Tag Archive: parenting


So this post by my friend Sean’s wife, Kirby, is a little bit different [was an eye-opener for me] as it differentiates between Tantrums and Meltdowns and i would love to hear some response to this from other parents who have maybe never thought about this before. She posted this under the title ‘Moment on Meltdowns’ on her blog ‘Niggles and Giggles’ which i have links to at the end, so go and see what else her and Sean have to say…
greathead

About 4 years ago we were driving to church and had to wait in some traffic to park (we went to a rather large church). In order to speed things up, I took my daughter out the car and walked into the church to an agreed meeting place. The problem was this place was busier than expected and noisy than I would have liked.

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This is a piece that was shared with me by Leigh Geary but which originally was published on her blog, The Mom Diaries under the title, ‘The Terrible Twos: Am I being punished for all my sins?’

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Lets talk about the terrible two’s shall we? Holy Moley! I think I’m about to lose my shit in a big way but lets face it that would just be teaching him that tantrums and inappropriate behavior are acceptable.

I forgot what its like to have a two-year old in the house who thinks he’s Lord Muck and that our lives revolve around his every wish and command. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been ordered around so much in my life. And I REALLY hate being told what to do. This is today’s conversation with my cute as a button two-year-old son as we were getting ready to leave the house:

He enters my bedroom looking very hard done by, because lets face it being two is a rollercoaster ride of eating, sleeping, playing, outings, treats, afternoon naps followed by more playing and eating. It’s tough.

“Mommy hold you” (in a moan that’s so dramatic you think there may be something sinister brewing)

“Mommy is just getting dressed bub then I will hold you, come let’s go to the gym. Go get your shoes and then we can go!”

“No mommy do it”

“Ok I will. Just let me finish putting my shoes on then I will get your shoes ok?”

“MOMMMY DO IT!!!!”

“Yes I will do it now”

“MOMMMMMMMMY DOOOOOOO IT!!!”

In a huff I go and get his shoes and as I reach for them in his cupboard the freak out escalates to disturbing levels:

“NO. NO. NO!!! I DO it!! I DO it!”

“You said three times you wanted me to get it babe” (how’s me trying to reason with a two-year old?)

“No I DO IT!”

“Fine, by all means do it yourself”

I stand back to allow him to do get the gumboots out and he begins the painfully long process of negotiating them onto his feet. Just as he is about to fall from, all the wiggling and winding, I reach out ever so gently just to offer him a hand. (I’ve been burnt in the past and have learnt my lesson)

“No I do it!! Brody do it! I do it by self, NOO HELPING!!!!!!!!!”

I stand back in a panic (a little afraid for my life too) and watch his will power and stubborn nature refusing to give in to the help that is only a hand reach away. I wonder who he got that from?

I try one last time to gently show him we can work together and he throws himself in a lump on the floor.

I have a gym class I would like to make and I will be damned if my two-year-old kid and his boots are the reason I’m late. So I walk back to my room to finish putting on my other shoe.

What followed can only be described as a meltdown of disturbing proportions when he followed me back in to the room, threw the boots at me and said ”MOMMY DO IT MOMMY HELP YOU!!!”

And so there we were back at square one. My worst place to be. Square one represents energy wasted and time you will never get back.

After what feels like the longest exercise of coercing him to work with me, we get the boot on!

And just like that, as thought nothing has happened he screams “I DID IT!”” And with a bounce in his step and enough giddy excitement to bring a circus to back to life, he marches off.

I on the hand, was left in the fetal position on the floor wondering if I even needed to go to the gym after all the effort it took to get through that.

I get that toddlers are in a very intense stage of self-assertion and independence but it can be tough on the rest of the family. It can be tough on the neighbours too.  It’s even harder knowing when you are allowed to be extra firm and tell them how its going be and when you need to encourage their independence and nurture their strong wills by letting them go through the process themselves.

This is what DR Betty Liebovich says about this time in a toddler’s life:

“Your toddler may show developing independence through eating, dressing, playing with toys, and drawing. Sometimes, your toddler will want to do these things without any help; other times, she will need your help with everything. With the uncertainty of whether help is needed or not comes frustration on your part and that of your toddler. This is when your toddler may resist and throw a tantrum”

Or the world may end in my case.

