dark, unknown room across the landing.

Understandably, this new bedtime routine would upset them and seem more like a punishment for growing up. Their behaviour toward the changes, which could lead to angry or emotional protests or regressive behaviours such as, bed wetting or clinginess, is not intended to upset us for moving them into their own room. This is merely a normal reaction to change and to feeling afraid, anxious, or unsettled.

Regressive behaviours are their way of showing they still need us, or simply a coping mechanism to return to that time when they felt protected. In those moments, they need reassurance from us that everything will be okay. We must be understanding. Calming any fears they have in a calm and confident manner whilst still communicating to them it’s not a bad change in circumstances, it’s just different!

If you would like an issue covered in next month’s blog posts, please email me the issue to emma@happychildcare.club

Next time we’ll tackle Enuresis aka, bed wetting, until then, Stay Present Em x