Get your child to tell you more by staying quiet

Get your child to tell you more by staying quiet

The older my children get, the more I’m aware of how important it is to make sure we communicate with each other.

I want them to know that they can tell me anything, that they’re safe to talk through their feelings and tell me about anything that’s bothering them.  There have already been times where Rhys has taken quite a while to let us in and tell us when something has been playing on his mind.

There is a psychological trick that I’m keeping in mind for the next time it seems like he’s not told us everything and it’s something you can try too if you feel that your child isn’t telling you the whole story.

Get your child to tell you more by staying quiet

 

When you feel like there’s more to the story than your child is telling you, simply keep quiet.

Keep looking at them expectantly, but keep quiet.

 

Chances are they’ll start talking again and reveal more information or tell you more about how they’re feeling.

Something about the almost awkward silence and the eye contact with you will, more often than not, prompt them to fill the silence with more information.  If you want to you can add in a little eyebrow raise that subtly lets them know you’re expecting a bit more, and also communicates that you’re interested in what they’re saying.

 

I’m not sure how well this would work with toddlers and really young children, but with older children it is a useful trick to know if you feel like you’re only getting half the story.  And I have a feeling it’ll come in handy when we hit the teenage years too.

You can use this on other people too.

Lets say you have a feeling a work colleague isn’t telling you everything about a recent meeting that you weren’t part of, try this trick of staying quiet and maintaining eye contact and see if they’ll give up a bit more info.

Pretty much any time you feel like you’re not being told the whole story, give this little trick a try and see what other information comes trickling out.

 

Have you ever tried this with your children?  Do you have any other advice or tips for these situations where you feel like your child isn’t telling you everything?

5 minute warning

The power of the 5 minute warning

There are some things that I do as a parent that feel so obvious that I think twice before I write about them on here.  Because it seems like something that every other parent must be doing too.

This 5 minute warning is one of those things.

I’m sure most parents already know about this and do some version or another of it with their children.

This post though is for the parents out there who haven’t heard of it before, and are struggling with getting their children to transition from one activity to another.  Or who face battles every time they tell them it’s time to leave the park.  Maybe first-time parents who are only just entering the world of toddlers and haven’t had to think about this sort of thing.

If this is you, then keep reading to find out about this brilliant little tip to help stop all sorts of battles with your children as they get older.

 

The 5 minute warning is as simple as it sounds.

It’s where you give your child a warning that in 5 minutes time they’ll need to do something.

 

So when they’re busy playing with their toys, give them a 5 minute warning that lunch is nearly ready and they’ll need to stop playing to eat.

Or if you need to head out to play group, let them know 5 minutes ahead of time that they’ll need to turn CBeebies off and put their shoes on.

 

Basically, whenever there’s going to be a change in activity of any sort, give your child a warning about 5 minutes ahead of time.  This gives them a chance to finish up what they’re doing, instead of having to just stop abruptly.

 

So much of parenting toddlers and young children comes down to feelings of power and control.

As parents we need to be the ones in control, but we also need to acknowledge that our children need to feel some kind of power over their lives.  If they’re playing happily at the park and we, out of the blue, tell them it’s time to leave they’ll most likely get upset and angry.

It’s not fair.

They’re having fun and aren’t ready to leave yet, and we’ve just decided out of nowhere (as far as they’re concerned) that it’s time to go.  Letting them know that it’s nearly time to go gives them a chance to prepare.  It lets them do the things they want to do a few more times, to finish up any games they’re in the middle of.  It puts a bit of control back in their hands.

Especially if you ask them what they want to do with those 5 minutes. 

Do they want to go down the slide 5 more times, or have one last go on the swings?

Letting them choose how to spend those last 5 minutes lets them feel like they have some control over what’s happening, and makes it more likely that when the time is up they’ll leave happily with you.

 

My children are 5 and 8 now and we still use the 5 minute warning every day.

We use it in the mornings so they know they’ll need to stop playing soon to go and brush their teeth.  I use it after school when they’re playing with their friends in the woods and it’s nearly time to head home.  And when it’s nearly bedtime we use it so they know they’ll have to stop watching whatever it is they’re watching on YouTube soon.

Now they’re a bit older we’ve found that this rule can be negotiated with at times, so that everyone is happier.