She goes on to say:

“Your toddler may resist any help from you, insisting that she can do a task on her own. However, she may then become frustrated because she is unable to complete the task, as s/he would like. The resistance to accept help is your toddler asserting her independence. In order to assert her own will your toddler may reject your own. Negotiating when to assist, when to hang back and when to anticipate opposition takes time and patience. Having some ideas of what to anticipate and how to negotiate independence may ease resistance and opposition”

I’m hoping to find some ways to diffuse these situations and learn how my little guy thinks, how he is wired. If you have any tips to share with me and other moms please feel free to comment below. Who knows maybe we can brainstorm another post together!

This mom needs all the help she can get!

Love,

Leigh xxx

[To read Belinda’s story of her two year old and a very public meltdown, click here]

wendy

For the past 3 weeks, Masi has really been struggling to go to sleep. And when I talk about Masi struggling, I don’t mean that he just lies in his bed and plays with his fingers and can’t doze off – I mean he jumps out of bed and slams the door repeatedly, he pulls the curtains down, he opens his cupboard and flings all his clothes around the floor, he jumps on his sister while she is trying to sleep, most of the time yelling and screaming and kicking, hitting and fighting us when we try and calm him down.

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cand

[Candice is one of my oldest [as in time spent together] Improv friends and now that she has moved to Australia i am realising how much i miss not having her around… but she has written an excellent post which i’m sure is going to resonate with and encourage many of you so here goes…]

Because I am going through a challenging phase with my teenaged daughter and many of my friends are having babies at the moment, I have been thinking a lot about what I would do differently in the parenting department should I have another child. Knowing what I know now about how the mistakes of the past come back to haunt you in your teenaged child, I guarantee you that it is easier dealt with when they are young, even though at the time all you want is some silence and a glass of wine in your hand without having a nervous breakdown. I know, I’ve been there.

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My friends Terran and Julie Williams were going about life with their three delightful children, sharing regular stories of funny statements and learnt lessons and chaotic moments, when suddenly the news of a 4th child on the way… and then further news that their 4th was a set of twins… If you think three young children is hard, try to get your head around five! Terran shared this piece on Facebook yesterday and gave me permission to pass it on to you as he gets completely real about some of the harder moments of being a parent of a number of smaller children:

Permission to get SHOCKINGLY real about parenting small kids?

williams

It’s hard. Much harder than you can imagine. Much much harder.

A few months ago a friend of mine who is a professional therapist said, ‘A family with a kid under the age of 3 is in crisis mode.’ At first I thought that was a bit negative. Upon reflection, I conclude they’re right.

Yesterday someone said to me, ‘My youngest just turned 4. I am starting to think we might be coming out of it. ’ I didn’t need to ask what ‘it’ was. She clearly meant the chaos. The crisis. The crazy zone.

My experience confirms that parenting infants and toddlers puts you under a kind of constant pressure that lttle else in life comes close to matching. To be fair, Julie and my situation of having five kids aged six and under only compounds this reality, but treat me as a magnification of what is still there for parents of fewer kids. (Besides, I know, I once had fewer kids.)

Of course there’s more to parenting nascent ones than it being hard. That’s what all the photos on Facebook are about – the sweetest things in the world, they are. Your heart walking around in someone else’ body. I get that, and it keeps me going.

However, in this post I thought I would get real about the (dark) side we don’t talk about. It’s no good running a marathon, and you’re doing uphill and you’re trying to tell yourself this is wonderful. Facing the fact of the agonizing incline is necessary if you’re going to make it.

As for those parents whose kids are all four+, looking back from your hard-earned view, it’s amazing how you tend to forget the pain. (One aspect of trauma is that you tend to forget the event itself, a kind of self-protective amnesia, I think.)

Would you mind if I get VERY REAL? Just so that I never forget, and maybe to help those of you who think something’s wrong with you as you suffer the little ones.

