13 Things expected of children and not of adults

The world we live in, lives by double standards. The standards and expectations of children is much higher than that of adults. This weird world where those with the least mature brain has to behave the most mature and those with the most mature brain does not have to clear the bar at all. Here is a list of 13 things that is expected of children and not of adults

Here is a list of 13 standards enforced on kids, but not on adults:

  1. Going to bed and falling asleep without a struggling to sleep
    • So often as an adult we also struggle to sleep, even when we are tired. We struggle to switch off our brains and then roll around. We often get up, move around a bit and try a bit later to get rest. Yes sleep is important for everyone, yet we have this immeasurably high standard for kids to meet. They are never allowed to struggle to sleep and get rest. They have to sleep according to our expectations and when they fail to meet that, we get angry, agitated and upset. Yes they need rest, yes they will be grumpy if they do not get enough rest, they know they need the rest as well. The same way we know we need the rest even more so urgently when we struggle to sleep ourselves. 
  2. React immediately when they are given instructions
    • This is the bane of our existence. We want them to be obedient to the degree that we expect of them to react immediately when we request them to do things or go somewhere. Yet when they ask us to do something, we ask them to wait and allow us to finish doing what we are doing. Or we even say no, yet they are not allowed to say no.
  3. Not show their discontent when they feel they have been wronged
    • I could probably write books and books on this. When a child cries, talks back, argues, says no, rolls their eyes, talks in a snide voice or even screams, they are viewed as naughty. Yet all of these behaviours are a way of expressing negative emotions, disagreement and the way they do it, is due to immature emotional control and also the need to be heard and noticed as a human being. 
  4. Do things they do not want to with a joyous attitude and not show discontent
    • They are not allowed to sigh or show irritation while doing a task or chore. They always have to do it with a smile on their face.
  5. Shop without touching anything
    • We all shop by touching. We often take things from the shelf to look at and then either buy it or put it back. Kids are often told, you do not shop with your hands while we are holding the shopping in our hands. They are curious, they also want to look and see. Many times kids will show you things, and we assume they want to buy it, just because you are in a shop, when in actual fact they just wanted to show you something they found interesting. When we keep equating showing with having to buy we create our own monster for ourselves, because then they will stop showing interesting things and only show things they want to buy.
  6. Have to hug, kiss or touch people they do not know or do not want to engage with
    • We as adults do not hug and kiss every person we greet. (now during covid we do not touch anyone) yet for some reason children have little to no choice in how they want to greet people. Do you remember that one sloppy kisser at the family reunion? That person who hugged you that gave you the willies everytime as a child, yet you were forced? Do you hug your boss or colleague or kiss them hello every time you see them? What about the new client who just walked in the door?
  7. Allow other people make use of their favourite possession without complaining
    • We all have favourite possessions. Possessions that we take care of and will not allow others to use, like our cars, we may allow a select few to make use of it, but man it has to be someone we trust deeply. Yet here we are at playdates and gatherings and force our children to allow other children to play with their favourite toy and if they say no, they are in trouble. Imagine a world where you are forced to share your house with whomever wants to make use of it, or even your car, or anything you own. 
  8. Accept physical harm as a means of love (spanking, hitting, smacking)
    • When an adult gets hit for disobedience from whoever holds the power in the relationship we call it abuse. When a child gets hit by a parent we call it love. The brain of a child interprets the smack from the adult the same way the brain of the adult interprets the smack from another adult. The brain releases the same fear hormones regardless of age, however in a child’s developing brain, it causes more harm than in an adult brain
  9. Eat everything even when they do not like it
    • As an adult we get to choose to eat what we like and enjoy. Yes sometimes for the sake of our health we eat foods we dislike, yet we have the power to choose which of those we dislike the least and eat that instead of the ones we really really cannot stomach. Yet we strip our kids from that choice
  10. Get up and get over it, especially when thing dramatically change around them
    • I have often seen and see it now more often than not. We as a society at large is going through a severely dramatic life changing pandemic. Yet we expect our children to be okay and not act out, not regress on certain behaviours, while they are also under immense stress the same way we as adults are. We expect of them to just buck up and carry on and ignore the stress and chaos of the dramatic world events unfolding around them. It impacts them, it impacts them deeply. Any change causes stress and stress hormones, and the smaller a child is, the less life experience they have to deal with it
  11. Always get along with their sibling
    • I love my siblings. Do i get along with all of them, no i don’t and that is okay. Our kids do not always have to get along with their siblings. The more we try to force it, the more I can guarantee you, that once they are grown up and have a choice of spending time with them, the more they will choose not to spend time with them. Let them build their relationship organically and on their own terms
  12. Never forget anything, instructions or stuff.
    • We joke that we have “spacial memory loss”. The moment we move to another space we forget what we were going to do there, yet when our kids do that, they are in trouble. We all have lost or forgotten personal belongings because we just forgot it somewhere, yet when a child does that, we immediately brand them as irresponsible, ungrateful and deserving of some sort of consequence over and above the loss they suffered.
  13. Never to get thirsty after bedtime
    • This one really boggles the mind. This mindset starts from the view that if we withhold fluids from them an hour or so before bed time, they will magically sleep through. And if they wake during the night and want to drink something we view it as wrong and they are not allowed to drink anything, they are just misbehaving and trying to be difficult, they have a sleeping problem… They are thirsty. The same way you have woken up many a night in your life and needed water to drink.