If one of the children is watching something that is on for another 8 minutes then we can agree that bedtime will be when it’s finished, rather than in the 5 minutes we said.  But giving them that warning means that they’re prepared at least for that particular video to be the last one they watch before heading upstairs.

 

I have a feeling that this idea of a 5 minute warning is something that we’ll keep using long after it stops being a necessary ‘parenting tool’.

Do you use it in your house or is this something you’ve not really thought about before?

Mother holding child's hand

Try this little trick to keep your toddler safe in car parks

If you have more than one young child then you’ll know how stressful it can be trying to keep everyone safe while getting them in and out of the car.  It’s a bit of a juggling act, making sure your toddler is safe while you strap the baby into their seat.

Even if you have a system for sorting the toddler first and then the baby, whether you’re getting them in or out of the car, there are still bound to be times when you need to turn your back for a second to grab something from the car.  And things get even more tricky if you add another child to the mix.

If you do find you worry about keeping your toddler safely by your car when you’re in a car park or by the side of the road, then this little trick can help.

Mother holding child's hand

 

Challenge them to keep one hand on a certain spot on the car until it’s time to go or to get in the car.

 

I did this with my children when they were younger and it worked brilliantly.  I used to get Rhys to stand with one hand on the little fuel door while I got Nerys out of the car.

The little door is just the right size for little hands and you can make this into a fun challenge, getting them to keep touching the car, rather than just telling them to stand still by the car.

 

You can actually get magnets and vinyl stickers with hand-prints on them that you can put on your car to make it even easier for little children to know where to put their hands to stay safe in car parks.  These are a great idea if your child needs a little something more to make this special for them.  Their own special spot on the car to place their hand.

 

It might take a bit of time to teach them, and of course you still need to be watching them as much as you possibly can, but this little touch-the-car challenge for children is so handy as a way of keeping them close to the car and out of harm’s way.

 

Do you do this with your children?  Or do you have a specific system for getting everyone in and out of the car each time?  I’d love to hear what you do in the comments!

Try this little trick to encourage a growth mindset

Try this little trick to encourage a growth mindset

When your child tries to do something and finds it hard, how do they respond?

If they get frustrated and stop trying, with complaints of ‘I can’t do this’, then they most likely have quite a fixed mindset.  This is basically where we believe that we’re born with a set of traits and talents and that what we can do and achieve is down to these things rather than how hard we work and how much effort we put in.

A growth mindset on the other hand is where we realise that most things can be learnt and achieved over time with effort and perseverance.  This is the sort of mindset that we want to encourage in our children, so that they grow up with this belief that they’re not limited in what they can do.  That they can do pretty much anything if they keep going, keep trying, keep learning.

Here’s one little thing you can do to help your children develop a growth mindset.

Try this little trick to encourage a growth mindset

 

Try using one three letter word with your child.

Yet.

 

There is so much power in that one little word.

 

It takes you from “I can’t do this”, to “I can’t do this YET”.

That little word at the end of the sentence changes things so much.  Suddenly, instead of basically saying ‘this is hopeless, I can’t do it, I won’t even try any more’, we are saying ‘this is hard, but if I work at it I will be able to do it’.

Make a point of adding the word ‘yet’ on any time your child gets frustrated with something and says that they can’t do it.

Explain to them that maybe the maths problem they’re struggling with is hard for them because they haven’t learnt the best way to work out the answer yet.  Even people who are naturally good at maths need to be taught strategies and systems for getting to the right answer.  It’s all just a matter of time and figuring things out and persevering.

 

There are various other things we can do to help develop a growth mindset in our children.   But this little word, yet, is an amazing place to start.

Try it next time your child is struggling.

Remind them that they can’t get to the top of the climbing frame yet.

That they can’t swim breast stroke properly yet.

That they can’t tie their shoelaces yet.

 

Keep adding that word on to the end of the sentence, and take the time to expand on it.  Explain that while they can’t do what they’re trying to do right now, if they keep trying they will get there.

After a while this message will start to sink in and they’ll realise that if they stick with it and keep working they can do anything.

Entertain toddler while feeding baby

How to entertain your toddler while you feed your baby

If you have a toddler or young child and a small baby then you’ll know the challenge of trying to keep them both happy.

One of the biggest struggles is trying to entertain your toddler when you need to feed the baby multiple times a day.

If this is something you’re trying to deal with, or are worried about being an issue once your baby arrives, then this idea will hopefully help you out.

