Tag Archives: growing child issues

Strict schedule: benefits, exceptions and disadvantages

strict schedule

This school year everything is different. The author of this post, a happy and tired mom,  decided to bring strict schedule into action. Later in this post you’ll be able to get acquainted with the main rules of behavior, sleeping and waking up times and so on. To say that the kids were happy about this sort of dictatorship would be an exaggeration, but they were positively surprised and intrigued.

What does strict schedule means?

Strict schedule means they go to brush their teeth at 20.30 no matter what. It means there are no excuses, no “mom-please-let-me-finish-this” thing (I can be flexible too, I’m not a monster, but will get to that later). Strict schedule means there are no late dinners (“mom-I’m-hungry-so-what-if-it’s-22.00?). It also means kids wake up early, fresh and hungry ready to have their breakfast (no late dinners, remember?) and set off to a new school day.

So far, I’ve seen so many benefits of strict schedule, that I decided to dedicate a blog post and explain how I organize my strict schedule and why I’m not a monster and do allow things to happen outside of the routine, too.

How to organize strict schedule?

Outline the most important practical topics, the most problematic topics and things you remember were difficult in the past. For example: some kids have a hard time going into the bathtub: they claim to hate the water. And then they really don’t want to get out because they actually enjoy the water. Other kids are never hungry until 22.00 and then they are starving in bed, asking their softhearted mom for “just a bit” of yesterday’s bread (they shed tears and you see their chest bones stick out from immense hunger, and, of course, you let them have the “small” night feast).

So, as I see it, each family has its own curves and irregular situations. In my case, it was the bedtime. There are so many things to do: school homework, after-school activities, book-reading, doll-playing, dinner, bath, questions-and-answers (for example: “mommy-who-was-the-first-man-to-go-to-space-tell-me-all-about-him?” at 21:55). It’s quite perplexing and I’m asking myself perpetually: to let them play a bit more? (They are children after all, their childhood will be gone one day, forever) To answer all their questions till it’s midnight (kids want to know stuff, what’s wrong with curiosity?) Or to cut the games (sleeping is more important for growing organisms, how can I deprive them of rest because of games and questions?)

Five elements of strict schedule

Write down the five elements you want to keep your hands on (yes, use a pen and a paper like in the old times. It’s not enough to keep it in your head, and I’m not sure smartphone is a good idea. In my opinion, pen and paper work best)  For example:

Bedtime

At 20.30? At 20.00? (include the exact time when to finish the games (for example, at 19.30 games are over), when they start brushing their pajamas and wear their teeth… (oops,  I meant the opposite, but they can also brush their pajamas if they really want to).

Wake up time

strict schedule

Is it 6 a.m.? 6.30 a.m.? Set the optimal time for them to get up and write it down. Kids need about an hour for everything including  teeth-hair-toilet-breakfast-dressing-asking-questions-grabbing-their-snack-bag-coats-gloves-hats etc., etc.

After school activities time

strict schedule

Write down varieties of what they are allowed to do during school days and what they are allowed to do during weekends and vacations only. Watch cartoons, play digital games, stay up late and so on. All these should be written down clearly – the more explicit you will be, the less arguments and counterarguments it will create in the future.

Weekends and vacations

School year is not only about studying and getting up with the birds. When kids feel they are remunerated for their suffering, they are motivated to give more. For example, something “unlimited” can be allowed during the weekend: unlimited cartoon watching, unlimited fun in terms of ice-cream, cookie-making, endless pajamas party. Another example is: wish-making – kids can make wishes during the week and parents will fulfill the wishes during the weekend (of course these should be limited in some sense). These are just examples of my wild fantasy. There can be other ways to make kids happy and keep them energized for the week to come. Family trips, hiking, mountain climbing, shows, cinema movies – anything special will do.

The fifth element, in my case, was:

The “penalty” for not following the rules.

It is an important element since kids must feel their own responsibility and consequences of right behavior versus wrong behavior. In my case it works splendidly. The punishments are not vicious, not really bad and harmful but more of a restricting nature (“you’re not allowed to watch cartoons during one day of the weekend”, for example). Being symbolic, these penalties, nonetheless, magically work.

It may seem like a lot of work – writing all these timetables, writing the rules and the penalties for breaking the rules. It may sound heartless or cruel, but, take my word – kids love frames, rules and regulations if you compensated them with bonuses and wishes. It’s like a game – if you follow certain rules, you move up to the next level. If you fail – you get another chance but you also get some sort of penalty.

Go into the details, don’t be afraid of letters and numbers. After some time the excessive letters and numbers will fall off and boil down to essence and only the important things will remain in your head. You cannot pretend what’s important and what’s not, the important things will stay, the less important will go away naturally.