If we have an honest look at this list, it is time that we take a deeper look into what we expect of our children. Start seeing them as whole human beings who, just like us, needs support, understanding and most of all, for US as the Parents to lower the bar we set for them to clear.

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3 Things to expect during the first 3 weeks after giving birth

Congratulations you are parents of a new human being. This totally helpless little body you are cradling in your arms. How precious is this little one?

Photo by Quinton Coetzee on Unsplash

So often during pregnancy we devour the “What to expect when you’re expecting” books. We read everything we can get our hands on about pregnancy. We have apps tracking the stages of pregnancy and we share with anticipation with all who are willing to listen, even the smallest of information on how baby is doing – at least I did and so did many other parents.

Now the baby  is here and we have to contend with information, hormones and adjustment. In this article we are going to look at 3 important aspects of  the first three weeks post-birth. 

Hormones, hormones everywhere.

Directly after birth the person who gave birth will go through one of the biggest hormonal changes they will ever endure during their lifetime. Their body will have to rapidly adapt from nurturing a baby in utero, to nurturing a baby outside of their body. It is a hormonal cascade that triggers certain things within their body. From releasing hormones to ensure that there is colostrum and the breastmilk available for the baby to be nourished. It triggers the contraction of the uterus and a dramatic drop in Progesterone that was used to keep the pregnancy. All of these hormones are coursing through their bodies. It is easy to feel overwhelmed during this period of time and have little to no control over their emotional state. 

Many moms are at their most vulnerable during these first few weeks. More parents suffer from PostNatal Depression, than what we really feel comfortable to admit. During these first few weeks PostNatal depression is also difficult to diagnose since it is normal for a new parent to want to cry at the drop of a hat, or to feel so overwhelmed that they almost feel helpless. If your emotional rollercoaster lasts for longer than two to three weeks, please contact your health care practitioner for support. Do not feel ashamed to reach out for help, you deserve to receive the support and help you need.

For more information on PND https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20376617.

Settling into the new normal

Baby is a whole human being, with so much to learn and is utterly and completely reliant on us to survive the big world outside the womb. Baby will want to be held and kept close at all times. Remember baby’s first 9 months of life have been inside a warm comfortable womb, hearing a heartbeat, never experiencing discomfort of bowel movements, cold or hunger.

Now outside the womb everything is new. Just like you are learning to adapt and change to this new life, so are they. They are learning to understand the world and for the first couple of months you as the parent are their world. 

You will never spoil a child by feeding them to sleep. A baby’s body does not get tired of being held and cuddled all day long. They feel safe and content in your arms. Where they can hear your heartbeat, especially if you are the parent that gave birth to them. 

Follow your baby’s cues. They will show you what they need. If you have a baby that insists on being in the arms the whole day, look into baby wearing, to free up your hands. You are their safe space. Be that for them. All too soon they will begin crawling, walking and running and leave your arms missing the cuddles of these early days.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed when a baby only wants you. On the days when that happens, reach out to your partner, family or a close friend to come help you.

Lower your standard on meals and cleanliness. Your home will be clean soon again, there will come a time where you will be able to cook your amazing meals again. Accept that for now, the priority is to get to know your baby and for your baby to get to know you. 

Growth Spurts and developmental leaps

In between day 10 and day 14, and day 19 and day 24, the baby will go through a growth spurt and a developmental leap. During these leaps, the baby will be more niggly and clingy and will demand more of your time and energy. Settle in with a good book, or tv series and snuggle with baby. There is nothing you can do to make them less niggly and clingy during these times, except lean into it and hold, rock and cuddle baby. It is normal for baby to need you during these times. It is uncertain for them and they will need you to ease them through these leaps.

So take it slow, take it easy and focus on you and your baby. You can never spoil a baby with attention and love. Be kind to yourself and reach out for help and support. The first three weeks is tough, it is rewarding and it is the beginning of a beautiful journey into parenthood. 

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Why kids lie

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies… There comes an age where our kids start to lie to us. There are many factors that play a role in why kids lie to us and at times all the factors just line up to create a perfect storm of power struggles and misunderstandings. There are developmental reasons for this, but also a societal norm as well as home based reasons our kids start to lie to us or attempt to hide things from us. In this article we will touch on all 3 of those reasonings.

Developmental milestones and lies:

According to Kohlberg and Piaget, moral development happens in different stages and the developmentally appropriate age where kids begin to experiment with lying is in the age range of 5 to 10 years. There are other Early Childhood development Psychologists and researchers that have the view of moral development starting at an earlier age. The age of 3. (If you want to read up on the scholars and research click here for the research article)

For the purposes of this article, we include the age range 3 to 10 years, as that is the current settled science regarding the development of morality. 