Here goes. Julie and I are experiencing the PHYSICAL strain of parenting. We’re exhausted. In the last two weeks, I get about 5 to 6 hours of sleep per night, but here’s the catch: it’s broken by the need to get out of bed and deal with a crying or calling kid, usually about 5 to 10 times per night.

One reason is their need for constant re-assurance. On this point, a curse be upon the inventor of the Pacifier! Our little suckers fall asleep more easily with those suckable things in their mouths, but by the time they’re 8 months they have formed a dependency on them, and every time it falls out of their mouths they wake and cry, lost in the universe. Do the maths on how many times per night a wriggling infant might lose their dummy. While writing this (5:30-7am) I ran through 11 times to put dummies back. Who’s the real dummy?

Other things wake our kids. At 4:30am this morning I got head-butted by my sweet lullaby of a 2-year old Ivy as she was waking up out of a nightmare. Unsatisfied that I was not-the-Mama, she ran down the dark passageway shouting for Julie, waking up the other kids. It’s impossible to fall asleep any time soon after that kind of ill-treatment from someone I love. (By the way, this assault provoked me to write this post an hour later.) Perhaps the sleeplessness is the real, foundational problem: all the other strains would be more manageable if our bodies and brains weren’t yearning for the unconscious state. Thankfully, we can grab an afternoon nap. Not.

And sickness. You know those new viruses that sweep the globe every year? I have to admit the original viral mutation happens in my house. Families with little kids can turn an ordinary flu that would set back a single person a few days, into a plague that loops through our entire family, two or three times – lasting a month on average, sinking us parents into our own mini-Great Depression. (Sick kids wake up a lot more, and sick parents need sleep if they are to shake off the virus they got from their kids.) In the last five years I have got more colds, flu’s and tummy bugs than in the preceding decade.

We have endured the FINANCIAL strain of parenting. Having kids necessitated that Julie and I fork out enough, not all at once thankfully, for a home more suitable for a family (bigger, garden, near a decent school), a bigger car, Mon-Fri domestic and child-care assistance and (gulp!) educational fees. Then there’s medical bills. For example, little Charlie (10 months) has cost us about 5k in doctor’s bills and medicines over the last 3 months. Next week he goes in for surgery to get grommets.

There’s also more mouths to feed. I spoke to a single dad in the beach-front parking lot of my surf spot the other day. He has one kid. He said, ‘Terran, I just got back from the shop. I am shocked by how much it costs to feed my little family. How on earth do you feed yours?’ Good question. By the time they’re two they’re eating almost as much as I do on some occasions. All these new costs are often augmented by a diminished income. In our case, Julie’s earning power went down (up till now she’s been a pay-by-the-job, part-time freelancer) at the very moment our costs escalated. That’s pressure.

There’s the MARITAL strain of parenting. On our better days Julie and I team together like Batman and Robin, but on our more stressed days, we turn on each other. Beat down people tend to beat others down if they’re not very careful. In the nights, we keep count of how many times we got out of bed, and when our number is higher, ‘gently’ nudge the other person who is pretending to be sleeping through the baby cry. By day, we play the ‘who is suffering more’ card, and sometimes have a go at each other verbally in front of these not-yet-pyschologically-scarred kids. Yes, we know how damaging it is upon a young child’s psyche to see mom and dad at each other. But the guilt doesn’t have power to stop the bickering.

This paragraph for the guys: there’s also little and sometimes weeks of no sex. Since it’s public knowledge that Julie and I have had sex at least five times (once on our honeymoon night, and four times for our five kids, the last arrow splitting into two), I feel the liberty to make this point. No seriously, pregnancy means less sex. Birth-recovering and breast-feeding moms (sorry Julie, I don’t know what other words to use) means no sex. The smells and sights related to changing nappies and wiping toilet-training bums mitigates against the daylong foreplay-messages that spice up a marriage. Stress and exhaustion work against one’s sexual capacities. As for the rare moments when the stars align, I am thankful that the Flight of the Conchords are right: two minutes in heaven really is better than no minutes in heaven.

