Frustration and anger

Anger – what the hell is it all about?

Frustration and angerI was chatting with Curly headed boy the other day, as he’d been giving us some serious attitude for a few weeks.  He was clearly angry with me, but I couldn’t work out what on earth was the matter.

So I picked one of those evenings – you know the ones when they want to chat lots, and talked him through anger and explained what it is.

The problem with anger, is that most often it comes from us not actually knowing how we are feeling and what has triggered us.  So it often doesn’t achieve what we really need.  By understanding it a bit more, we can make sure that things change.

I thought, maybe the gorgeous Danny Smith would like to chat about it over on Radio Verulam – if you would like to hear us chat about it, then you can listen again for 1 week here (I’m at 5.30-6).

 

So why do we get angry? …

1) Righteous Anger

This is the good anger.  The one you don’t want to suppress.  The one that will protect you and make you stand up for yourself.

This is all about when you know something isn’t right, it’s not fair, or is unjust.

It’s not always the right answer to compromise and keep the peace.  Especially when we are people pleasers!

It’s also a protective anger – this is the one you would see in me if my ‘mother lion’ got triggered.  It’s the the full on, controlled, ‘don’t mess with me’ anger.

 

2) Anger with someone else

Ironically we can often be angry with someone else, but get triggered by someone who isn’t actually anything to do with it.  They do something minor and then get it in the neck because we are so angry with the other person.

Sadly the person that we are angry with are often less intimidating and easier to take our anger out on as well, so we find someone who is less threatening that the real person we are angry with.

This is one of the reasons why it is so important to know why we are angry, because it’s not fair to be angry with the kids just because our boss is causing us trouble.  Or even worse in the case of a divorce, it’s not right to be angry with the kids when it’s got nasty between the parents.

 

3) Overwhelmed anger

This is when there is something else that has stressed you so much, that suddenly you flip at the slightest thing.  Stuff that would normally not bother you, that you can deal with, suddenly is too much.  It’s often nothing to do with the person who we are actually with.

This is something us Mum’s are terribly prone to doing – we get tired, overwhelmed and stressed, and then at the end of a long day find ourselves shouting at the kids and threatening them with something really over the top.

Kids are good at this too – if mine get angry, I will first check to see if they are hungry, thirsty, tired or need fresh air.  Then I look to see if they are over stressed for some reason.  The thing is that they are kids – I can’t expect them to manage their emotions, so if they are in one of these states I am much more cautious with my punishments.

Did you know that teenagers literally have all the wires (technical term!) not work in their heads properly?  They can’t recognise expressions as well as a toddler.  Hence they jump to conclusions and get grumpy at the simplest of things.  I used to find Reiki really helps them – it’s amazing how they can express themselves afterwards.  Anything where they get some relaxing downtime will help them come back to themselves.  (Plus food, drink, sunshine and sleep of course!).

The ideal here is to put our hands up and say ‘sorry’ – after all we all make mistakes and everyone gets tired and grumpy.

 

4) Not saying what we think anger

How often have you been angry with someone because they’ve done or not done something?  But did you tell them?  Or did you let it boil inside?

This encourages us to think that other people are to blame for how we are feeling.  But the question is are they?  Or is it purely our inability to deal with them?  I’m not talking about serious and obviously wrong behaviour that would trigger No1 – I’m talking about us all seeing the world slightly differently.

 

The key to this is to say something in a gentle and factual way (check out my post on teaching people how to treat you) BEFORE it becomes a problem.

This is often really difficult, because we ignore the first signs of small irritation or discomfort, and only take notice when it’s bigger.  So if you’ve waited too long, try to step aside, write down the facts and then have a chat with the person on neutral ground.

 

5) Pretending we aren’t angry

This is technically ‘not angry’, but we are angry, we just pretend we aren’t.

This is when people do those passive aggressive posts on Facebook.  Or make sarcastic digs that are meant to be ‘funny’.

It can also make us into bully’s (check out my posts on bullying – I just got picked as one of the top websites worldwide by an Anti Bullying website).

 

6) Serious anger issues

Then there are times when it’s not that simple, when the anger is too frequent and starts to control us.  When it means that we are aggressive, scary, violent, and it starts to affect our relationships.

If you have this sort of anger, then first check with your Doctor, as you might have a physical problem, that is causing it.  If it’s not physical then they should be able to get you help from someone specialised in anger issues.

It can even have physical effects:

  • Nausea
  • Increased thirst
  • Changes in thought patterns
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Fever
  • Addiction

Depression or Post Traumatic Stress disorder can make us angry instead of seeming down (check out my top books for depression).

 

No emotion is ‘bad’.  The question is ‘Do you let it rule you, or do you use it where it will help you?

