Tag Archive: parents

This is a post that Belinda Mountain has generously allowed me to use. Make sure you click through to her blog ‘Making Mountains’ (out of molehills) which i link to at the end of this piece:

Pic of Belinda Mountain and family

Lessons in Humility

We’re back. And I wish I could say that I’m super relaxed from a lovely lazy holiday but actually my nerves are shot, my back muscles are all tensed up and my parenting chi is completely in tatters. Why? (you may ask). A 2-year-old that’s what. Let me begin my ‘Lessons in Humility’ story with the accompanying image..Lessons in Humility

That is Ben. A little boy sitting on a very big bench having a time out as he gazes over the hills of the Drakensberg.

Below him you will find some groups of adults attempting to play lawn bowls. One group was my family and another was a group of English tourists who probably didn’t imagine that they would be terrorised by a badly behaved two-year-old. They’ll head back to London and tell their friends that South African children are REALLY badly behaved. I cringe.

They are trying to have a civilised game of bowls and sip on a G&T but a tow-headed toddler in a blue shirt keeps stealing the little white ball or moving their black balls or getting in the way when they are trying to throw. He does NOT want to play with the spare set of bowling balls given to him specifically for this purpose. No, he wants to play with the real thing obviously. And then he has a tantrum when his mother stops him. And another one. And another one. He lies on the field and kicks his little legs and screeches and rolls around until after the third time, he gets removed to a bench where he contemplates his behaviour, apologises (Sowee Marmy) and then proceeds to do it all. over. again.

But this doesn’t just happen on the bowls field. It happens on the croquet field and when some strangers are playing tennis and when a little girl is kicking her own ball on the lawn. And it doesn’t just happen with balls. It happens when another toddler plays with “his” Lego (not his at all, belonging to the resort) or when he can’t have cereal for dinner or when I try and pick him up on a walk to the waterfall.

I carry him thrashing in my arms through a crowded dining room full of strangers and feel all of my confidence that I have finally got the hang of this parenting lark crumble off into bits. I am completely humbled. Because my inability is on show for all to see, there is no hiding from it. I want to crawl under the table behind the table cloths and pretend he belongs to someone else.

But I don’t of course. I pick him up and rock him to and fro and whisper in his ear and try calm him down. I claim that he is mine and when an older (very well meaning) lady asks me “Shame, is he sick? Or tired?” I answer with honesty and say that No, he is just two and a little angry and frustrated at life.

It’s a phase! (all the books say). But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to question what I’m doing wrong here. I’m quite consistent with discipline but the ‘time out’ that worked so well for Rachel does not appear to be working one little bit. Ben will sit on that bench dutifully but does not appear unhappy about being admonished at all. In fact, he seems to view it as a bit of a game.

What’s comforting me is that he hasn’t been THAT badly behaved before. His tantrums are pretty limited when he’s at home and when he is going to school and is in his routine. He’s mostly a happy agreeable little guy who is loving and funny and behaves like a typical little boy I think. But there’s something about being on holiday, surrounded by lots of other kids, and having me at his beck and call (i.e not at work or away from him) that brings out the worst in him. His tantrums never appear in front of teachers or his nanny Norma or parents of his friends – they seem to be directed squarely at ME, his mother, and I feel like this is my fault.

I was humbled this weekend and embarrassed. Fellow parents are wonderfully understanding people but I’m quite a shy person and don’t like to cause a scene and my child put me SEVERELY out of my comfort zone these last two days.

I need to buy some books on this issue or do some research. You’ve given me some wonderful advice before on a previous post I wrote. But ignoring him doesn’t tend to work. And acknowledging the reason (I KNOW you want the balls but you can’t have them right now as the adults are using them) has not got us anywhere. This piece one of you sent me on letting the tantrum play out just feels too difficult in such a public space. Any other recommendations or techniques or tips? I really could do with some help.

love from the most incompetent parent ever (sob!)



P.S. I forgot to mention that he also head butted me in the windpipe.

Belinda Mountain writes a (sort of) mommy blog (as she calls it) called Making Mountains which you can go and take a look at over here. If you benefitted from reading her story here at all, or just want to offer her an encouraging word, then please head on over there and leave a comment.

[For more stories of Parents dealing with Tantrums, click over here]


i don’t have children, but i have lived among them.

i can imagine that one of the scariest things for a parent [after safety/health issues] must be that moment when your young child throws themselves on the floor in the middle of the local supermarket [did i mention it’s end of the month busy packed shopping day?] and starts to scream and froth at the mouth.

i don’t know that all children have tantrums, but i know that a whole lot of them do. i imagine some parents have found methods that work really well and that other parents feel completely helpless and terrified.

