Parenting Advice for Structure/Routine/Security

Please see some great articles below (from the Supernanny website) – with great ideas for creating routine and structure in your home…….

Agree to Disagree…

It’s happened a hundred times before: you assume one thing is acceptable and your partner assumes the opposite. You wonder: why is he punishing the kids for that? Why is he ignoring that bad behaviour? And why can’t he see my point of view?Ultimately, the reality of relationships is that not all differences are resolvable.

Most of us learn how to be parents and how to be partners from our parents. We see how they did it, make decisions about whether it was good or bad, right or wrong, and then adjust our parenting and relationship skills accordingly. So if you grew up in a house where mum did all the discipline and dad was the laid back one, and if it never did you any harm, chances are you’ll do the same. Conversely, if your dad was a strict, authoritative, even cruel disciplinarian, you may decide that discipline is best left to mothers who have a softer touch.

When couples disagree on fundamental issues about family life, such as discipline and division of responsibility, they often make the mistake of trying to establish who is right and who is wrong. But more often than not, there is no right and wrong. If your family history is different from your partner’s, then you first need to accept that neither of you has a moral upper hand. Once you can accept this, you can stop arguing about what the other one ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ do and focus instead on what the two of you can do together to compromise.

The following tips can help you reach that compromise….

Find a common goal

Often when we’re stuck in the thick of an argument we forget that underneath the differences lies a common goal. You’re parents together, you love your children and you both want what’s best for them. On top of that you undoubtedly want a harmonious family environment and a relationship that’s fun and rewarding. Remember that both of you are working in the same direction – you might just have different routes for getting there.

Agree to disagree

Differences of opinion are inevitable. Rather than trying to convince your partner to share your point of view, accept that you’re different and you’re each entitled to see life through a different lens.

Develop a compromise

Having agreed that you share the same common goal and you’re each entitled to your opinion, sit down together and work out how you can move forward. Take time for each of you to share your perfect scenario then discuss the points that are essential and those that are arbitrary. For example, you may agree that you will support your partner in ensuring your child eats at the table, even though it’s not important to you, in exchange for your partner supporting you in making your child tidy away toys. And you may agree to give up on making sure the washing up is done before bedtime in exchange for him reading the bedtime story three times a week. What’s important is that you negotiate and compromise so that neither of you feels that you’re sacrificing any more than the other.

Pre-empt arguments

Many couples find there are particular flashpoints during the day when they’re most likely to argue. Typically this is first thing in the morning when everyone’s rushing to get out of the house or at mealtimes or children’s bedtimes. If this is the case then plan ahead how you can avoid this happening. Learn the argument triggers. It could be something as simple as your partner raising a disapproving eye-brow or always sighing when you ask them to do something. Discuss these triggers with your partner and agree how to eliminate them.

Stop arguments fast

If you’ve got into the habit of arguing over the same old things time after time, then it will be easy to slip into those old routines – even after you’ve reached a compromise. Remember to give each other the benefit of the doubt and gently remind each other that you’ve agreed a new approach. Some couples find it useful to set a code-word. When one of you uses the code word you agree to a time-out until you’ve both calmed down.

If all the above fails…..

For some couples there are hidden pay-offs for continuing to argue. It may be that are resentments much deeper than the surface things that you argue about, but rather than face these issues you bicker about safer things. The main issue may be something that happened in the past or an ongoing problem that has become too difficult to talk about. Arguing about something else allows you both to air your feelings, but avoid talking about the problem. The only way to stop this destructive cycle is to address the deeper issue.

Benefits of a Routine

Research suggests that children whose families follow a daily routine may be healthier, better behaved and could even perform better at school. Just having dinner together every night helps a family get to know each other, and a bedtime routine is essential for build a good sleep pattern in your child.

 Whilst set times for waking, meals, shared chores, bath, TV time and bedtime might fill you with horror, with the right routine you could find you use your time more productively. Your child will find structured family life reassuring and, just as with House Rules, it’s easier to function as a whole when everyone knows what’s expected of them.

You don’t have to write it up and stick it on the fridge, but this will help if you are hoping to engage your children in the routine. Otherwise, take a quiet moment to write out the ideal routine for your family and commit it to memory.