 

 

open with my child

To be open with my child

I wish I could be as open with my child as possible. However, there are certain topics mom doesn’t need to share with her growing kids. Is is possible to build trust without revealing everything?

How open does a mom have to be when it comes to her personal life?

So, your daughter wants to know how things work in this life and she doesn’t mean electricity or space. It’s more about: relationships, love/hate, soups, children, mice and dirty socks.

As a mom, I know I have to be open, honest and authentic. I feel extremely proud, that she chose me as her primary source of information. I try to do everything to make sure she will not regret it. But on the other hand, how open does a mom have to be when it comes to questioning about her personal life?

What if mom does not want to tell everything? She can:

  • hide, by giving abstract meaningless answers or change the subject in a delicate way.
  • be honest and say: I prefer to keep this to myself. Everyone has the right to keep secrets period.

Naturally, as an honest and straightforward mom I’m choosing the second option. It took me time to get there, though. It did not seem so obviously right at first. “What’s the problem to be open with my child”, I asked myself. Here is the thing: there is no problem to pour your soul out as long as you feel comfortable about the possible consequences. The feeling of complacency is the indicator that things are going right. Once a mom has this uneasy feeling, this little “stop” sign that lightens up, that is the time to stop.

Does it actually mean a mom does not trust her kids?

Trust is one of the most important things, and the most vulnerable ones, too. It’s so hard to build and so easy to ruin.

Once mom keeps secrets from her children in an open way, it may convey a wrong message: “kid, I don’t trust you”.

Is it so, I’m asking myself? Can mom always be 100% sure her little one will keep the secret to themselves? And what happens if not?

These are tough questions with no ready answers. 

So here is bunch of reasons why being open with my child does not mean telling absolutely everything.

  • The desire to avoid accidental leak of information (friends, relatives, social networks).
  • The desire to avoid later discussion on the painful topic.
  • Shame of sorts (yes, once moms were young, brave and stupid reckless).
  • The fear of misunderstanding, misinterpretation (we are talking about age of 10 and up. People of the new generation might have a totally different view on a seemingly “obvious” situation their mom has been to).

Plus, this inexplicable factor of uneasiness to talk about a certain subject when it comes to personal life. (Why? Because).

Altogether – the conclusion is – if mom doesn’t want to share she does not have to. Just like her growing kids don’t necessarily have to share everything (and they won’t, take my word).

mom and children

How to allocate mom’s attention between several kids

 

Having many kids around means mom needs to allocate her time, energy and attention between them efficiently. By efficiently, I mean, that each kid will feel loved and appreciated in their own unique way. Some kids love to talk to their mom, asking questions and listening to long lectures. Other kids like to play and construct, build and create things – being together in the process of making stuff. There are also kids, who just need long hugs and flows of energy without too much other activities going on.

One of my kids is the talking kind. We exchange a few thousands words per day and it does not seem to be enough. I find myself being exhausted of these conversations but,on the other hand, I realize, that this is the way of my kid to get their share of me. Any other ways won’t work as well.

My other kid is the hug-and-play kind, who chooses to stay close while I work, cook, read or knit. Talking is less of a priority, which gives me more space to concentrate on other things while sending rays of mom’s energy at the same time.

Is it that simple? Well, not really.

The interesting part begins when all the kids are tearing their mom apart sitting together each trying to get her unique attention – and my role here, as I see it, is to be able to quickly switch from one kind of attention to another.

The competition for mom’s attention does not end regardless of the kids’ age. I guess it’s something that lasts all the way through and never actually stops, maybe until full adulthood. Not sure I will still be running this blog when I get there, but if so, I will let you know.

Ta-dam! A newborn joins a family with older kids

Every time a new child is born into a family with older kids, mom needs to reallocate her attention, so that the change will not be so drastic. Quite a challenge, I should say. The competition is tough, each sibling is trying to prove himself as best of everything – especially when it comes to helping mom with the newborn. The balance is so delicate here, that I weigh almost every word that comes out of my mouth. Praising one child too much might mean hurting another. Judging or criticizing actions or behaviors might be interpreted in the wrong way given the sensitive circumstances.

Having thought about it for a while I developed my strategy of not simply praising but creating a system of roles and niches.

A winning niche for every kid

Here is a situation from real life:

An older kid helps mom by staying next to the newborn while mom is taking a shower. The middle kid does not really find a way to help and feels being out. Mom creates two niches: the older one is the “top-nanny” while the middle one is the “top-messenger” (delivering messages and items such as diapers, napkins etc. when needed). With this strategy every kid fills a niche where they are on top – beyond feeling appreciated, now each knows exactly what duties and responsibilities are expected of him.