How to entertain your toddler while you feed your baby

 

Make up a few special busy bags that you can bring out for your toddler when the baby needs feeding.

 

If you spend an afternoon putting a few together then you can bring them out on a sort of rotation system, so your child doesn’t get bored of them too quickly.

There are so many possibilities for what could go into these busy bags.

Here are some simple ideas to get you started:

  • Sticker books
  • Colouring book and crayons
  • A notebook and crayons
  • Small jigsaw puzzle
  • Lacing/threading games

 

If you have more time and are feeling more creative then there are almost endless options for busy bag games and activities that you can make.

My ‘make a monster‘ felt activity is simple to make and great fun for children who like creative activities.

Build a monster busy bag

 

You can also use these busy bags as a fun way to teach your toddler about colours, shapes, numbers and letters.  My robot colour and shape matching game is perfect for popping in a busy bag for a toddler or young child to play with during baby’s feeding time.

If you need some more inspiration then Chloe from Life Unexpected has some great busy bag ideas as well as useful tips on how to actually put the bags together.  There are also tons of ideas over on Pinterest that you can use.

 

When Rhys was little I made him a busy bag with an alphabet game where he had to match up upper case and lower case letters and that would keep him happy for ages.  The one I made used velcro but I’ve seen some variations using wooden pegs that look like a lot of fun too.

Alphabet busy bag

 

What you choose to put in these bags will depend really on what sort of activities your toddler is interested in.

The key thing to it is to only bring them out when you need to feed the baby.  So your toddler is excited by them and feels like they’re getting something new and fun to do.  This will hopefully let you focus on feeding the baby without your toddler demanding quite so much of your attention.

 

One side note though.  While you’re putting these busy bags together, try and make a few extra ones if you can to pop in your hand bag or change bag.  They’re brilliant for giving little ones something to do if you’re stuck in a doctor’s waiting room or anything like that.

We used ours when we took the ferry to the Isle of Man when Rhys was 2 and they were perfect for keeping him sitting in one place instead of running riot around the boat.

 

Do you use busy bags with your children?  Which one is their favourite?

Phrases to calm an angry child

9 things to say to help calm your angry child

One of the hardest things for children to learn is how to handle big emotions like anger.

To be fair, it can be really hard for us adults too.  I know I don’t always behave all that nicely when I’m feeling really angry or upset.  But at least as we get older we, hopefully, have learnt tools and coping mechanisms to work through these feelings.

Children though don’t have this experience yet.  They really feel these big emotions, often over things that we as parents don’t quite understand, and can find it hard to cope and to work through them.

If you’re struggling to know how to help your child when they really feel angry about something, then here are 9 different things you can try saying to them that might help.

9 things to say to help calm your angry child

1. I can see that you feel angry.

Or frustrated.  Or upset.  Or whatever word best describes the emotion that your child is expressing.

One of the first things to try is to name the emotion for them.  This helps them feel like you understand and are listening to how they’re feeling.  It also starts to make them more aware of what different emotions feel like to them.

 

2. Can you tell me what’s happened?

This lets you get to the root cause of their anger and gives them a chance to talk it through.  When you ask this question, make sure you really take the time to listen.  Don’t interrupt, don’t try to reason with them as they’re telling you what has made them angry.

Just let them tell you the whole story in their own time.

 

3. Everyone feels angry at times and that’s OK

Let your child know that anger is a valid emotion to feel.  It’s OK if they feel angry; we all do at times.

Knowing you understand how they’re feeling can really help your child feel validated in their emotions, and to feel heard by you.

 

4. It’s OK to feel angry but it’s not OK to…

…hit.  Or break things.  Or call people names.

This lets them know that the emotion is valid but that the behaviour they’re showing while they’re angry isn’t acceptable.

 

5. Would you like to try…

… taking some calming breaths.  Or doing a warrior cry.

Offer a suggestion of something your child can do to try and calm themselves down.  But ask them if they’d like to try it, rather than telling them that they have to do it.  Give them the choice and the control over the situation.

Don’t overwhelm them with lots of suggestions either.  Offer one or two ideas and then give them space to think it over.

 

6. I’m here and you’re safe

Our emotions can get all jumbled up at times, and quite often when our children feel angry they also feel scared and unsafe.  Letting them know that you’re there, by their side, and that they’re safe can go a long way to helping them feel calmer.