 

Dealing with online negativity

Top Tips For Dealing With Twitter Terriers, Facebook Furies and Blog Bummers

IDealing with online negativity‘m not here today.

I’m over on the BritMums Blog with my summary about dealing with online negativity or bullying.

Go check it out, because it has a full description of the summary that I skipped over at the end of the panel with my Top Tips for dealing with these miserable people online:

 1) Twitter terriers that won’t let go of an issue

2) Facebook furies who make a volcano out of a molehill

3) Blog bummers who will bring down anyone’s day:

 

I was really chuffed to be asked to be on the panel at a discussion den for Britmums Live 2012 on dealing with Online negativity, because it’s a worrying subject for Mums and bloggers, and I was teamed with a great panel.

My tips were about the daily shenanigans that goes on in twittersville, facebook world and on our blogs, rather than trolls or haters.  They’ll work in real life too, although those miseries do tend to keep quiet face to face!

 

 

Which is better private or state schools

7 Tips For Helping Your Child Enjoy School More

So Curly Headed Boy started in reception last September.  I expected it to be a bit tricky, but by the end of the first term he was no happier and it was really affecting him at home.

So I’ve been posting about the 7 steps (See the category ‘starting reception‘) that I took to try and resolve it, but I thought I would summarise them here.

How did I know that it was something that needed to be looked into, rather than something that would just sort itself out?

Well, I suppose that is all relative, but when there were distinct character changes, and signs he was really unhappy, I decided to take action.  To me it was possibly that bad that we would have to move schools.

 

 

So step 1 is to work out what the problem is:

Here are the sorts of things that I had noticed ..

  • He was having nightly nightmares
  • He’d had lost confidence (he’s normally very outgoing) and was nervous around some of the children
  • He’d retreated into himself and was much less extroverted
  • There were lots of tantrums, which was really unlike him
  • After a few weeks he started to have a fit whenever we got homework (twice per week)
  • He didn’t seem to have made any close friends which is unlike him as he is very sociable
  • He complained a lot about a couple of the children in particular as having a go at him.

After the Christmas holidays and spending some time with him, I a list of what the problem appeared to be …

  • Very competitive children due to the school being extremely academic.
  • Some intimidation by a couple of the children, which was sometimes in the form of bossing, sometimes a bit bullying
  • Children criticising his work/speach
  • Worry about the work at school and homework at home
  • Basically, things bothering him that should have gone over his head

It’s strange how many children can be in the same place and the same scenario and not react in the same way.  Curly Headed Boy has always been both a typical boy and very creative, and I think that he might just be more emotionally aware than is typical of a 5yr old boy.  But at some point all kids will have a problem at school.

 

Step 2 is to get your head around it:

It hurts when our kids are unhappy.  But, in order to help them we have to get our heads around it and step back a bit.  The attitude to have is that you’ve been shown some areas that your kid needs to strengthen and empower to help them in their life.  It doesn’t mean that sometimes we need to get changes in the school or other children’s behaviour, as it might also be in their best interests.  However, seeing your child as the ‘victim’ of anything or anyone isn’t going to help.  We need to get them strong, but it’s more difficult to do that when we are upset.  It’s hard, but you need to try to take your own emotions out of the mix.

 

Then Step 3 is to make an action plan:

to work on the areas that you’ve highlighted your child needs to learn more about.

So here are the seven steps that I put in place.  The idea was to strengthen him where he was weak and use it as an opportunity to teach him some life skills that he will undoubtedly need.  For your child you would need to adapt the steps to suit them, and their age.  But the ideas would be very much the same.

 

1) Add in a Playdate each week (Area to strengthen: friendships)

I’d not done this before because I thought he would be too tired.  I started with old friends to consolidate what he already had, and then went for new friends.  I also tried to make sure I went to as many of the Mum coffee mornings as I could, although thats a little tricky with work.

 

2) Talked to School (Area to strengthen: trust in authority and sense of safety)

Now if you read my posts on Bullying, you will see that I have a unique perspective on this, so I didn’t go charging in outraged that someone had upset my poor little boy.  If you go into school, I strongly advise that at first you take a consillatory tack.  We agreed that there was a problem and  in fact the teacher also agreed with me that the extent of the problem was such that it was possible that Curly Headed Boy would have to look for a new school as the environment just wasn’t working for him.

We realised that he needed more praise in school because they were taking it for granted that he could do certain things.  Plus I found out that the reason he was finding it difficult was because he was sitting with the bright children; so all I had to do was explain to him that he had a ‘right’ to be there, as he is bright too.  (It might seem daft, but although I knew he was ‘bright’ I wasn’t convinced that he was academically bright before).