Piaget identified two different types of morality in his research: 

Heteronomous Morality: Which means, morality imposed by authority figures and the outside world, thus morality depends on the consequences and not the intent. Known as Moral realism (5 to 9 years – 3 to 8/9 years according to the latest research)

Autonomous morality: Self-imposed morality, thus the intent outweighs the consequences. Known as Moral relativism. (9 to 10 years – 7/ 8 to 10 years according to the latest research)

According to Grace Point; Early Childhood Moral development article: “Developmental psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg built on Piaget’s work to create his theory of the Stages of Moral Understanding. According to Kohlberg, young children at this age base their morality on a punishment and obedience orientation. Much like Piaget, Kohlberg believed that young children behave morally because they fear authority and try to avoid punishment. In other words, little kids follow the rules because they don’t want to get in trouble. It’s too much to expect preschool-aged children to automatically “do the right thing”. Click here for the full article.

Why is this important when we look at lies? Lies are the beginning stages of how children learn to navigate morality. They measure our reactions to their actions and determine what is good or bad and how to survive this life and how to fit in. When a child feels like they will be punished for what is viewed as a morally wrong action, they will try to lie and side step punishment in that way. There is however another factor that needs to be taken into account and that is the developmental space the child is traversing during the 3 to 7 year age group. In this age group they have an extremely active imagination. Their brains are not yet able to distinguish between reality and fiction. For them their imagination is tangible and real. So even if they broke the mug whilst playing, but in their mind the imaginary friend did it in the playing, they will state that it was their friend who did it, because to them their imaginary friend was the guilty party as they cannot distinguish between fiction and reality. So they are not lying and their words are not morally corrupt, they are not aiming at upsetting you or lying to you explicitly, they are telling you their version of the truth.

The lies we tell and how we react to the lies they tell:

We as parents lie to our children, and we do it so often. We read them fiction or they watch television and we tell them stories about Santa and the Easter Bunny. We use white lies when we are stuck in a corner and sometimes we say we will do something and forget to do it, or hope they forget we said that we would do it. It all adds up.

I can already see the eye rolls when I equated reading a story or watching television to your child as a lie. Unless the story is a historical factual book, fiction at its core is lies, it is a flight of imagination. It is acceptable lies because we as adults and even older children can differentiate between reality and fiction. We can differentiate between reality and imagination, and we enjoy these flights of imagination. The process of these flights of imagination is called “suspension of disbelief”. It is called that because we suspend our need for facts and reality, we deep dive into someone else’s imagination and we celebrate it. 

There is nothing wrong with the aforementioned practice and we would be remiss to deny the advantages that comes from reading books to our children, however we need to be aware that we as adults embrace a “type” of lying and for a young child that can be confusing as their language development and brain development cannot make that distinction yet. So when we read Peter Pan to them, they become the lost boys or Wendy or even Tinker Bell, Neverland is real to them. So extending grace for their flights of imagination, their lies for protection cannot be overstated.

I mentioned our lies we tell, by not executing what we said we will do, or by telling a white lie to get out of a sticky situation. They pick it up and as their brain matures and they learn to navigate the world, they will make use of those things. Kids see, hear and then mirror everything. Have you ever instructed your child to tell someone you are not there to answer the door or speak on the phone? Or have you ever told someone on the phone that you are already on your way while still getting dressed? They see it and they will use it too, they will use it on you.

Unless we have never told a lie or instructed our kids to lie on our behalf, we are in a sticky situation when it comes to parenting lies. 

Then there is how we react. In the way we react to lies or misbehaviour, we create the space for our children to navigate the difference between wrong and right. This age group, especially under the age of 8, views right and wrong as a moral black and white situation. So there is no room to manoeuvre. If you scream and shout over a glass of spilled water and have the same level of reaction to a broken ornament or when they run across the street, they cannot differentiate between the different types of wrongs and which is the lesser of all the evils, so to speak. 

If we react poorly in the early days of their experimentation with imagination, accidents and their difficult behaviour, we create in them a fear of how we will react in a particular situation. So we give them a defence pay-out and inadvertently encourage them to lie to us. 

Societal and life:

When a child feels uncertain or out of control they will try to lie and control the situation at hand. It hardly ever pans out in a good way. Ironically if you read some of the pre-teen fiction, it is all about a child lying to adults, while trying to figure out life and the situation at hand.

Society seems okay with lies, as long as it does not cause any damage to a person. Hence “white lies” as a label. We encourage flights of imagination by paying for someone else’s lies written in a book. So in the eyes of society, lies are good when you get paid for it, and lies are bad if you use it to hurt someone else or cover yourself. It is okay if you lie to get out of a situation, because being viewed as rude is far worse than telling a lie to protect someone’s feelings. You see how tricky it becomes for our children especially when they are that young. We punish children for lying, but then when they discover Santa is not real, we make up a new “softer” lie to ease the blow.

We need to own this, this is part of life, and we need to own the fact that our children will pick up on lies, try to lie to us with some success. So how do we parent this? How do we handle the lies our kids tell us?

How do we parent lies?

