Is it possible to bullyproof your children?
Back to school.
As terrifying as it is the summer holidays are over and we are already back to school. Some of you will have already experienced the lunacy of the school run and the morning routines. Far be it from me to suggest that this is not always your favourite part of the day. You may of course be one of those people that jumps out of bed at 5am to drink your wheatgrass smoothie and do your daily exercise of choice before getting yourself ready, making the packed lunches, preparing dinner and then waking up your little ones asking if they'd prefer homemade granola or blueberry pancakes.
School day rush.
Yeah, I am being facetious because despite not having kids I have a friend that has 7, a brother that has 7, numerous nieces and nephews and at last count I'm God-Mum to 6 ranging in ages from 29 to 5. Over the years my experience of mornings where adults have to get to work and children to school, well, let's just say they were at best frenetic and at worst fraught with tension and tears. You only have to ask my now 23 year old nephew about the day he refused to get out of bed for school. At my wits end my response was to threaten him with a bucket of cold water over his head. Let's just say, that day he got out of bed and I learned a valuable lesson about ensuring you follow through with the things you promise people.
Our days compressed.
With most families needing 2 adults with a wage to support the household expenditure, the time we are exposed to the little people in our lives is compressed into that mad morning rush and the post school, post enrichment activity, pre bedtime spot.
Who am I to judge?
Don't misunderstand me here, I am NOT making any judgements about you as parents. You folks who dedicate your lives to small people are my absolute hero's. I'm currently considering to kebab my much loved Jack Russell cross who has decided in the past two weeks to keep waking me up between 0100hrs and 0300hrs. I'm struggling with the sleep deprivation and that is only after two weeks. I have enough friends and loved ones who, despite loving their kids to utter distraction, are also totally honest about how knackered they are. They look back fondly at the sleep they had before their first child entered the picture.
I love their honesty. Whether you are an earth Mother or natural Dad or you barely make it through the day with your sanity intact I am in absolutely no position to comment on that. One of my dear friends regularly posts things from a Facebook page called Hurrah for Gin. Personally I hate gin but I get why she doesn't. As a recently divorced single Mum with three little boys and a full-time job, I think she'd be the first to say that some days being a parent isn't always sunshine, butterflies and roses.
Having said all of that, I now want to raise something that you may find controversial. It's my opinion that our obsession with being busy is doing a lot more than killing us, it's killing our relationships too.
Busyness and business - the death of conversation.
Our busyness is eroding our ability to communicate effectively with our children because we are focusing on just surviving the manic days of our lives. We get home, mildly euphoric at having got through the working day without telling anyone, least of all our boss, to do one. We pick the kids up from school triumphant because we made sure that all 14 of the different bags they had to take to school actually made it home with them again. We feel gleeful when we get home after navigating the traffic without road rage, accident or diversion to outer Mongolia. Most of all we get home and just collapse into a grateful heap. Now that the "working" day is over we can have 5 minutes on our own without someone hassling us before the unpaid work starts! I think we can all identify with this and will have faced it at one time or another. Yet if this is the norm it's sending our loved ones signals that they can't talk to us.
An ongoing balancing act.
Am I saying that as a parent you must put your children's needs before your own? Absolutely not. What I'm saying is can you look at your routine and your kids routines to find ways to build space into your day so that you aren't hanging on by your fingernails and utterly frazzled the moment you walk in the door. Half the things we are worrying about are either beyond our control or will be utterly meaningless in six months time.
All humans but kids especially, are experts at decoding your subtle and not so subtle signals about when's a good time to talk to us. Having the odd day where you feel that you cannot utter a single word to another human without taking 5 minutes for yourself is absolutely normal. I've lost count of the times when looking after children I’ve put the TV on and taken myself to the loo for a "me moment". Similarly after a busy day I sometimes say to Owen "I can't deal with humans, I need 5 minutes on my own". I’m lucky that he understands!
What does your average day look like?
Is every day a battle? Or do you feel like that once in a blue moon? If every day is frazzled then something has gone wrong and you are doing a disservice to your kids and most of all to yourself. When your son or daughter was born I guarantee you made promises to him or her and also to yourself about the kind of parent you wanted to be. It's easy in life to get bogged down by the minutiae.
Did you pay the car tax?
Have we got any parmesan?
What time is my next dentist appointment?
Who were you meant to send that latest report to?
Ultimately this stuff is important but is it as important as making sure your kids know they can talk to you? Rather than putting the TV or the Xbox on as soon as you get home, get into the habit of asking your son or daughter how their school day was. If my nieces and nephews are anything to go by their first task when they walk in the door is to get a snack! Make that your time to talk with them.