So this feels like a Taboo Topic worth addressing in the form of inviting parents who have experienced their children throwing tantrums and either felt completely helpless, scared, embarrassed and vulnerable or else managed to find some ways to deal with the situation with the least amount of effort, pain and being red-carded from your local Pick ‘n Pay.

i hope these stories will encourage you to know that you are not alone, but also that some of them might have some tips, methods, ideas that you may not have tried which may be a possible solution for you and your children.

As always, thanks for everyone who has been brave enough to share:

Meet Candice D’arcy – Biting back, bathrooms and consistency…

Meet Wendy Lewin – Trying to get her son to sleep…

Meet Leigh Geary – The Joys of two-year-olds getting dressed…

Meet Belinda Mountain – Her two-year-old son Ben and a very public tantrum…

Meet Kirby and Sean Greathead – Difference between Tantrum and Meltdown

[I also have some great stories from Parents of Young Children when it hasn’t been that easy, click here]

So i may not be a parent, but fortunately i know people who are. And some of them are incredibly inspirational and some of them have just about managed to stay alive [which is quite inspirational in itself]. All of them have shared their stories and ideas and strategies and created this amazing resource page which I hope will help and encourage and inspire you as a parent or friends of a parent and please feel free to use and pass on:

Parents of young children [when it has not been all that easy]

Some great questions to ask at the dinner table to enhance your meal times

Some great stories and ideas on how to raise your children as World Changers

I gave the phrase ‘To Be A Mom’ to a number of people and this is how they responded

I gave the phrase ‘To Be A Dad’ to a number of people and this is what they had to say

When your child throws a Tantrum

questionsSo my mate Terran Williams and his wide network of people put together a bunch of questions that they are going to use to make dinner time with their children more exciting and interesting and he has kindly shared them with the world so if you don’t eat together as a family you should probably start doing that and then try using some of these…

[and yes, mine was the one about two animals changing sounds cos imagine a lion chasing you screaming “Polly want a cracker.” I know!]

So, here’s my questions for dinner conversations. Feel free to cut, paste and print them yourself.

I am going to use them to get our kids (and Julie and I) talking about experiences, opinions and feelings. Many nights a week everyone will pull out of a bag a random piece of paper with one printed question and answer It.

Thanks to all of you who helped me brainstorm the list.

General Questions:
If you were an animal, what kind of animal do you think you would be and why?
If you could put your day into a dance, what would it look like? (Show us)
If you could have any super power what would it be?
Share a high of the day, low of the day, and something interesting that happened in between.
If you could make friends with one person who you aren’t already friends with, who would it be?
Which famous person would you like to invite to dinner and why?
If you have a R1000 that you have to use to help someone not in our family, how would you spend it?
What is one thing that you would love to learn to do?
Where is your favourite place and why?
If you could do something you did today a little differently, what would it be?
What made your heart happy today?
What colour was your day? Why?
If you could compare your day to an animal, what animal would it be?
How were you a blessing or help to someone else today?
What happened today that made you mad or glad?
If you could change something that happened today, what would it be and why?
What happened today that really amazed you?
What did you see or hear today that called for you to act courageously?
What do you know how to do that you can teach to others?
If you could be a sound, what would it be?
If you could choose a new name for yourself, what would it be, and why?
What dream(s) do you have for your future?
The one thing that you don’t like that much about this family is…
The one thing that you like best about this family is…
Tell us the one thing you like most about being you.
If you could keep your room any way you wanted, how would it look?
If you were going to have a weird, unusual pet, what would it be?
What is the grossest thing you can think of?
What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
Who do you think you are most like in our family? Why?
What’s the most daring thing you remember doing?
Name 1 thing you love about your brother, sister, mom and dad.
If I give you R100 what will you do to double it?
Did you see someone today who looked happy and why?
Anyone you see today who looked sad – is there anything you can do to change how they’re feeling tomorrow?
If you could swap the sounds two different animals make, what would they be? 
What is something you don’t think you’re that good at that could somehow be a blessing in disguise?
What scares you?
What would you like to do this weekend as a family?
What is one skill/talent you would like to try and learn?
Would you rather be ugly and wise or great-looking and foolish?
Would you rather get everything you want now or work hard for it before getting it?
What are you most grateful for today?