 

3) More Praise at home (Area to strengthen: confidence, fairness and security at home)

Taking a hint from school, we upped the praise at home as well, and tried to reduce the telling off.  Sometimes this requires us to be interactive and see a problem off before it starts, sometimes hold our tongue.  It does make life a hell of a lot more pleasant for everyone involved if you are focussing on praising a child, rather than telling them off lots.  We’d lost sight of the fact that Little Dimples gets praised for pooing, so we needed to keep the praise balanced across the two of them.

 

4) Role Playing (Area to strengthen: Dealing with conflict scenarios)

We had several little chats when he was in the mood about the kids that were bossing him around and intimidating him.  Ironically, he told me off at this point, because apparently my ideas for what to say were a bit harsh!  The problem was that he was showing that he was upset by what they said, so of course they were going to keep at it.  He needed to learn some simple things to say that stopped the conversations immediately, rather than keep going with them.  He very much took control of this part and came up with his own options.

 

5) Talking about view of the world (Area to strengthen: feeling popular)

We had a long talk about the fact that things were not as black and white as he was seeing them.  There is no way that ‘all’ the kids were saying the unfriendly things, but because he was focussing on them he was missing out on opportunities to play with or be with kids who suited him better.  So I got him to look around more and find who was either not involved in the intimidation or who didn’t agree with it.

 

6) Bribery and Security Blankets (Area to strengthen: security)

I decided that he needed something to encourage him back to school and as a bit of a security blanket when on the way or at school.  He loves monkeys, and has a close affinity with them (being a massive climber and cheeky with it), so we bought him a monkey for the car and a monkey key ring to go to school with him.  Despite it being a strict school we seemed to manage the key ring with no problem.  It’s very surprising how well this worked; I think it gave a sense of consistency.  They are still there, but he hardly ever ‘needs’ them now.

 

7) Classes outside of school (Area to strengthen: confidence)

To give him confidence at school I wanted to focus him on what he was good at.  I was planning on just adding one class in case he was too tired, but circumstances meant that we picked gymnastics (he is very agile and it is really hard work, so it uses up a lot of excess energy) and swimming (something that we are now also doing each weekend for special time as a family).  These have worked brilliantly, and he actually seems to have more energy, despite the hectic schedule which I sometimes find exhausting!

 

And the Result?

Well, I’m happy to say that I have created a monster, who has just come first at one of the subjects in his class, has beans in his pants and can’t sit still, and actually likes school.

This is one of those things that needs to have a permanent eye kept on it, I’m sure that there will be more problems along the way.  But for the time being, there is a rest period, phew!

I’d love your comments on what you have tried in the past, or if you have any questions about your own children.  Plus you might want to check out my posts about bullying if you have more complex issues.

Fibro fog

Turning my noisy head off

How thoughts bother usWhy do people have to disagree with us or have a go at us?  Do you ever wonder?  Wouldn’t it be easier or nicer if it was different?  Or if everybody was nice all the time would it actually not work for us?

I know that in this world there will always be as many people who like me as who dislike me.  Plus there will be people who agree with me and disagree with me, and just because they disagree with me, doesn’t mean they don’t like me (there’s a tongue twister for you!).  Sometimes I might not notice it because people often bitch behind closed doors, but sometimes you’ll meet an honest soul who comes straight out with it, which is refreshing if a bit shocking.

Each day there will be people who are nice to me and people who are mean.  Sometimes I don’t notice it because the people being mean aren’t important to me, sometimes I take it to heart.

Most of us can’t help preferring it when people like us, are nice to us and agree with us.  There are a few out there who openly court controversy and argument, but in the main we are all looking for the ‘nice’ in the world.  But does it always work for us?  Remember the saying ‘killing with kindness’?

Yesterday I decided to take some time out, sit in the sun and do a self-session on some stuff that had been making too much noise in my head for a while.  I was particularly looking at people from the same therapy background as myself, mummy bloggers and the big hairy northerner who spent the first year of Little Dimple’s life being more than usually gruff.  These are the people that I was wishing would always be nice to me, and because they meant so much to me it bothered me when they weren’t.

The problem is, when people are nice we often don’t make the changes needed.  Plus, ironically we can want niceness so much in our lives that we can actually attract the nastyness, it’s like the universe trying to help us to see that sometimes we need a different tack.  Of course if you are extremely determined (hmmm stubborn!) like me, it can take a lot of people having a go to make me rethink stuff or change my view of life.

So yesterday, I sat down and decided I’d done enough complaining and was going to sort it all out.  I won’t talk you through the whole process as that might take some time, but here are some of the things that I realised.  They are obvious and common sense, but there is a difference between knowing them logically and feeling them in your heart.  That’s when you can free yourself of stuff.  That’s what I do for other people and yesterday that’s what I did for myself.