  1. Be a person of your word: When you say you will do something, do it. Even if they forget that you have said you will do it. Don’t give in on boundaries for the sake of the peace and then hope they will forget about it, they will remember and it will have a huge impact on your trustworthiness in their mind. They will start to distrust you, and they may not even be able to pinpoint why, they will just have a gut feeling of mistrust.
  2. Do not ask your kids to lie for you. It may seem small, but really we cannot ask them to behave in a certain way one moment and then another the next moment, just for the sake of our own convenience.
  3. Be honest and upfront, even when it is uncomfortable
  4. Own your mistakes and do not make excuses for your blunders. You messed up, fix it, no amount of lies will ever fix the mistake.
  5. During the imagination driven age group, allow for lies. When your kid lies here, you can use the words: “you wish ‘xyz’ did not happen.”, “I will appreciate it if you tell me the truth, when you tell me the truth, I’m able to help you. When you hide the truth it makes it difficult to fix the situation.” or “that is an amazing story, I think you need to write it down. You may become an excellent writer one day.” obviously without sarcasm or snark.
  6. Ask what their intent was, no matter the age of the child. Not accusingly, but inquiringly. Asking why as a genuine question, will reveal far more to you than shouting at them.
  7. Read stories and books and join them in their flights of imagination, that way they learn the difference between a straight up lie and suspension of disbelief.
  8. If you do the seasonal character (Santa/Easter bunny) type of things, make a point of telling them it is imagination and it is fun to do so. Under a certain age, they will tell you that they are real even when you tell them they are not. Celebrate it with a “Yes you really want it to be real and I love joining you on these adventures.” That way you are not lying to them, you are suspending disbelief and you are able to keep the “magic of imagination” alive and well. Not doing so, you stand the risk of tainting your relationship with your child into one of second guessing the words that you say, especially about the good stuff in life.
  9. Watch how you react to mishaps, and even blatant disobedience. If our reaction to those kinds of behaviour is scary, fear filled and punitive, they have no reason whatsoever to tell you the truth. Lying then just postpones the blow up indefinitely and as humans we are prone to choose avoiding conflict or delaying conflict if possible. So create an environment where they feel safe to share the truth, no matter what the truth may be. 
  10. Ask them what they think needs to happen when they are caught in a lie: This is especially important when they are older. That allows them to really think of the impact their words and lies have on others. The disappointment and hurt lies may cause etc.

Kids will lie, it is part of their development, and it’s how we parent it that will make the difference. We do not want to raise our kids to be liars, but we don’t want to kill their imagination. There is a fine line, but it is possible to traverse that line if we handle it with guidance instead of punishment. When we engage our children in honesty and sincerity that is when they learn the moral value of honesty, kindness and accountability.

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Parenting Tantrums

Between the ages of 0 to 24 months a child’s most developed part of their brain is the Lizard brain…Yeah a bit of an unfortunate name, but alas that is what it is called. See picture below for the triune brain lay-out.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/7d/eb/53/7deb53c56a8a79543c15b366e00ea6ff.jpg

Why Do Children Tantrum?

The lizard brain is in control of the survival. Physiological but also external. This part of the brain is also where fight, flight or freeze is located. (Our survival in the great big wild- basically outside of a mother’s womb). When this area of the brain is not triggered, the baby or child’s brain is in limbo and is able to rebuild neural pathways to the rest of the brain.

For a child this young, they cannot discern between need and want, their brain interprets it all as the same. If they need food and cannot have the food, their brain is telling them that they are going to die. Voila child cries and screams to get your attention, so that you respond and baby does not die. When they want a toy, the same feeling of upset triggers the “We are going to die” response and once again baby screams to get what they want.

Delayed gratification development lies within the limbic brain and only starts maturing from the age of 24 months. Thus it is usually recommended that you give a child what they want under the age of 2. We only start practicing delayed gratification and more strict boundaries after they have turned 2. 

Biology of a Tantrum

There is also a physiological aspect to the cry that we as parents need to understand as this still plays out in us as adults as well. With the activation of the danger center in the lizard brain the following things happen to the body:

Our body’s blood and oxygen supply route is deliberately changed. Going away from the brain to the larger muscles in the legs and arms. The capillaries narrows in the brain and widen in the muscles during perceived danger. This basically means that any access we had to the frontal lobe has now disappeared and we only have primal instincts to go on.

This results in an actual loss of words. The inability to speak and if we do speak we do so irrationally and almost obsessively repeating the words we have said before the center was triggered.

During this time the ear canal actually closes to only let in low noises. The reason for this connected to when civilization lived in the wild. A creeping lion in the bush will make soft low sounds and our brain needs to be able to hear where it is coming from. When we parent any child of any age during a tantrum, we need to speak to them calmly and in soft hushed voices. They will hear what we say, and the soft calm voice will help them pull back from the perceived danger.

Once our children have calmed down can we try to engage in a short conversation – no more than 3 sentences as to why the boundary is there. Ie, I cannot let you play with the knife. It is dangerous. You can get hurt. 