Faith-related questions:
What did you learn about God today?
When you think of God, how do you picture him?
If you could ask God a question, what would it be?
What do you like most about God?
What happened today that you think would have made God laugh, smile or cry?
If you had to choose between having all four limbs and having a close friendship with God what would it be?
If you had to choose between having lots of money and having a close friendship with God what would it be?

Everyone answers:
(Many of the questions above would be suitable for everyone to answer.)
Say one thing you appreciate about the person on your right. Then that person does the same, until all are done.

One person per dinner:
Ask each person what aspect of their life they wish could be better, then have them solve the problem, thus feeling a sense of intellectual ability, achievement, independence in small areas of his life.

Do you have an interesting question to add to this list? Or a funny or interesting story to add having tried a question from this list? I’d dig to hear it…

Sidney+PoitierI am busy reading ‘The Measure of a Man’ – a spiritual autobiography, by Oscar award winning actor Sidney Poitier and this extract in particular stood out for me, especially from the viewpoint of parents trying to raise their children in an overstimulated image-assaulting society. He grew up on Cat Island in the Bahamas and later moved to Americaland and so he speaks here of some of the contrast and expectation and this is just some good stuff to think about and probably especially if you are a parent of a young child.

‘But the special beauty of Cat Island wasn’t just what we had; it was also what we didn’t have. Poverty notwithstanding, I was lucky, and the reason I was lucky was that I wasn’t bombarded with contravening images and influences that really didn’t have any direct connection to my nurturing. I didn’t have to digest television – children’s shows and cartoons. I didn’t have to digest the stuff on radio and have to ask, “What are they saying? They’re talking about selling me something. Why are they selling me something? I don’t have a job.”I didn’t even have to deal with the myriad stimulations that came from the presence of mechanized vehicles. No one on the island had so much as a car or motorboat.

Now, if you take children in the modern United Stated that you and I are living in, they probably have a mom and a dad [or at least one parent], a set of grandparents possibly, and some siblings. But they’re also going to have a radio in the house, and they’re going to have a telephone (or at least know that such a thing exists], and they’re going to know that there are television sets, and they’re going to see people on the television sets who speak just like their mom and dad speak.

And they’re going to be familiar with motion pictures too, because they’ll start going when they’re five or six. They’re going to see talking animals moving around like people. They’re going to see animals beating up on each other and slapping each other and falling down in crevices and getting up without experiencing intense pain. Some of these animals are then going to turn around and sell them breakfast cereal. These kind of stimulations come at today’s American kids on a daily basis, but the mental and emotional apparatus for sifting through them, for processing them, for dealing with them in some meaningful way, simply isn’t there.

But children still have to try to make sense of everything they’re bombarded with. They have to assume something, correctly or incorrectly, factual or otherwise. They have to encode all these distractions into the self that they’re slowly day by day, building. Child psychologists have demonstrated that our minds are actually constructed by these thousands of tiny interactions during the first few years of life. We aren’t just what’s directed by our genes, and we certainly aren’t just what we’re taught. It’s what we experience during those early years – a smile here, a jarring sound there – that creates the pathways and connections of the brain. We put our kids to fifteen years of quick-cut advertising, passive television watching, and sadistic video games, and we expect to see a new generation of calm, compassionate, and engaged human beings.

In the kind of place where I grew up, what’s coming at you is the sound of the sea and the smell of the wind and your mama’s voice and the voice of your dad and the craziness of your brothers and sisters – and that’s it. That’s what you’re dealing with when you’re too young to really be counted into anything, when you’re just listening, when you’re watching the behaviour of your siblings and of your mom and dad, noting how they behave and how they attend to your feedings and how they care for you when you have a pain or when the wasp stings you around the eye. What occurs when something goes wrong is that someone reaches out, someone soothes, someone protects. And as the people around you talk, you begin to recognise things that are carried on the voice. Words and behaviour begin to spell out something to you. All those subtleties are what’s going on with you, and that’s all that’s going on with you, day in and day out.’

If you’re a parent are you doing anything to interrupt the overstimulation of your children? Technology timeouts… Television boundaries… Limits to screen access… And if you have not been, is this maybe something you want to or should think about considering? 

my wife and i love children!

other peoples! we love the bit where we get to give them back afterwards. and then return to our childrenless lair.