 

7. I’m going to sit over here

If your child is right in the eye of the storm then let them know that you’ll be sitting close by.  Or just in the other room.  This gives them the space to work through their anger while knowing that you’re still nearby, ready to help them when they’re ready to let you.

 

8. Can I help you?

When your child is angry they may well  be feeling completely out of control, so asking them if they’d like your help gives them back a sense of control.  They can decide if they want a bit of time and space or if they want you to sit with them and help them calm down.

 

9.  I love you

Our children need to be reminded that even when they’re angry we still love them.  We might not like the way they’re talking or acting when they’re angry, but we will always love them.  We need to be that safe place for our children where they know they’re loved no matter what.

 

There’s no one magic phrase that will immediately calm an angry child down.

The main thing for us as parents to remember is that, as much as possible, we need to keep calm ourselves.  If we start to get frustrated too then we won’t get anywhere.  We need to be the calm in the storm.  Easier said than done at times I know, and if you do get angry too then make sure to talk about it afterwards once you’ve both calmed down.

If you can keep calm though, and try a few of the suggestions in this post then hopefully you’ll find the magic words that work best to calm your child down.  The other thing to remember is to trust your instincts.  You know them best, you know if they need to be left alone or if they need you to hold them.

With your help and understanding they can start to learn how to handle anger and all the other big emotions that they might be feeling.

 

What do you find works best for you and your child when they’re angry?

Getting back to yourself as a parent

Getting back to yourself as a parent

Family life is a mass of contradictions, it’s rewarding, exhausting, frustrating and worrying in equal measure. It’s all also all-consuming. So much so that very often it’s easy to forget who you were before you had a partner and children.

If you’re happy with your identity as a parent then that’s great but for many of us, there is a sense that our old selves could do with being rediscovered, that those past hobbies and interests that have been lying dormant should re-emerge and find their way out from under the piles of dirty laundry, homework books and packed lunches.

In this article we look at a few ways of finding yourself again as you begin to see your way out of the tunnel that is parenting very young children.

Getting back to yourself as a parent

 

You used to have hobbies

Even ones outside of the house. Perhaps you were a real outdoors person and loved exploring the trails and surrounding countryside hiking or biking. Maybe you used to run and compete in races or love going off road.

You might have painted, sketched, knitted, played an instrument or danced when you had the time and the space as your younger self. Sure, these skills might be a little rusty but nothing a little bit of practice or some advice from a YouTube video can’t fix.

Could you find some time, carve out an hour or two to revisit some of those old interests you used to have and bring them back into the routine of your daily life? After all your children have their after school clubs and your partner finds time, so why shouldn’t you?

 

You love study

There was a time when studying and completing assignments was very much a big part of your life. You may have finished up that university course but that love of learning never really leaves you, so maybe it’s time to look at how some serious study might enhance your career and change your life.

There are plenty of options to do just that from courses at your local college in the evenings if you work or in the day when the children are at school. You might instead opt for an online course that you can follow in your own time, like the ones offered at Aston Online. These qualifications are, very often, equally as valid as traditional universities and will give you the professional qualifications you need to take your career one step further or change it altogether.

 

You have ambition

If you work maybe you find your job a fulfilling and enjoyable part of your life. However, if you’re finding it becoming ever more of a drag and that it fails to fulfil you, then it’s time to rethink your career. You have ambition and you want to do a job that you find challenging and rewarding.

If your boss can’t make some changes to your role or offer you a one-off project to work on then maybe it’s time to polish up that CV and get back out there in the job market. If you haven’t done this for a while then, yes, it’s daunting but practice makes perfect. With some dogged determination, you’ll secure an interview and with any luck a job in no time at all.

It might seem like an overwhelming prospect so do talk to a recruitment adviser if you need some help in where to focus your job intentions. They may be able to point you towards some companies where you can send your CV to on spec, you never know who might end up calling you for an interview.

 

Is changing your life difficult? Yes, in part. There are some small things you can do to help you find your sense of self again, some minor changes you can make to help you remember who you once were. There are also some large scale, game changers that will turn things around 180 degrees.

So whether you just want to get a bit more active, take up an old hobby, get back to education or shake up your career, plan today to do something amazing for yourself. When you spend so much time caring for others it’s easy to get lost. Invest in your health, in your hobbies and in your career and it will be an investment that will pay you back over and over again. You’re well worth spending the time and money on so put yourself at the forefront for a happier, more fulfilled you.

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post