The impact of negative emotions on a child

A child’s main survival instinct is to be close to their parents or primary caregiver. They are completely vulnerable to the outside world, relying on us to help them make sense of the world around them and inside of them. As humans we are wholly flesh and wholly emotions. We use emotions to navigate the world around us. Basically deciding if something is safe by deciding how it makes us feel. 

We feel emotions with our whole body, it is not just in our minds, emotions triggers hormones that impact how our body functions. Negative emotions often expressed as a tantrum is something that makes our bodies feel “bad”. Children under the age of 3 perceives this “bad” feeling as a real life threat to them. It becomes a body snatcher as they have little to no control over this reaction. Their brain goes to survival mode and they only know that crying has made the primary caregiver respond quickly. When kids get overwhelmed with the negative emotion, they scream and tantrum. 

We see the remnants of the tantrum body snatcher in adults, when we ourselves stomp our feet or clap our hands to draw attention to our frustration or anger. Adults have a fully mature brain and can sense our emotions build up. We should be able to find a safety hatch to redirect our negative emotions too. Kids do not have that – That override switch actually only fully mature at the age of 25.

Why you never walk away from a tantrum

So why should we not walk away or throw a tantrum next to our child when they have a tantrum. Firstly a child has no physical or mental control over how they react. They feel threatened and their brain is telling them that they are actually going to die now. When we walk or run away, or even flop down next to them, expressing the same fear signals they are using. Our kids’ brains interpret this behavior as a sign of danger, we are exactly as scared as what they are.

So fight did not work. They might be immobile or strapped in, so flight isn’t going to work either, the next response then is, freeze. So they fall quiet. The problem is, they are just quiet, still in distress and the hormones that inhibits the oxygen to the brain is even higher. They are now physically preparing to die. This teaches a child that we are unable protect them. There is no reason to trust and believe that this person will be able to protect them.

If you have followed one of these strategies before. I would urge you to stop and rather lean into a tantrum. Allow them to express their fear and anger – remember anger is the gatekeeper of all the negative emotions.

Parenting tantrums in a healthy way

While holding them, if they are not flailing or fighting, whisper calmly that you are there and that you can hear their anger and fear.

Tell them that they are safe and you will not go away from them. They have all the time in the world to work through this emotion. When the tears and crying are done, we can start a rational discussion with our kids.

Join us in our Workshop: Parenting Toddlers (age 0 to 3) Click here and scroll down for more information.

You can also watch this video https://youtu.be/HX7JOEPcP58 on how to parent tantrums in a healthy way.

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“Units of Rhythm” – Schedules and routines

Frequently parents are bombarded with the notion that “baby needs a routine/schedule.” The two terms are often conflated and it can become a mountain parents either avoid or choose to die on, and often to the detriment of the child. Both schedules and routines are needed, however it is how we manage them and engage with it that makes all the difference.

I am a mother who struggles to function within a schedule, but thrives with routine. My eldest is a schedule kind of kid and my youngest is cut from the same cloth as mother. How do we find a balance that speaks to the needs of all the family members? 


The first step is to clearly distinguish between the two terms:

Schedule: A schedule is usually an event or activity that happens at a specific time and on a specific date: Things that would be considered as scheduled events are extra-curricular activities or even a birthday party. 

Routine: Refers to the rhythm of a day. The happenings of a day have a certain order in which they take place, it happens every day, but the time frame of when can or may be adjusted according to how the day is going. Things that will shape a routine is brushing of teeth or bath time and even when we eat as a family.

(For differently abled families food may be scheduled instead of routine as some families need a set time of when a person needs to eat or even go to the toilet.) 

Most, if not all people are in need of routine. Routine creates safety and security. Routine creates comfort even for the most “free-spirited, doing things at the drop of a hat” kind of person. It provides enough structure to a day without confining it to a list of deadlines. Routine is flexible within its ordered predictability. Routines are most often not set in the stone of time – the routine will stay the same, whether you are away on holiday and get to sleep late or whether you have to rise early to go to work.

Schedules on the other hand are a deadline. It is set in stone and often cannot be altered without negative consequences, either real or imagined. 

Not all people have the same temperament, needs or even personality. For a person who thrives within order and structure, their routine can become a schedule. This is not always a problem, as they use this to then fight the anxiety and unpredictability that life creates. They hold dear their scheduled routines and this gives them a sense of control and belonging. It only becomes a problem if they cannot function in the event that their scheduled routine has been interrupted.  

For some people a schedule can become the bane of their existence and create vast amounts of stress as they experience it as deadlines and things they have to do, something they cannot escape. They need the freedom to be able to embrace the impulse of a moment.

Most families have a bit of both in their family unit and creating space so that the free-spirited individual can find their moments of impulse and freedom and the more structured can find their sense of control is vital. The grey space this occupies is what we like to call “units of rhythm”. It is those measured beats that makes up the melody of life. As music has the ability to impact emotions, so do these units of rhythm.

In our home we make use of timers. We have our units of rhythm up on the wall. There are a few up around the house. There are some that have time slots, and some that just have the order of what needs to happen. The members of the family who need routine to become a schedule have the freedom to make it so, either by setting timers themselves or asking for timers to be set. Those who need routine for the comfort, but the freedom to determine when, there is also room created for that.