[okay, it’s not quite a lair, more an intentional community house in the inner city area of kensington, philadelphia… but still, no children living with us in the house at this particular point in time]

so kind of like a choose-your-own-[children]-adventure of sorts – we get to decide when they’re around and get to retreat when they get a little too much for us, or if we just want a break.

and then there was the time i went and watched ‘Scream’ at the local movie house… only problem is, i was trying to watch ‘The Avengers’ at the time… fortunately all that action happened during the trailers and the child was stopped or removed or something before the film began, but it definitely felt like a place that needed to go on a list of places particularly loud and screamery kids are not all that welcome at.

i imagine if you are a parent of a young child [not ‘kid’, you say ‘kid’ and the goat people get riled!] that idea will make you just a little bit sad, and i get that, or at least i would if i wasn’t being so distracted by all the people without children who have all jumped to their feet and burst into spontaneous applause.

because it is a topical issue right? and one, which i imagine for the most part, will have people-with-children on the one side and people-without-children on the other. there will be some exceptions, but i am guessing there will not be too many people-with-children clamouring for more childrenless environments and not too many people with no children whining about the lack of screaming and general chaos in said areas.

“children should be seen and not heard” – for the most part i don’t like that one – especially in places where celebration is happening like at a wedding or in a church service or at a party, i think that a certain messiness adds life to the occasion and i am all for a little bit of hum, or laughter or childlikery. but it is when it crosses the line and becomes a baby crying or a tantrum being thrown where i do appreciate a parent who acts quickly and decisively.

“children should be seen and not herded” – that feels more true – how does the saying go? ‘Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, call a child a kid and some old person slash teacher slash grammar police sergeant will charge in brandishing their “kids are children of goats, you are talking about children which are children of people” sign…’ Maybe not be an actual saying, but it should be!

for me i think the chief point is distraction – if the noise/actions of the child begin to take away from the focus of whatever the event is that you are attending, that is where it becomes a problem. the rising muttering and angry stares being flashed in your direction you should receive as a clue.

so for most happenings of a celebrationary nature, let the little children come to me i say… until they start whining, that is… or fighting, or smelling… then let the little children come to you…

what do you think? [and tell us if you have children or not before commenting]

this series of blog posts has been on my heart and mind for well over a year and i am excited to finally be at the point of getting started on it.

there are a number of incredibly important, life-transforming, heart-breaking life events that happen to huge numbers of people that no-one, or very few people, ever seem to talk publically about – and so for the most part there are hundreds or thousands of people living quietly and alone with their pain or confusion, struggling along as if they are the only ones that have gone through that thing and as if help or advice or at the very least understanding is not freely available.

my hope with ‘Taboo Topics’ is to be able to deal with one of those topics at a time by finding people who have experienced the very thing in question and are brave enough to share their stories and hopefully also offer some insight and advice as to how they managed to get up again, dust themselves off and keep going…

the next topic i am wanting to look at is that of ADOPTION which i know different people have had vastly different experiences with – for some it has been an incredible life-giving experience [either as the adopting parents or as the person who has been adopted] while for others it has been a confusing, frustrating or difficult experience [especially for a lot of people who find out they were adopted and struggle with the emotions that can come into play in terms of the why and with the experience of being able to meet, or not, their birth parents – and also for women who have had to give up their child for adoption for various reasons or else adoptive parents who struggle with their child’s desire to find their birth parents] and so this can be a completely different experience for all those involved.

i have found some people who have been brave enough to share a glimpse into their story and trust that as this series starts more people will come forward to share their stories as most of the stories i have received have been positive celebrationary ones [which is great!] but i know there are people who have really struggled with this issue [both as parents or those who have been adopted] and i would love to be able to share some of those stories with others who may be struggling along in silence.

thank you to everyone who contributes to this and i trust by giving a rarely spoken of topic [although a lot more these days which is great cos with the crisis of orphans we have in many areas of the world it is definitely a solution which should be well considered, especially by the church as God seems to be very fond of orphans]

Meet Philippa and Emiel [waiting to adopt]

Meet Jackie Barker [adopted]

We meet up with Jackie Barker again [and this time she and her husband Tim have adopted]

Read the story of Jane and Mike Hampton [in the process of adopting]

We meet up with Jane and Mike Hampton two years later [Successfully adopted] 

Read the story of James Bradford [adopted]

Meet Tyron and Caraleigh [have adopted]

Meet Mariska de Beer [single mom has adopted]

Meet Corina Spinazzola [Adopted at age 15]


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