The problem with the therapists/coachs from the same background as myself was I had a hell of a lot of loyalty towards them and spent a lot of time trying to help the community out because I love the method that we all use.  But I’ve got 2 kids now and my own business, and I don’t have the time.  However, out of loyalty I would still be investing time if I hadn’t had a wake up call.  It’s not the place for me right now, I’ve got my own business to sort out, and shouldn’t be sticking my nose into other people’s business.

With the Mummy Bloggers, I was being a bit daft, we do need to be able to disagree and not take it to heart.  My vision is for Mums to come together, but that doesn’t require us agreeing.  Ironically as well, without the competition, comparisons, and ridiculousness there would be no need for me!  It’s a bit like there being no jobs for doctors without illness, or no job for an appliance engineer if everything was built to last.  We don’t want things to break, but I have to admit that I enjoy helping Mums; a weird dichotomy!

I don’t talk much about the Big Hairy Northern one, as it’s not his fault I blog.  But lets just say that having been together for 22years and 2 young kids, there is probably more than just a little spring clean needed to spruce up our house at the moment.  Without his gruffness over the past year, I’d have probably just kept pottering along with the status quo and we both deserve lots more than that.  I might not have heard someone telling me that if they’d been all nice about it!

So yesterday I got to sit in the sun, feeling content and grateful for my life, with a lovely quiet head (for a little while at least!), bliss!

Giving your children confidence by focussing outside of school

So I mentioned a while back that Curly Headed boy wasn’t happy at school and had lost confidence.  I’m going to summarise all the steps I took to help him out next week.  But first I want to talk about the final option in a bit more detail.

Now I’m not a ‘pushy’ mum, as I don’t panic about not starting Curly Headed Boy in piano immediately because he is 5, or that he must be able to speak Japanese by the time he is 6.  But maybe I was a bit wrong to not give him something extra outside of school.  My thinking was that he was already absolutely shattered. But when it became clear that he wasn’t settling into Reception, one of the things I decided to do was try some classes.

My aim was to give him confidence.  Also, I was really affected by the story of a 4yr old boy who couldn’t be saved because he couldn’t swim, so I did have a slight ulterior motive!  I checked out football, street dance, art classes, stage coach/perform, swimming and gymnastics.

I pinned it down to swimming and gymnastics.  He is a great little actor already, so he doesn’t need lots of help there, and the only classes were on saturday mornings.  We aren’t good with a schedule every weekend, so it wasn’t ideal.  Football is OK, and he has good eye to ball coordination, but I thought that could be saved for Daddy at the weekend.  His mate had just stopped street dance and started gymnastics.  So as he is particularly agile I decided to go for either swimming or gymnastics.

Remember the main aim was for him to gain confidence and find something that he was really good at.  His confidence had been knocked by children at school telling him that he was writing or saying things wrong, and he needed to appreciate what he was good at.  Plus some good old fashioned fun!  There was no space on the gym class that his friend had started on, and Max was really only keen to do something new with a mate as he was still very low on confidence.  So we booked the swimming.

BUT then the gym people phoned and said there was a space after all, so we ended up with both; thats the way the world works hey!

So this is why I now have a marathon of a Tues & Wed, to get food into Curly Headed Boy in the car on the way and the way back from class, and try to get everything done in time for bed at 6.30 (the best bed time for him).  Tuesdays I spend an hour on a gallery, trying to occupy Little Dimples and get some food into her.  Mind you, she has a very cute little admirer, so that helps!  On Wednesdays when I have energy we all go swimming for 30mins, then I get Little Dimples dressed while he has his class.  When I’m shattered, I hold a very grumpy Little Dimples while the lesson is going on, because I can’t face washing all our hair after (I’m officially a wimp, but for some reason the family changing rooms exhaust me!).

And Curly Headed Boy?  He is in seventh heaven.  He gets to see the older gymnasts do amazing things and work hard core for an hour at all sorts of gymnastic stuff.  Meanwhile the swimming girl totally understood what I was aiming for, so she keeps telling him how fab he is, and he enjoys it no end.  He now has tonnes of things to tell hims friends, and the confidence he has gained in the classes seems to have really rubbed off at school as he is playing with all the boys at break time now.

So if your child is struggling with their confidence in school, I really recommend you find something out of school that you know they will easily do well at.  It’s amazing how it has affected his general confidence every where, including school.

Mind you , we’ve created a bit of a monster, who wants to climb, jump on, or jump over everything at home … arrrggggh!

The Power of a couple of monkeys in giving security

I’ve been sharing my tips for helping your kids when they aren’t happy at school, as Curly headed boy was struggling (he has just started reception).  Here is another one of my tips, which has worked surprisingly well, and might be useful if you have kiddies not keen on returning to school after the half term.