One of the first things we do as a family when starting our day is to look at the units of rhythm and discuss the day ahead. We highlight the routine items and we talk about the scheduled appointments for the day. Each person gets an opportunity to offer something that they need to be done, even before we start our day. This has already become the first step in the routine.

How do we manage this when our children are still small and we are trying to figure out what their temperament is? It all lies within communication. Talk to your baby and talk through the routine of the day and the planning. Share the units of rhythm with them. A child in need of a more structured schedule will protest and ask for it. A child of free-spirit will complain at the structure. A child in need of the schedule will ask for times and timeslots. They will want to plan and they will want to schedule. Whereas the child who dislikes scheduling will ask for more freedom, they will even ask for order reversals within a routine, they will enjoy impulse trips to the shops or to visit others, or even prefer to play in between the moments of executing the list of routine events. For them if they eat after brushing their teeth, their wheels will not fall off, they completed the task that needed to be done. Allowing each child to choose the order and time in between each routine activity will be an indication of their temperament.

Kids will want to play in between activities anyway. Children are not supposed to be focused all the time, they need the freedom to manage their own routine order, while we as adults manage the scheduled activities.

Watch out for over scheduling your children, especially the free-spirited child’s time. They need the “non-planned” time to survive within the pressures of society and its expectations. By teaching our children that schedules and routines have a space and we need to accommodate each other’s needs within our family unit, we are consciously teaching them inclusivity and stress management.

To the free-spirited parent, find ways to create breaks within your own routine, so that the looming responsibilities of schedules do not overwhelm you. Plan your day in such a way that there is room for impulsivity and freedom of doing whatever you need to in order to manage your own anxiety that comes from schedules. This will in turn teach your schedule loving child that there is room for impulsiveness and that there is room for structure. The more fluidly our children learn to adapt the less anxiety they will experience growing up.

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Your child cannot share toys, but they can take turns. The language you use matters.

The principle of sharing is stamped into our minds from very young, and we expect the same from our children. However this is a very difficult concept for a child to grasp. As parents we use the word share ambiguously, we share food and we share toys, we share a cake and we share a bike.

Children under the age of 7 struggle to understand nuanced words, as they are mostly concrete literal thinkers. So when we talk about the word share, it means literally having equal and fair amounts, all enjoying it at the same time. I can share cake or food, as we can all eat together. Food is something that can be divided up into fair and equal amounts. Toys cannot.

Children can take turns. Taking turns is easy to understand. You play now and then when you are done, I get a turn to play until I am done. This is a social contract that can be managed by the children themselves. This works on similar principles as toy sharing, but the language we use to explain this will either empower or disempower our children and others. Taking turns is a concept and word our children can both process and understand at a young age, whereas sharing is not

I cannot share a toy car between two friends, as one will play with the toy while the other waits. It also creates the idea or concept that the one playing with the car is not being a kind friend. This then places the parent in a position of having to manage or regulate how long a child gets to play with the toy. It eliminates the opportunity for the child with the toy to decide they are done, exercise control and learn from the social interaction. The child without the toy feels let down by the parent and then also struggles to learn anything from the interaction, except that they are feeling left out and rejected. Taking turns also creates opportunities to swap and negotiate use  of the toys.

Obviously the younger the child, the more guidance they will need while learning this concept, but they will get the hang of it over time.

What are the rules for taking turns?

1 – When your child is playing with a toy and someone else wants it, they can ask for the other child to wait their turn.

2 – Your child determines when they are done with said toy.

3 – If your child wants a toy and someone else is busy with it, they can ask the other child to pass that toy to them when they are done.

4 – No parent is the gatekeeper of a toy or time played with said toy

5 – If your child is having difficulty waiting, help them find something else to play with while they wait.

Guiding your child:

It is important in the beginning to give your child the words to use, but not speak on their behalf, unless it is necessary.

Here is a list of sentences you can teach your child to say:

“When you are done, can I have a turn?”

“I am not done yet. When I am done, you can have a turn.”

“Thank you for remembering that it is my turn.”

“I will wait and play with something else.”

“Would you like to play with this toy? Can we swap when you are done?”

What would this teach our children in the long run?

1 – Delayed gratification and patience – Having to wait and not being the one determining the time they need to wait is important for impulse control and emotional development.

2 – Negotiation skills – learning to swap and negotiate for toys, will one day serve them well when they need to negotiate in adulthood.

3 – The ability to move on and find something else to occupy themselves with. Thus learning to manage and regulate their emotions and expectations.

4 – What they are busy with is important and they don’t have to sacrifice their own learning and development to satisfy someone else’s needs. – This is so important! Kids learn through play, so when they are busy with a toy, they are actually learning and developing their brain. Adults have the tendency to want to intervene and stop the play for the sake of peace, but we are really doing no-one any favours by intervening.

5 – Social contracts are there for them to manage – We want our kids to be kind and inclusive, both now and in their adult years. By giving them the skills to manage the playground dynamics and letting them learn this when they are young we are setting them up for success.