As a bottom line – the delicate balance of attention is not subject to formulas or rules – it’s an ongoing process, a changing strategy, something, that requires live reaction. From my own experience, the niche strategy works best. Each kid fills a space where they feel kings. Each kid is a small rules of its sovereign virtual territory of rights and duties, expectations and rewards. On top of that, of course, there is the great mom’s appreciation, spraying ike an air-purifier above all. 

What if your child wants a pet but you are not ready for it?

chameleonLately, I have found myself in a saga called “my child wants to have a pet”. The problem is, that I am not ready for extra responsibilities at this stage of life, and the bigger problem is to explain this to the little growing organism that puts all the energy, creativity and effort to convince me, that my life is not going to change a single bit.

There is a cartoon movie I like where a 7 year old boy craves for a dog, which his parents refuse to buy at first. Then, when at the boy’s 8th birthday he discovers he is not getting a dog as a presents he bursts into hysterical, bitter cry (the heartbreaking sort of cry every child learns from birth). Eventually, his parents give up and the next scene we see is a small puppy and a bouncing boy swirling around the room. Of course movie scenes are meant to convey a specific message and here it is – pets are good for kids, if your kid wants a dog and you’ll get him one, he will be happy and so on. The other part of the picture, or better say – a question less people are asking is – are you, parent, ready for that dog? Because you are going to be the one taking it for walks and you will be the one making appointments (and paying) for the vet. You are also the one making sure there is enough pet food (and if not, guess who will have to buy/order/carry it home?), in most cases you will have to wash the creature, brush it, make sure there are no parasites (or whatever organisms might find your pet attractive). To put it shortly – you are in charge.

Having said that, I have no intention to diminish the obvious benefits of owning a pet – this article is not about the benefits and no one is arguing that pets are great for kids. All I am saying is – do not to mislead yourself by the pleading of your child and by the endless promises “to take care” of the animal. If your child is under 12 (or even 15) probably, you will be the one to bear the consequences.

As with my particular case, I’ve been through major stages of child attempts to beg, reason, blackmail (if you don’t buy it I will get it myself), and even strategically hypnotize me by putting small notes in every possible place in the apartment. Below I will show two main stages of “pet war” every parent might go through and the optional solutions that helped me to explain myself by respecting my position and my child’s desire.

Stage 1: calm begging, moderate crying:

“All of my friends have pets”

“Mommy, please buy me a pet”

“I will take care of it, every day”

My respose: explaining softly that there are certain things that only adult can do: a child under 12 cannot go out by himself (concerning dog walks). Only adult can take a pet to the vet, only adult can pay with their own money for vaccinations (I know how much these cost, no pocket money will suffice) and so on. Briefly put – the idea is to show a bigger picture of responsibilities, that only a grown-up can take.

I would suggest not to use sentences like: “you don’t even clean your room, how can I expect you to take care of the parrot/kitten/turtle?” These phrases insult and humiliate, and the child might temporarily improve their organizing skills and then expect you to fulfill your “part of the contract”. So, this is the area you don’t want to be in, even if your only goal was actually to make the child clean their room. Because – I repeat – the effect is temporary.

Stage 2: child threats and manipulations

“if you don’t buy me a pet I will… feel miserable/buy it myself/find one and keep it secret etc., etc”

There is one thing I can say about children and pets.

I admit, my first reaction was a feeling of mother guilt. How come I make my child feel so miserable, express himself in that way etc., etc.

But after a short shake-off self-therapy I realized again who the responsible adult in all this situation is, and who is the one not be bound with manipulations.

My respose: explain, that we are a family, we live together as a family and we make decisions as a family. A pet is another family member, and before bringing this family member home, all other member must be content with this decision. Bring up an example of you doing something as an authoritative parent – knowing your child would not like it – and ask whether your child thinks it’s acceptable?

***

I see some parents ask on forums what pet to buy for a 4-year old child. To me it’s the same as asking some folks in the street whether I should bring a baby because my child wants a friend?

This sort of question is not something to be decided on forums or even in a circle of relatives. Taking a pet is a private decision, and it’s a decision made by the person who takes care of the household. Not your child, not your parents not even your partner unless he is willing to fully share the responsibility (consider excuses such as “lots of work”, “work trips” and so on). I’m trying to keep on the realistic side of life: in the end of the day you will be the one to take a pet to the vet at 2 a.m. with diarrhea, high fever or whatever may happen.

The creepy feeling of mother guilt

“But what about my child?” you may ask. “I want my child to be happy, but I don’t feel completely confident about another four-legged family member”.

The answer is – if you are not completely confident, then it’s a straight and simple “no”. There are thousands of ways to make your child happy and buying a pet is just one of them. The worst scenario is taking a pet and then realizing it has been a mistake and you have to give it away. It will be a much more traumatic experience for the entire family, especially for the child, comparing to not taking the pet at all. So put your feeling of mother guilt on a high shelf, you might use it on another occasion.