There’s the SOCIAL strain. Friendships go into maintenance-mode. We have hardly anyone round. For all kinds of reasons: our house is a mess, we will be embarrassed if people glimpsed the real chaos of our lives, we keep telling ourselves that on the day we stabilize we will open diaries and think who to invite over for a meal. Would you be my friend?

There’s the SPIRITUAL strain. Maybe you can’t relate, but since I was a teen, early mornings have been a sacred time for me to tune into God so that I can keep sensitive to his promptings and stay within reach of his power and guidance throughout the day. Now that I need this kind of spiritual alertness and empowering more than ever, I seldom get the time that I need. I know God understands and loves me anyway. But I also know that not spending this daily time with God tends to put me out of frequency with the Spirit’s energies and nudges, setting me up for yet further stress-inducing errors of judgment and lapses of sanity.

There’s PROFESSIONAL strain. In the last decade, I have had two notably under-performing years in my work-life. My lack of sharpness has been evidenced in emails not responded to quickly enough, under-preparedness for critical meetings, increased strain from less quality attention to fellow-workers, and a tendency to lose composure when leading people requires that I stay calm. Those two years just happen to be the ones that immediately followed the birth of my third, and now the birth of my twins. (Would you let a pilot fly you if you knew he was bottle-feeding one baby, while trying to tame a volcanic tantrum in a toddler running amok in the cockpit, threatening to push ‘eject’? My policy: smile and wave boys.)

There’s LOGISTICAL strain. Our house is a mess almost all the time. Julie and I who are not A-type when it comes to neatness, but we start to come undone with the constant mess. Trying to keep a kid-inhabited house tidy is like trying to shovel snow while it snows. As for leaving house as a family: for every kid you have, add another 30 minutes to get-ready time. (For our first few months after the twins came, I was okay with us not having a car big enough for seven. I thought to myself, ‘Where can we go with this many kids? And when we get there, what will we do?’ So we just stayed at home.)

Air travel is another story. The fact that kids under-2 fly free makes bargain-hunters like me want to capitalize upon this fleeting opportunity. Bait for us fools. We just flew our family to another part of the country. It was as simple as one, two, three. One day of packing. Two cars to take us to the airport. Three tons of stuff. You have never seen people in a plane praying as much as when we queue in. ‘God, please no! Not next to me! No.’) When I notice enough people doing the count, and mouthing a silent ‘five’ to the person they just elbowed, I usually break the ice with one of my two jokes: ‘Yes, everyone. There are five! Our TV was broken.’ Or, ‘Who’s the lucky person who gets to sit next to us?’ The cabin laughter at that moment helps us all for what is about to happen in the next two hours.

There’s EMOTIONAL strain. Parenting introduces a panoply of negative emotions that are new to the lifetraveller: new fears and anxieties, feelings of inadequacy, the crippling curse of comparison, and post-natal depression for some moms.

In my view the most emotion-intensifying thing about family life is that we tend to absorb each other’s emotions. If we were all emotionally self-contained units, that would be easier. But as it is, every tantrum and tear and sibling-tiff emits an emotional toxin that the try-hard parents tend to take into their tender hearts. Our kids bounce back remarkably, but we parents, the emotional filters, are left with the residue. Keeping your head while all those around you lose theirs is easier said that done. I once came across a best-selling book on parenting titled ‘Keep calm and parent on.’ It’s one of those titles that say so much, you don’t need to read the book. That title is probably the best advice there is. But also the most unachievable advice there is. It’s like telling a person who is tumbling down a mountainside to keep calm and enjoy the ride.

My point? Parenting the youngest of humanity is not for the fainthearted. It’s brutal at times. It’s incessant in its challenges. To complicate it all, these strains – physical, social, financial, spiritual, etc – have a domino-effect, one causing or exacerbating the other. The result: life in a fully fledged crisis mode. A trauma being inflicted in slow motion.

It’s true. Parents of little lives are in nose-dive.