6 – Self-reliance and independence that leads to problem solving skills – They need to be able to learn to trust themselves and their own needs. We as adults won’t always be present all the time during their lives, so being there while they learn the skills, and allowing them to manage it themselves, gives confidence in their own personal skills.

When would a parent intervene.

1 – If a child gets so upset that they get violent – you block and remove the violent child

2 – When your child struggles to wait, you help them work through their emotions and redirect. You do not intervene with the toy situation.

3 – Block snatching of toys

4 – Allow your child to work through their emotions

5 – Keep giving the words to your child and empower them to use it.

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6 Tips for parenting 3 and 4 year olds

Parenting a three and four year old is pretty intense. They are the concentrated essence of their being, their personality and everything in the world. This age is when they mirror us as parents the most. This is the age where they start whining (which is a good thing) pushing harder on boundaries and become bossy. This is the age where it feels as if you want to give up on parenting all together.

Each age has their moments, however it feels as if these two years are the longest and toughest years a parent will ever have to parent. These years creates in us the everlasting fear of the teenage years. They are not called threenagers for nothing.

At this age your child has basically completed a very big developmental leap. At the age of 18 to 24 months their brain disconnects the idea that, the primary caregiver and they, are one and the same person. The physicality of their being is now two entities. Only at the age of 7 does it dawn on them that they do not share a brain with their primary caregiver or anyone else for that matter. From age 2 years to approximately 2.5 to 3 years, this discovery is what they focus on. So they will start to experiment with independence in play, always using the primary caregiver as a homing beacon.

At about age 3, they finally made their peace with this, and now can focus on other developmental needs and leaps. Now they are focused on learning about emotional control, authority and delayed gratification. (Just remember impulse and emotional control is only starting to develop now. It is the part of the brain that develops the slowest and is estimated to be only fully developed at the age of 25 https://web.stanford.edu/group/sparklab/pdf/Tarullo,%20Obradovic,%20Gunnar%20(2009,%200-3)%20Self-Control%20and%20the%20Developing%20Brain.pdf )

These skills takes time to develop and practice. They look to their parents for guidance on how this will look and they try to mimic everything we do. Their frustration levels is through the roof. Have you ever looked at something being done, try it yourself and it just did not work out? This is a constant for them. They can see how things are suppose to work, from social interaction to engaging with the material world, but the result is just wrong more often than not.

They get frustrated because we just don’t seem to get what they want and they struggle mid-frustration to use their words, just like us. So they scream and whine and cry. Whining is a sign that they are trying to override their emotions to interact with their rational brain, where they have a better command of words and better control of their body. It takes time, be patient with them and yourself.

So how do we parent through the emotional outbursts and the whining? The feeling of constant push back and willfulness?

6 Tips for parenting 3 and 4 year olds

1. Eye level:

It is so important to remember to go down to your child’s eye level and engage with them there. A towering person, feels threatening and increases the hormonal output of fight or flight. Make the effort to look them in the eyes when talking with them. First it is less scary and secondly it invites them into a conversation, instead of a confrontation.

2. Acknowledge their emotions:

Nothing is more empowering than knowing that your emotions are recognised, respected and valid. Help them through it with support, recognition and being present. Emotions are nothing to be scared of, if you run away from their emotional expressions, you are telling them that their emotions are bad and should be feared. That in itself stunts the developmental process they are engaging with.

3. Lean into the situation:

This is contrary to how most of us were raised. We were raised that negative emotions and expressions in behaviour should ostracize the person expressing them. They should remove themselves until they feel better or can better express themselves. This is not healthy. Yes you can move your child away from a public setting, but only to help them work through what they are experiencing and feeling. Never leave your child alone to work through these big emotions. Try to remain unruffled and matter of fact.

Things you can say:

“I am moving you to a different room, so that you can work through your emotions with me.”

“ I am not scared of how you are feeling, you are safe”

“I am with you”

“I love you”

“This is big emotions. I sense You feel frustrated” – (whatever emotion you can pinpoint at that particular point in time)

4. Don’t step into the power struggle:

Power struggles are only effective if there is two people in the struggle. Your child is trying to determine their own authority and abilities. There is no need, nor will there ever be a need to try and prove who is in control. The moment you as the parent start arguing with your child about who is in control, your child is in control of the situation. If you lean into the emotional expression and just calmly keep your boundary, there will not be a power struggle. The moment you feel like you have something to prove or have something to lose, that is when you stepped into the power struggle. In a power struggle no-one wins. Children find security in the calmness of the parent.

5. Give them real choices:

Children this age wants more autonomy. Giving choices, that are real choices for autonomy, will help navigate this learning curve. Real choices are important. A real choice is where no matter what they choose, their choice cannot and will not be overridden or punished. If the choices you give your child is choices that ends in a situation where you as the parent will have to override the choice or one of the options given is punitive, the choice becomes manipulation instead of empowerment. Ie Real choice: “We are going to a park with thorns. Would you like to put your shoes on now, or when we get there?” Manipulation “Put on your shoes or we don’t go to the park.”