First you do need to know your child quite well.  My boy loves to have special times that have been thought through and organised for him, the whole ‘quality time’ thing.  It can be anything as simple as a picnic in the garden, playing a puzzle game together, or promising and following through with playing football.  On the last day of the Christmas holidays I took him and Little Dimples to our local children’s farm, which also has an indoor soft play and a fake ice rink.  I knew it wouldn’t be busy as his school started a few days after most schools for some reason, so we had time to play outside and then pop inside for lunch.  It was all about him, very relaxed and mellow, with no other plans for the whole day.

I was really worrying about the next day.  The holidays had given us plenty of time to reflect and I’d realised that things were a lot worse than I thought.  I was looking for something to give him a sense of a treat and also security.  On the way out I didn’t rush through the shop as I would normally do, instead we meandered around.  I found a fab magnetic board with some of the words that he has been learning, and another one with pictures of fruit/veg and the days for him to record his 5-a-day (it’s amazing how school telling him to eat 5-a-day has worked more than me!).  Then I saw it.  A cute little monkey that he made a beeline for.

Let me back track a little.  At the end of the last term he got a present from Santa at school, which was a little beanie monkey.  He was really chuffed because he’d actually been sick, but it got delivered by a friend, and he ADORED this monkey all christmas.  He’s been talking about family and tried to find lots of other monkey teddies to make a family for his new monkey.  I realised he has a big affinity for monkeys (we did call him cheeky monkey for ages), as we did have several monkeys.  I’d actually been searching on the internet for another beanie monkey just incase we lost this one he had grown so attached to.

So this was perfect, another monkey, which I suggested could be a ‘special’ monkey to go in the car with him to school (no teddies allowed in school).  Then we saw a monkey key ring, and I’ve seen the girls with key rings, so here was the monkey who could go into school with him.  Suddenly there was a monkey at home sitting by his bed, a monkey in the car and a monkey in his school bag for him, to give a sense of continuity and security.  Then at the weekends they call come together, like a family does.

We are coming up to half-term and he doesn’t seem to rely on them as much, but they are still there on the days that he is tired or a little unsure, like this monday when he didn’t want to go because of a ‘zombie’ game the kids had played on friday.  Thinking about it, I’ve often seen children (boys too) with teddies or comforters in the car.  My children have often used me as a comforter because of the breast feeding rather than a muslin, so this was almost something I had to teach Curly Headed Boy to do.

So basically what I did was:

  1. Have a fun last day of the holidays, so that the last day is something to look forward to.  Very focussed on the type of child that Curly Headed Boy is.
  2. Think of something that means something to him and he is really fond of i.e. monkeys
  3. Find a way of giving him that security on the way to school, and at school

Here are some more ideas for different types of kids, but first a warning.  My Mum used to take me to KFC for the first and last day of term.  I strongly recommend you don’t use food as the treat, because I still get the urge for a KFC whenever I’m about to face a ‘first’ something.  I wish she hadn’t done the chocolate bar treat for finishing a couple of hours of revision too; and my bum wishes it even more!

  1. For kids who like quality time:  Hows about a ‘girly day’ with a hair cut and coffee, or a picnic (on the kitchen floor if it’s cold), make something crafty.
  2. For kids who like to be given presents: Hows about a little toy (it can be one of those pocket money ones that only cost £1) or making them little notes to put in their lunch bag when they open it up at school, or a pack of stickers.
  3. For kids who like physical touch: Make sure you spend lots of time cuddled up with them during the day, watch a film, tickle them, have a bath together.
  4. For kids who need to be told they are great: Tell them how proud you are of them going to school, and why they make a great friend for the other kids, and why they are doing well at school.
  5. For kids who like things to be done for them: Hows about a lovely family lunch, making a cake together, getting their stuff ready and making sure that there is no reason to worry in the morning.

If you want some tips on getting to know yourself and your children better, then I really recommend signing up for my newsletter (see right hand side of blog), as the free online course will not be available for new members after next week.  Even better would be to sign up for my free webinar which is next week, and will give you a secret to ensuring your children end up with lives they love and reaching their full potential.

Oh, that reminds me, I also made sure that his favourite CD’s were in the car and gave up on listening to anything decent for several weeks.  Music definitely has an affect on our emotions, so I recommend having songs they enjoy, or that give them that sense of security because they know them so well.  I use music in the mornings when I’m knackered to get me moving, it is amazing what a tune can do to our emotional state.

Feel free to share your tips for making the school run less worrisome for your children, it would be great to hear more.

When the second child is praised for it’s poo, the first child can struggle!

I’ve done a few posts about Curly Headed Boy’s struggles at reception, and the good news is that things definitely seem to be improving.  This morning we had a chat, and it appears that his improved confidence is really affecting his confidence in the class room as well, and he is mixing a lot more with the other children.