I don’t want to sound like I am complaining. Some of you have it much harder. I think of parents who lose their income, or single parents, or kids with severe disabilities. You guys are the masters of the universe. We are in awe of you. Some of you don’t have it as hard. The thing so many parents say to us is, ‘You know, when Lee and I are freaking out as parents, we think of you with five, and that helps us. So thank you!’ Glad we could help.

Do I have any perspective to share for the fellow-traumatized? Other than ‘Keep calm and parent on’? For starters, one thing I can say: You Are Not The Only One. Parenting is hard for almost all of us. The other thing I can say is that You Are Not Alone. A small verse hidden in the massive book of Isaiah says ‘God carries us close to his heart, especially those who have young’. It has helped Julie and me when we’ve been at our lowest. It reminds us there’s a Parent in heaven who’s there for you as you parent another. Our vulnerability, as we rear the most vulnerable, catches the loving attention of One Above. We might feel alone, but in reality there’s a Heartbeat as close to you as your child is to yours.

(Permission given to share with the so-journers who can identify.)

[For some other stories shared from those who are finding parenting tough, click here]

[How to raise your young children as World Changers, click here]

These are some ideas that Melissa Hertz shared on her blog which you can find over here that she graciously allowed me to reblog for this series:

Motherhood has stretched me… stretched my skin, my womb, my patience and the way I think. Motherhood has made me grow and I have learned a few lessons along the way. Here are my most valuable lessons so far.

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1. I have learned that every child is completely unique. 

Unfortunately babies are not born with a manual strapped to their chest and each child, as small as they may be, has a unique personality, and has a unique life purpose and plan. What I do for my daughter does not necessarily work for my son. What you do for your son, may not work for my daughter.

It is my duty as a mother to learn who my children are and not try to conform them into who I want them to be. I need to encourage my children to know Him and discover their calling and dreams placed in their hearts by Him.

2. I have learned to trust my instincts.

I had my daughter when I was only 20 years old and had no family nearby to advise me on how to raise and look after this tiny little new born person. I had to learn quickly to trust my God given intuition and am so very glad that I did. Things that I instinctively did, like skin on skin contact, co sleeping, breast feeding and baby wearing all turned out to be very beneficial to my baby and to myself. I didn’t know it at the time and only found out later that these things that I had instinctively felt to do, had been scientifically proven to help my babys’ immune system, among many other neurological benefits.

I have learned to question everything, read up and research everything, question doctors and teachers, coaches and anyone else around my children, because although God is the only one who knows what is best for my children, my husband and I know our child better than anyone.

3. I have learned not to judge other mothers.

I have a confession to make. Before I had children I used to judge the way that other parents raise their children. Before I had children I knew so much about how to be a parent and a disciplinarian. I had all these perfect ideas of what it was like to be a mother, and then I became a mother and somehow knew less than I did before. I learned very quickly that motherhood is not a Pampers nappy television advert with perfect smiles and a clean perfect house and a child that is happy 24/7.

I have learned to give other mothers lots and lots of grace, because that is what I need.

4. I have learned that love really is the greatest gift of all.

Yes that sounds super cheesy. But also super true. Holding and meeting my children for the first time was one of the greatest gifts in this life time that I will always treasure. These guys are my treasures here on earth and I have discovered a love so deep and a bond so unbreakable and yet, I will never be able to fully grasp the concept of Gods’ unfailing love for me. But being a mother has given me just a teeny tiny teensy taste of how much God loves me. I love my children with every part of me and all that I am. And yet no matter how much I love my children, God loves me so much more. Mind blowing.


“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” John 3:16
5. I have learned to laugh at myself and not take myself so seriously.

Motherhood is a serious job and if I mess up my child I have to stand before God someday and please explain. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t have fun. I have been vomited on, peed on, I have had my children blurt out the most embarrassing questions and remark in public, and I have had moments that are so ridiculous that I have had to just laugh out loud or I would burst into tears. To gain perspective I have often had to ask myself the very important question; “What will matter more in five years?”

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6. Motherhood has stretched me and taught me to be brave and strong even when I don’t feel it. 