If you have a school run get into the habit of using that time to really truly speak to them. Ask them questions that are interesting to them and really listen to their answers. I believe this is the number one way to bullyproof your kids. When your children know they can talk to you about anything, and when you have a time of day when questions and curiosity are encouraged, you are creating a safe space and a pattern of behaviour for your children that can reap huge rewards.
Rather than post a long list of questions I found this article very useful. My favourite questions being number 7 and number 11. https://www.mother.ly/child/30-questions-to-ask-your-kid-instead-of-how-was-your-day
You know your children best.
Like all things there isn't a one size fits all. The news is full with stories of loving, engaged parents who had little idea of what was happening in their child's school day. All I am saying is if you have created a habit of open discussion and dialogue between you and your kids you're on the right path. To be honest it makes life so much more interesting too. Some of the most mind blowing and fantastic conversations I've ever had have been with children. The way they see the world hasn't yet been shaped by cynicism, conventional wisdom and an education system that constricts their ability to dream. As "grown ups" we tend to underestimate them when in fact we should be learning from them.
My 5 top tips to help bullyproof your children.
So what are my top tips to help bullyproof your kids? See below. This isn't relevant for all and is just what I think is right for the here and now. It was different when I was at school and I'm certain it will change in years to come. Please do share your advice too. One of the best thing about the internet is the democratisation of knowledge and I'm certain there are better ideas out there.
1) Create a specific time of day when you sit down and talk to your child. This will be different depending upon their age and your schedule but find a way to do it. Granted teenagers may present a greater problem but you are the product of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. If ever there was a reason to act like it, would knowing your kids could talk to you openly and honestly not be a good enough one? And would now seem to be a good time?
2) Encourage your child to explore their comfort zone on a regular basis. Yes I know it's terrifying. I am little miss risk averse, yet I also know that some risks are worth taking. It's about calculated risks and identifying the ones that offer high reward. Life without growth is merely a slow form of death - teach them young to adopt a life long approach to growth and you will be doing them a huge favour.
3) Teach your child to respectfully challenge authority or the status quo. The key word here is respectfully. If those in authority can't handle questions or genuine curiosity then their tiny little ego's are not your problem. Having said that the best way to teach them is to do. Children don't do what you tell them, they model your behaviour. This means you can't talk badly about said person in authority and then expect them to respect that person. I have a dear friend that asked me to speak to her daughters about the way they were talking to their Dad. I said to my friend, "Why, what's up?" She then proceeded to tell me that her daughters were being incredibly rude to their Dad. I asked her "Have you heard the way you speak to him?" The penny dropped as she realised they were simply emulating her. She decided it was too much hard work to change. You have to decide what feels right for you.
4) Which leads me onto number 4. Develop ninja like levels of self-awareness. This is easier said than done but well worth it. Watch the language you use, and I'm not talking about swearing. Are you naturally positive or negative? Do you spend most of your time moaning or making excuses? Do you take responsibility for your life and the choices you make? Are you grateful for the things you have in your life? If so do you articulate this? This is not news; your kids will almost certainly follow the path that you are treading. Make sure it's a good path and at the very least one that you'd be happy for them to be on.
5) Last but not least, enrol them in a self-defence class. Or a dance class. Or swimming or yoga or a drama class or any type of sport or activity that gets them moving and out of their minds so much. You know your child best, even those that aren't naturally sporty will have that "one thing" that they enjoy. Don't give up too early on if the activity doesn't materialise straight away with the obvious choices. If it takes you time to find it just keep looking. Humans are meant to move, instil this in them from a young age because humans are also naturally lazy! Invest the time in finding something that will allow them space to do something that brings them joy. For a double whammy preferably find one that helps them develop some sort of physical skill acquisition. There are few things that develop physical and emotional confidence so rapidly.
So is it possible to bullyproof your children?
I think the short answer is not completely but you can do a very good job of making them a less appealing target. The sad truth of the matter is that you are doing what you can to prepare your young people to live independently of you. This means they will, by definition, be exposed to experiences and people that you simply cannot control. That is the way it should be. I accept you don’t have to like it but you do have to recognise it.
Build the habit.
Before I sign off I want to say again that you parents are my hero’s. You do amazing things every single day for very little obvious reward. I do not want to make you feel any more guilty than you already do. Guilt is a natural by-product of becoming a parent! Nor am I saying you need a daily four hour family conference to digest the minutest details of everyone’s day. Start small, find a 5 minute window, ask them interesting questions and go from there. The time will pass anyway, you might as well make it more interesting!
If you’d like more information on how to enrol your children into self-defence classes drop me a line at email@example.com or call me on 07506710102.