There are still several things that I’ve been purposely doing that I need to blog about, and one of them is this really easy tip for improving your child’s confidence, especially when they are a first child and another appears.

The problem is, that Little Dimples at the moment gets praised for pooing, let alone anything else.  Plus she’s awful cute and can get away with lots of general naughtiness.  It’s very easy to forget that Curly Headed Boy is also very good at some things in comparison to other kids his age, and to praise him for these day to day things.  Even his teacher admitted that she doesn’t always remember to praise him because it’s kind of expected that he will do them, so she is actively making sure that he gets stickers and praise at school as well.

So this is a really simple reminder, that even the best parents might need, to be proactive and frequent in your praise.  It’s not the main way of making Curly Headed Boy feel loved (for some it would be extremely important), but it is something he needs.  Plus, I’m making a big effort to praise him as soon as possible after Little Dimples is praised for something, to keep it fair and balanced.

Here are some simple ideas for what are easy things to praise, plus things that you probably want to encourage in a 5yr old, it’s not an exhaustive list, but a good start:

  • saying ‘excuse me’ and not interrupting
  • asking for things politely
  • looking after Little Dimples (which tends to mean behaving in a crazy manner to make her laugh)
  • being patient
  • sitting still at the table
  • eating his dinner/food
  • eating his desert
  • being thoughtful
  • helping with cooking
  • tidying something
  • getting ready without taking half a day
  • doing his homework
  • remembering a new word
  • telling the truth about an accident or breakage

What’s ideas do you have that you can share with people?  Feel free to add them in comments, it would be great to get more.

The great thing is, that it also appears to reduce the number of tellings off required.  We also had a chat a few weeks ago, and he agreed that often the only reason he plays up is to get attention.  So I agreed to try to realise this and be more understanding, and he agreed to try and let me know when he is feeling left out.  So with the two things together, it appears or feels to be a much more harmonious household (don’t imagine perfection, there are still shouty moments, but they are much more useful shouty moments).

Sometimes we need to look outside of our families to realise how lucky we are.  All kids are great, but it’s important to appreciate our own children’s version of great, rather than worry about where they are not great.  If you fancy looking into this in more depth, I’m running a free webinar in a couple of weeks about how to ensure your children reach their full potential, have a look here and see if you fancy it, I’m really sure that it has useful information for all types of parents.

How Play Dates help with school and bullying

So I have mentioned in a post a few weeks back that Curly Headed Boy wasn’t very happy in reception (first year of school).  Last week I explained how I had tackled one of the problems, which is that he often feels overly criticised by the children in his class.  So, I thought I would give you an update on how he is doing.

He certainly seems to have gained some confidence, especially because he now understands that his lovely teacher has put him on the table with clever kids on purpose, and not because they had made a mistake.  So he is ‘meant’ to be there.  How funny that I would never have thought to tell him that he was ‘good enough’ to be in the class room.  I suppose that is because I never explained what those ‘play dates’ with schools were, when he was being assessed.

I’m not sure that he is managing to stand his ground with one of the stronger characters who is intimidating him a bit, but he has a lot more perspective since I had that little chat about it.  So there is still some work to be done here.  Plus maybe another chat with the school, who have done an assembly on ‘bullying’, but I think that they might need to do some more general things about ‘friendship’ and ’empathy’ within the class.  However, today is Pirate day (see photo here), so he has been a happy bunny this week.  Plus in a couple of weeks they have an outing to an air museum, which is going to be fabulous.

Despite him being tired and it being dark, I have made a big effort to make sure that he gets a playdate in every week.  I’m purposely being quite strategic in the plan of dates.  First have been some old friends from his nursery, who are not in his class, but I thought that to give those friendships a little boost would help as a good foundation.  After all, they can still play in the playground.  In the next couple of weeks, we are focussing on new friends, and repeat play dates with new friends.  I’ve also got one with a favourite girl friend of his coming up, as he does like girls and I think that a little encouragement to ignore the girl/boy divide is a good plan.  So I have become a brilliant Mummy PA in the last couple of weeks!

When looking to arrange playdates, it’s not ‘wrong’ to think about it strategically.  School relationships are amazingly fluid, so especially at this early stage they can easily change.  I remember back at my school, there was a girl who I generally thought was pretty horrid and was always picking on me.  However, one day my best friend and hers got us together and explained that they wanted to be best friends from now on, and they didn’t want us to be alone, so could we become best friends (you know what girls are like with their BF relationships, it’s a big deal!).  Do you know what, we did, and it lasted for ages.  Our relationship never went back to the original one where she was picking on me.  So it might be worth you really thinking out of the box for the play dates and not going for the obvious options.

