They hand you that little bundle of joy and as the proud parent(s), you dream of and plan all the fun times that lie ahead.
But what if it isn’t quite that easy? What if your adorable little bundle of joy isn’t quite so adorable? What if, instead, you find yourself feeling stressed and exhausted as your little one runs circles around you, doesn’t listen to a thing you say and you dread taking him/her out? And the house matches the chaos of your mind! (Let go of the chores – they’re going nowhere and can wait.)
Firstly, and most importantly, know that you are doing the best you can with everything you have at your disposal. Being a parent is tough – it’s hard work. And as they say, parenting is pretty much the only thing that doesn’t come with a manual or instructions. You’re dealing with a little human being who is trying to establish their own personality.
So, how do you take control back?
Well of course it’s not as easy as that! The hard work has to continue – but you can have a better handle on it.
Use child led play with your child. This means let your child lead the play – let them use their imagination – it doesn’t matter if what they’re doing doesn’t make any sense or wouldn’t happen in the real world – this is play! Get on to their level, copy what they do, ask them what they want you do (if they’re old enough), don’t ask too many questions….
The list goes on.
Let me give you a personal example of non child led play..
When my boys were little, they loved to play with their wooden train track. They’d get it out and start to build a track. Of course, they got bored of building the track – after all, they wanted to play trains. On the other hand, I was (probably annoyingly) insistent that the track needed to be built before the trains could come out of the station (box). I would spend a good 15-20 minutes building an amazing track for my boys to play with, look up at them with a smile on my face only to realise they had wandered off to play with something else! How rude – I had just spent time and effort building them a great track for the game they wanted to play. But actually, what I had done was turn their game into my game.
They really didn’t care about the track itself. All they really wanted was to play with Mummy.
Once I got my head around that, and stopped worrying (and trying to explain) that the trains needed a track, my boys and I enjoyed play together.
The importance in this type of play is that it allows positive relationships to build. We relax as parents and enjoy the time with our children. And here is a thing, when we allow our child to control and lead play and give them a bit of time, they will allow us time to do other things (like those chores I told you weren’t going anywhere!).
Next, think about what sort of behaviour you pay attention to from your child. Is your relationship starting to built up on negative behaviour?
Another personal example..
When my boys were playing together, I would take the opportunity to go and wash the dishes or have that much needed cup of tea. Of course, left to their own devices, they would bicker – at which point I would go running in and tell them off. So they learnt how to get my attention – fight and mum appears; be good and she’s in a different room.
Children really don’t care what kind of attention they get. If you pay attention to bad behaviour, you will see more bad behaviour. If you notice the good stuff (some of which we take for granted and therefore forget to notice) – the good behaviour, you will see more good behaviour. And you know what? There are still only 24 hours in the day – so by default, if you're noticing more good behaviour, you have to be seeing less negative behaviour. If you're seeing less bad behaviour, how much more relaxed are you going to be as a parent?
If your child is behaving in a negative way, we need to think about what is the child is trying to tell us, and start to listen!
Of course, it’s not that simple – there’s a lot more to it. But it’s a good start.
So here is my challenge to you...
Every day, spend at least 10 minutes playing with your child in a very child led way. Don’t take over the play (remember me with the train track); follow your child’s lead. Be beside them on their level and remember what it was like to be their age – and be just that.
Play is a great opportunity to build a really positive relationship with your child.
I hope my child looks back on today And remembers a parent who had time to play There will be years for cleaning and cooking
But children grow up when you’re not looking
Later I’ll do all the chores you can mention
But for now, my baby needs time and attention
So settle down cobwebs; dust go to sleep
I’m playing with my baby, and babies don’t keep.
Love Colette x
About Colette Etheridge from Child Behaviour Solutions
As a Behaviour Specialist and Counsellor, Colette understands, from personal experience, how difficult it can be to find a manageable family and work life balance, realising the challenges of raising children, running a business and finding time for herself has at times been near impossible.
She says... 'Nothing brings me more pleasure than when a parent, who has tried everything else and doesn’t know which way to turn, says ‘I can finally see how he sees the world’. If I can help just one child, by helping their parent to identify and understand what they experience on a daily basis, and give them some useful techniques to put into practise in their own home – I’ve done more than just my job – I’ve helped a fellow parent. I have been working with families and professionals for over ten years and have found that every parent wants to feel supported and to know that they are not alone. I know first-hand what it is like to feel different, to feel out of control and helpless. We do our utmost to ensure parents, carers and professionals won’t feel that way when they come to us.'