There have been moments where I have been completely freaked out by this enormous task and responsibility of being a mother. Questions like, “What if my teenagers run away from home” or “What if we can’t afford to send them university” have crossed my mind. But in moments like that I need to control my thoughts and be brave and trust myself and trust God that it will all work out.

I don’t always know what I’m doing but God created these children for me, and created me for these children, so He will give me what I need when I need it. All I can do is take one day at a time, one step at a time, with lots and lots of grace from God.

                     Be brave butterfly….

7. I have learned to grow a thick skin. To hold onto the good stuff and exhale the bad stuff.  I have learned to let go of what people think because it really doesn’t matter in the bigger scheme of things. I have learned to fly against the wind and resistance and not always go with what society says I should do.

                      Be bold butterfly….

They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” John 17:16 

mel38. I have learned that it is such a short season of sacrifice. 
My daughter is turning eight next month and it feels like yesterday that she was moving inside of my big pregnant belly. I have sacrificed many things for these children, but I actually can’t even name them because it is irrelevant. They are just so worth it. Soon these days of standing on Lego at 3 am and reading bedtime stories will be over for me. I need to treasure and embrace this season because I will miss it so very much…

9. I have been so completely humbled. 
I really can’t do this motherhood thing on my own. I am seriously desperate for Jesus to guide me and show me and protect my family. I seriously don’t even know how people who don’t have Jesus in their lives do it… It is too much stress, too much noise and too much mess to actually cope alone…

Cant.
Cope.
Without.
Him.

10. I have learned that although I am the one who is meant to teach them, the irony is that they teach me… about life, about love and about myself. 

When I gave birth to them they really gave birth to me. They are showing me one day at a time who I need to be, who I am meant to be and who I want to be. And life is so beautiful because they are mine for this short time here on earth…

Yes motherhood has stretched me… stretched my arms so that I can embrace the little arms around my neck, and my heart wider so that I can be filled with love that children seem to naturally bring with them when they are born into this world.

I have stretch marks on my heart and a few on my body too, best of all I have me these amazing two little people who call me “Mommy”.

And the stretch marks, well they don’t really matter anyway do they?

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[For more from Melissa, take a look at her blog ‘Arise. Butterfly. Glorify’ over here]

[For more tips on parenting from some other parents who are doing their best to do it well, click here]

calvin

So tbV and i do not have any children at the moment. And we are kinda hoping that moment lasts a lifetime. Which makes some people tend to weird out a little bit as if having children was the ultimate point of life. [SPOILER: It’s not!]

Having and raising children is an incredible thing and both a huge responsibility and privilege, but it is a choice that some people make and other perfectly normal people choose not to. We should get over that for starters.

However, having been around people with young children a lot during our three years in Americaland then lived with two families with young children for the first six months back in South Africa we have been able to observe many things, and one thing that is for sure – raising children is not easy.

The saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ sounds completely apt because it can be such a complicated thing to do as two people [with one working, or in some cases both] and even, in some situations, as one.

Complex aspects such as when your child throws a tantrum [both publically and at home], how to discipline effectively [when different parents may have different ideas or growing up experiences to draw from] and even ‘simpler’ things like ‘getting them to eat their food’, ‘monitoring how they play with other children’ and ‘losing games well’ can seem like mountains if what you try doesn’t seem to be working.

i thought it might be helpful to canvas some parents i do know who seem to be doing okay or whose children seem to be well adjusted, and to ask them for some tips, ideas or experiences from their life, that may help some others of you out there. Obviously each child and each family situation is different and this is definitely an area where one size does not fit all. But i also imagine that some of the time you are just looking for some new ideas that might be worth a shot and may even work for you.

That is what this series is going to be about, and if you think you have a parenting tip that worked well for you and may help out someone else who is struggling in some area, please don’t hesitate to email me at brettfish@hotmail.com and see if we can add it here]…

Happy [and hopefully slightly more successful] parenting people…

4 Tips from a mum – Bek Curtis from Australia had so many things to share, she could not keep it to one

The Most Important Thing – frequent collaborator Candice Fourie shares some key tips for parents

Ten Tips from a motherhood that has stretched me – Melissa Hertz shares some skills she picked up as a mom

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