If you are working, or don’t get to do the drop off like I do, there are other ways of finding out.  You can ask to have a chat with the teacher; I did that at his last nursery and they can be a great source of suggestions.  Plus, I just put an invite in a child’s bag for the play date if their parents weren’t there at drop-off and pick-up.  If you don’t want to do play dates during the week, then hows about one at the weekends, or make a big effort to go to the parties you get invited to and suss out potential parents you might get on well with as well for a get-together at a weekend.  There are always the holidays too, so you can pack in lots of play dates then.

I was arranging them on Mondays or Thursdays, as they seemed like the best days (Tues & Wed are now full: more of that to come later), and I thought he might be too knackered and horrid on a Friday.  But I’ve changed my mind now, and any new ones, I’m going to book on the Friday.  I’m also going to try to book some with more than one child at our local soft-play/animal farm, because that makes it easier for us Mums with siblings to deal with, and we can have dinner there too, so it reduces the stress of getting everything fitted in.

I know how difficult it can be with a busy life, dark winter nights, and siblings.  But if your child is having any problems socially at school, I really encourage you to help them a little and prioritise it.  I have had to drop/adapt a few things sometimes in order to do it, like baths (every other night), 2 books to read (dropped to 1 some nights), meals that take 20mins to cook (dropped to 5 mins).  But I can make up for a lot of that at the weekend.  It’s a fine balance, but it’s worth having a go.

There will be another blog next week on how one of my other ideas of adding stuff outside of school is going.  (ooh and if this is your first time here, remember to check out all my other posts about dealing with bullying)

When your child thinks that ‘everyone’ is against him

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that Curly Headed Boy is struggling with his first year at school a little, but we have a plan in place to work on it, and I promised to mention the different things I try, so here is one of them:

He happens to be on a table with some very clever, but quite critical children (don’t get me wrong, he can be pretty critical himself, so it’s not like he doesn’t know how to do it too).  Some have been criticising his work, telling him he’s doing things wrong, and generally having a little pick.  Recently they have been telling him that he says ‘yellow’ wrong (it comes out ‘lellow’).  He told me that ‘everyone’ was doing it.  Now, this could be an opportunity for me to get all upset and a bit protective, and there is a little corner of me that did.  But the rest of me explained a couple of big secrets about the way that the world works.

  1. You teach people how to treat you
  2. The world isn’t black and white, all one way or the other

You Teach People How To Treat You

This isn’t saying it’s our ‘fault’ if someone is mean, but it is acknowledging that we have a part to play in the situation.  No one is going to pick on someone who feels totally certain about themselves, it’s one of those things about human behaviour.

So we did some role playing about how he could tell them thanks for their advice, but he’s perfectly happy with the way that he says ‘yellow’.  Ironically, he was better at it than me, as he said my ideas for what to say were mean (must be that protective corner in me!).  He decided that as he is a monster (thats a whole other post), he would explain to them that he was saying ‘yellow’ in monster language, and it was fine for them to say it their way, but he’d be sticking with his own.  Poor chap, he’s got a southern Mummy teaching him to say ‘barth’ for bath, and the northern hairy husband telling him to get in the ‘baaath’, ‘stood’ for stand up, or ‘lurry’ for ‘lorry; he’s definitely going to have a weird accent at the end of this.

The World Isn’t Just Black or Just White

Now on the ‘everyone’ subject, I explained that the world is made of night and day, dark and light, north and south, happy and sad, grumpy and cheerful, mean and nice.  I got him to imagine a basket that was always half full of what he thought was ‘nice’ stuff and the other half had the less nice.  I said the basket would always be like that, so he just needed to look for the other side of the basket.  Plus half the people in the world were always going to like him and half wouldn’t.  So when he thought someone didn’t like him, he just needs to look at the other side of the basket for the people who do like him.

So it’s not ever possible that EVERYONE did something.  A couple of sensible questions later and he remembers that his mate, also on the same table, has no interest in how he says ‘yellow’.  Plus, the rest of the class didn’t say anything.  You can use the same concept with your children if they are getting properly bullied at school.  Ask them to look back at the incident with new eyes and really see.  Yes, some people would have been ‘bullying’ in their view, but others were just there out of fear to make sure that they didn’t get picked on, and it wouldn’t have been every child in the whole school.  This is only one step in the process, but it is incredibly important for them to know that not everyone sees them as the bully’s do.

Right, off to do some of my less favourite work: squeeze pages and marketing stuff, after all I did just get to do my favourite side of the basket by blogging!

When the environment we are in doesn’t encourage us to blossom

We are a bit like plants, and our children are too.  Some environments help us to blossom, and some are more of a struggle.