6. Check your own behaviour:

This is the toughest one for parents to embrace. We are our children’s main sphere of information. They look to us for the “how, when, where and why” of behaviour. If your child speaks rudely or bossy to you, chances are that you have been speaking to your child and other that way for a while now. Children in this age group start to experiment with authority. Where do they learn how authority is expressed and engaged with? From you as the parent. So check yourself. Check how you speak to them. How often do you ask them to wait before you engage with them? How do you say no? If your behaviour has been dismissive and abrupt, go apologise to your child and admit it. Tell them you will try to pay attention to how you speak to them. They will internalize that apology and start checking their own way of doing things.

Lastly, give your child space to grow and learn.

Parenting is messy and fun. Enjoy it, learn and grow in it.

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It is not a Child’s responsibility to make an adult feel loved

My eldest was just over a year, when a very powerful realisation struck me. I was not able to explain why I felt the way I did, nor could I verbalise as to why I spoke up. It just happened. Later it all made sense. My eldest was going through a developmental leap, he wanted nothing to do with any person besides his mom. Dad was proverbial chopped liver and so was the rest of the world.

We went to visit my folks, and as soon as anyone tried to take him away from me, he would wail and scream. Initially I would let him cry for about 2 minutes in the family member’s arms and then whisk him away to breastfeed. He would stop crying and calm down at my breast, but as soon as he was calm, another well meaning family member would try to take him away again. So the day continued. My son crying more often than usual, family members taking him, because they want to play. Me having to use breastfeeding as a shield and excuse to get him back so that he can stop crying.

I did not have the guts to say to them, don’t pick him up or take him. Just engage with him here in my arms. I swear I fed more that day than on a growth spurt. By the end of the day, both him and I have had enough.

In came my brother. He wanted to show him off to his colleagues over skype. He wanted to “bond” with my son. The moment he picked him up, my son started crying, for the umpteenth time that day. I have had enough. I asked for my son back. Which was refused, I asked again and my brother walked away with my screaming child in his arms. That was when I snapped and said “Please respect my child’s feelings. Now give him back to me.”My child was shoved into my arms, he stopped crying almost immediately and my brother stomped out of the room.

I was shaking angry and scared. That day the reality dawned on me, that I am my child’s voice, but I have been compromising him for the sake of family and my needs to not be rejected. I was angry at myself that I was so scared to cause a scene or a fight, that I did not protect my child. It took me almost eight hours, of a screaming child and then nursing said child, to finally not care that I upset a family member.

We so desperately want our family to love our child. We so desperately want the approval of our family members, that we forsake the very child, who needs us more, we and compromise on their needs, wants and feeling of safety and autonomy. A few weeks later, my brother informed me, that he can no longer love my child because of the way that I spoke to him, and the fact that I restrict the interaction (read when my child cries I step in and remove my child from the situation), he no longer feels like he wants to build a relationship with my son. That moment was when I found the words for what I have instinctively been fighting for and against. That very moment it became crystal clear.

To them, my child is an accessory to their happiness. He has to respect their needs. My child was not a human to them, but a means to stroke their ego and have their own needs fulfilled. My child’s need to feel safe and okay was not even secondary on their priority list, it just never featured. They wanted to be known as the uncle or grandparent who could calm the baby down. The uncle or grandparent who could make the baby smile. The uncle or grandparent who gets to brag about how cute this baby is. My baby became the the collar for their own self worth and I became the obstacle to their selfish drive.

They were taught no different while growing up. They could not see their behaviour as wrong, because that is just how things are suppose to be done. A child has to fit into the family, the family does not have to create space and change for the sake of the child.

From that day forward I had to learn how to be brave enough to set boundaries and accept the backlash it caused. With every boundary I enforced, I could see my child grow stronger in his own voice and he became more confident. I wish I could say that I never stepped into that compromised, scared and angry place again. That I always put my child first when dealing with the family. I stumbled on this new terrain of rejection and struggled as I grew. However I did grow and my voice became louder and prouder.You may ask, why is it an issue when we compromise for the sake of family?

It is simple really. While we teach our children to be afraid of stranger danger. We teach our children that their bodies are their own, unless it is a family member who just wants a hug, or just wants a kiss. We tell them especially at the infancy age, when they literally can only cry to announce their needs, that their needs does not matter when it comes to older family members. We try to keep the peace and ignore the cry for as long as we can stand it, because we are scared to make the family member feel unloved or scrutinised.

We allow our family members to override our parenting, because we are scared to be “that” parent, or we are scared to be ostracized by our clan. Our drive to belong creates an environment where we compromise our children’s sense of autonomy, safety and self, all for the sake of peace.

We don’t realise that we are teaching our children to compromise themselves for the sake of belonging. We teach them to compromise their safety for the sake of others. We look at the world and ask why do children so easily forget the values we teach them, yet we taught them that the core value of their personhood is compromisable for the sake of belonging.

Children and babies are not responsible to make adults feel loved and happy. It is not their responsibility to be brag worthy. It is adults’ responsibility to make kids feel loved, protected and safe. It is adults’ responsibility to listen and adhere to the rules of personhood. Adults need to learn to respect children as whole human beings and that their NO and STOP has the same value and power as that of an adult.

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