How to set up a routine:

  • Start to build the routine around the times people wake, eat and sleep.
  • Be realistic and allow enough ‘dither time’ for your children to wash and dress, especially if this is new for them.
  • Add in extras to the routine which you know your family needs; chore time, one-to-one time if you have more than one child, homework time and any out of school clubs or classes for older children.
  • Pay close attention to night time: if bags are packed, sports stuff is ready, school clothes are laid out and water bottles filled there’ll be less to do in the morning. School age children can help with all of these things. You could even set up a specific Bedtime Routine.
  • If you can, remember to rotate duties with your partner, especially the bedtime routine as this will increase your child’s trust in both Mum and Dad.
  • Get as much input as you can from your family and talk it through with other carers. A routine which works for everyone will be much easier to stick to.
  • If there’s one activity, like toothbrushing, which is a nightly sticking point, set up a Reward Chart to deal with it, or add this chore to your child’s existing chart.
  • When you first start the routine, talk your family through every step (even if you’re tired of the sound of your own voice). Within a few weeks, your child could be reminding you ‘Seven o’clock, Mum, you should be reading me a story!’

     House Rules

    How many adults can put their hands on their heart and say they love living by rules? But, as restrictive as it might sound, putting some House Rules in place for your children could make your home environment more relaxing – at last the kids know exactly what is expected of them, with no more ‘that’s not fair!’ or ‘but Dad lets us do it!’

    House Rules can be pretty general, such as ‘no shouting’ or ‘no swearing’. What’s important is that everyone in the house agrees to stick to them. Individual discipline problems, such as bad behaviour at mealtimes, might be better dealt with in a Reward Chart, which tailors a programme of rules more to the child or children.

    Giving House Rules a try in your home

    • Decide on ten realistic rules which you and your child agree you can stick to.
    • Write the rules out and stick them on your fridge for all to see, near the Reward Chart. Use pictures or symbols for younger children. Try to write your expectations in a positive way where possible, for example, ‘everyone must speak politely’ instead of ‘no swearing’; and  ‘put toys in box at the end of the day’ instead of ‘don’t make a mess’.
    • Refer to these rules when you’re going about your daily routine, and remember to praise your children when they do follow the House Rules.
    • Be consistent, if you change the rules your child may feel cheated and break them.
    • If a rule is broken, remind your child what it is – “remember, ‘no swearing’ is one of our house rules”, or you might consider some form of discipline, for example the ”Thinking Chair”

    By using this technique you are sending a message loud and clear to all the family: these are the boundaries, don’t cross them!

    The Reward Chart

    Positive attention and praise are the most effective rewards for good behaviour because they reinforce good behaviour on the spot and help a child make the connection between what you are saying and what they’ve just done.

    Use the Reward Chart to award stickers for good behaviour, and when your child has collected enough stickers to get them to the top of the chart, you can reward them with a treat or an outing (maybe even of their own choosing). When your child misbehaves, remove a sticker from the chart. Tell them why you are doing this, so they understand there are consequences for their bad behaviour.

    Reward Chart or Reward Tower?

    After five or ten stickers, the parents should give a final goal or reward to aim for, like an outing. With a large family, each child could have their own chart. Alternatively, a joint chart might help combat sibling rivalry as the kids will have to work together to achieve a common goal. Older children might appreciate something a little different from their younger siblings; a reward tower or jar given to the child with three marbles already inside and the chance to earn more marbles with good behaviour followed by a treat of their choice when the jar is full. Try to avoid using sugary treats or other food as a reward – outings are the best (and healthiest)  option.

    The Reward Chart should have specific categories written on it (using pictures or symbols for younger children) such as ‘a clean plate’, ‘a tidy room’, and the child will be given a sticker, token or coupon whenever they achieve these goals. Reward towers are more flexible, rewarding the older child when they respond well to a situation, and working in conjunction with the House Rules.

     How do I make a Reward Chart?

    If the idea of making your own really fills you with dread, there’s a range of individual or family reward charts available to buy, for boys and girls of all ages which integrate coupon, credit and sticker systems.

    Better yet, get creative and develop a chart based on something your child or children love, make it with them and mutually decide on the rewards to be made available when targets are hit. Remember to cover your chart in sticky-back plastic or get it laminated so that you can re-use the chart and peel the stickers off as well as put them on!

    If your children are sharing the chart, tailor it to work for older children, and think about the areas where your children are finding it difficult to work together.

    Ideas for Reward Charts

    • Use One to One Bonding as a reward, so that the child can get some alone-time with each parent.