Put us in the right soil, with exactly the right amount of cold, heat, and water, and we’ll take off like a tree and blossom amazingly.

Put us in a place that feels too cold for us, and we’ll shrivel up (become introverted and insecure).  Put us in a place that over stimulates us and we’ll become a man-eating triffid (become precocious and over confident).

Sometimes there is something that needs changing in order to improve our surroundings and help us to feel that perfect balance.  But sometimes it is just to do with changing our view of the world that we are in.  More often than not it’s a bit of both.

Curly Headed Boy is struggling at the moment and his environment isn’t quite right, there is just a little too much stress involved.  It’s not a major deal as it’s at the early stages, but adjustments are definitely needed before bigger changes are required.  I’m hoping that a few adjustments in several places will do the trick, but we’ll see over the coming months and I’ll let you know.

How do I know?  Well, he’s been having nightmares for several months (probably since half way through his first term in reception).  He is one for nightmares, but not so regularly.  He’s often worried and asks repeated questions that show it, mainly about whether he is good enough.  He was worried about Little Dimples arrival, and that sometimes resurfaces, but in the main that seems OK as long as we remember to praise both at the same time.  He is also pretty vocal about not liking school and why.  Plus we have had some MEGA tantrums over the last few months, which other Mums have also noticed since their kids started reception.

The long christmas holidays have been great.  They given time for him to tell me lots more about school, and I’ve had a chance to chat to other Mums and get a bit more information about the daily structure etc.  The perspective meant that I was very clear on the ‘problem’, and could go and have a little 10min chat with his teacher.  We are very lucky because his teacher is lovely, and he adores her.  She agrees with me, that he’s bright enough for the school, in fact he is apparently very bright (I’m a bad Mummy, I hadn’t really realised that!), but if we don’t get this sorted out, then it’s not the right environment for him to blossom and grow in.  His brightness is more in emotional understanding, so things that other 5yr olds would ignore bother him, and he is bothered by the degree of competitiveness in his class.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the kids, and it isn’t all of them (he just sees the ones that are, not the ones that aren’t).  It’s just that they have a VERY high value on academic learning, and he appears to have followed me in having a higher value on life experience and creative things.

There is also a touch of what could be called bullying.  It’s not major and no more than we’ve dealt with elsewhere.  It’s more of a general ‘throwing their weight around’ kind of thing, as the kids sort out their social hierarchy and a few lay claim to the top spots.  Now if you’ve read all my stuff about ‘bullying‘, you’ll know that I have a very different view of it from the mainstream, so I’m not upset with the kids involved, and I’m very aware that we have all bullied somewhere, sometime.  But I do need to teach him to sort it out and I know that the school is watching the situation.

So the plan …

  1. I’ve created a facebook group for the year, so that we can have more impromptu play dates: that should set him up to be socially stronger.  Luckily lots of the Mums are up for this.
  2. We started swimming lessons so he can meet more kids and gain confidence in something else
  3. I’m chatting to him and pointing out that not all the children have the same focus on their school work
  4. Some role playing to teach him how to deal with the slightly intimidating behaviour of a few of the kids, so he learns strategies to deal with it (he’s good at this).
  5. I’ve had a chat with him about being naughty to get attention at home, and we’ve come up with a plan that works out better for him, rather than the current one (mummy shouting), so the home environment will also be a little more relaxed for him.

This wouldn’t necessarily be the right plan for all kids, but Curly Headed Boy is a little like me.  We like a pat on the back, and wag our tails when we get them.  We are a little sensitive to a grumpy look, or angry voice and can recede easily.  I have the feisty Leo spirit in me to kick back in those cases, and I understand lots more about relationships and seeing both sides of a picture.  He’s too young for me to explain everything at the moment, so for a little while his environment needs a pick me up, and when he is older I can teach him more about looking for the stuff that helps us to blossom, even if it isn’t obvious.

Ironically, Little Dimples is totally the opposite.  I don’t have to worry about her at all, as she can hold her own with a scary look with babies twice her age.  This is great news, because wherever Curly Headed Boy goes to school, Little Dimples will follow with no trouble and she’ll make sure that she blossoms!

It’s also been a good reminder to me that we all need an environment within which we can blossom, and it can be subtly stressful when it isn’t available.  Again, it might just need a few minor adjustments or a change of perception, but it’s worth it.

I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks how he’s doing and what progress he has made.  Feel free to share your children’s experiences if you are also having a problem at the moment, and I’ll happily give you some ideas if you are struggling to get some.

You might like to sign up for my email list (which is different from subscribing to the blog), as during January you get a free online course.  I’m also about to announce a free webinar for February, which will give you more insight into understanding yourself and your children, which will help with coming up with these sorts of strategies, which goes well with the course.