    Make one-to-one time for each other

    When brothers and sisters fight constantly it can be upsetting for them and a noisy nightmare for you. It could help for them to get more alone-time with you…

    All children benefit from individual attention from their parents, but as a family you may need to schedule individual time with each other to help you bond as a unit. You may find that the dominant child responds well to having structured ‘Mum and Dad time’ in place, too.

    How the technique works:

    • Fit one-to-one time into your Family Routine two or three days a week.
    • If you have two or more children, tell each child that they will have twenty minutes to do whatever they want with you; then it will be their brother or sister’s turn. Use a clock that is visible to everyone to prove this is fair, and mark twenty minutes on the clock with a sticker for younger children
    • Start with the youngest child the first time, then the oldest the next time. If one of the other children interrupts, make it clear that you are not playing with them at the moment and use a reward system if necessary.
    • Once the twenty minutes is up, gently but firmly tie up your activity and move on to the next child.

    Engaging fussy eaters

    This technique could help engage fussy eaters, or older children who need some encouragement, to try something new. It also teaches basic nutritional requirements for the body and works on the same principle as other Reward Charts.

    How it works: the Placemat Reward Chart

    • Cut out a circle of cardboard large enough that there will be an edge around the child’s plate. Colour four sections which represent the basic food groups of protein, carbohydrate, fruit and vegetables. Laminate or cover in sticky-back plastic. Buy packs of little round stickers in each of these four colours.
    • Agree on a list of privileges (a big cuddle from mum, a healthy snack, a favourite TV show) which your child is working towards if they eat one whole portion, two whole portions, and so on. Write the list up and stick it on the fridge door.
    • Every time your child takes a bite of something from her plate, she can take a sticker of the corresponding colour to stick around the outer edge of the mat.
    • Praise her every step of the way and think ahead to ways of praising a whole portion, then a whole plateful!

    Involve your children in everyday activities

    You probably already do something like this with your younger children, especially when you’re caring for them from home. The Involvement Technique works by getting your child to help you in an activity (‘Could you help me fold this t-shirt?’ ‘Where does this toy live when we tidy up?’).

    A more structured version of this method can help in situations where your attention is diverted and which trigger attention-seeking behaviour in your child, like aggressive shouting or tantrums. The supermarket is a classic example of this kind of situation, or when you’re trying to get dinner on the table. This technique gives you the tools to set aside the attention children need, whilst building their independence and responsibility – and allows you to get chores done!

    Chores can be fun

    Small children haven’t had time to get bored with cleaning, folding, sorting, fetching, carrying and tidying yet, so take advantage of this, give them a clean cloth and heap on the praise when they do a good job.

    Older children can also be drawn in to what you’re doing. Choose an activity where you’ll be occupied doing something else, such as a trip to the supermarket or preparing dinner.

    • Make a shopping list together with your child, and write down (or find pictures of, for younger children) eight or ten items which are on your list.
    • Stick these words or pictures on a board and get him to choose some of them before you leave.
    • Once you’re at the supermarket, he can find the articles stuck to his board, getting a point on his Reward Chart if he helps younger siblings do the same.
    • Getting brothers and sisters to work together

      • Choose an activity which can accommodate all your children, like washing the car or cleaning out the fish tank.
      • Give each of the children an area to clean (like car windows for older children and wheels for the little ones) or a duty to perform (one child cleans the fish tank whilst the other rinses the plants and stones). Praise them when they work together to get the job done.
      • Supervise their work and make sure all the children are taking part and taking turns.
      • Once they’re finished and packed up, do something as a family, praising them when they keep up the good behaviour

        The Shared Play Technique

        Larger families, especially with siblings close in age, will be familiar with the constant squabbling and fighting between them. This technique encourages team play, allowing brothers and sisters to benefit and to communicate with each other without arguing.

        Getting brothers and sisters to play together

        • Organise a game which will challenge older as well as younger children, one which has a goal to work towards but doesn’t have an obvious winner or loser (see examples below).
        • Sit down with them and explain the rules, telling them that good teamwork will get them to a goal which they can all enjoy. Try to avoid giving the lead role to the dominant sibling.
        • If you’re concentrating on building sibling relationships, you’ll already have a family Reward Chart. Let them know they will earn a reward point for working well together, too.
        • Supervise the game and make sure all the children are taking part and taking turns. Praise them at every turn and try not to react to minor mishaps!

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