Naughty Kids

Is Having Two Kids Harder Than One?

Naughty Kids

 

Things are so much easier now!

AND SO MUCH HARDER!

 

Philosophically I get that life is just different, children change, our challenges change, things aren’t ‘harder’ or ‘easier’, they are just different.

But I’m surprised how much more difficult it is.

Billie Piper talked about it his week (warning, that’s a link to the Daily Fail).  I feel for her, but I do like knowing that ‘even celebs’ have the same problems; is that horrid of me?.

 

I LOVE seeing the kids together; I’m so glad I chose to have two, and there are times when they keep each other occupied.

There are also times when I need to step in before armageddon erupts.

It’s true that I have vaguely more clue about dealing with children now; hence it’s easier.

But of course being contrary she is so blinking different too; I even have to discipline them differently.

I don’t have as many ‘firsts’ to deal with, and know more about what to expect.

But I still have all CHB’s firsts as he gets older, plus keep my eye on the rerun with LD.

Meanwhile I have two children, so I’m very aware that there is less space for the big hairy northern one to be anything but self-reliant and self-responsible.

And I’m definitely more knackered.

 

Kids love muddy festivalsOh and don’t get me on the naughtiness.  It’s not double the naughtiness, its QUADRUPLE!

Little Dimples was BORN with a naughty look in her eye.  She encourages Curly Headed Boy to be naughtier, is naughty herself, teaches him new tricks, and then learns things that he picks up from school.  OMG!

 

I’m struggling to work as much.  It shouldn’t be any harder to work, as with CHB at school I have nearly the same amount of time.  But I’ve had a big reality check over the last month and my plans/deadlines/ideas are all going to have to wait.

 

I talk to Mums with older kids, who explain that they thought they would be able to go back to work, but actually the amount of emotional support their kids need when at school has made it virtually impossible.  So I’m expecting at some point to be less physically knackered and then have to up my mental/emotional game.

 

I take my hat off to Mums who have more than two; you don’t have enough arms for them or eyes, how the hell do you do it!  You are what I would term ‘professional Mums’.

 

Have you decided to stick to one child?  Or did you go for two like me?  Or are you one of the ‘brave’ who has a whole handful of kids?

 

Which is better private or state schools

Why we changed our mind from state school to private and back again

Which is better private or state schoolsChoosing schools must be one of the most stressful experiences a parent ever goes through.

Changing where you child goes to school is even worse!

Rationally there is no way that just this one choice will be the making or breaking of them.  But for some reason we become complete nutters when bewildered by choices, social pressure, decisions between private vs state schools and ghosts from our own experiences.

I’ll never pay for primary I said!

I was always a big fan of state primary, it seemed daft to pay for something that was available for free.  But never say never!

When you are pregnant you just don’t look at schools as much as the older parents advise you to.  So although there were ‘problems’ with the local state school Bowmansgreen, there were plenty more around, so we didn’t think twice about it and moved into a new quite ‘posh’ estate in a ‘village’ called London Colney (it’s more like a suburb to St Albans).

 

Then the baby boom hit.

Panic and the rush for a Private school

Bowmansgreen was my only option and although it had a new headmistress with a great reputation, but she hadn’t sorted the problems out yet.

To be honest there’s not a lot of ‘problems’ where we live, but there are two little areas of the village where there are definite big problems.  Of course within those two areas are great and lovely families.  However a select few make a big impression, and it just so happens that I live quite near one of these areas.

I just wasn’t willing to let my ‘golden haired boy’ be an experiment that might go wrong – rightly or wrongly.

So along with my whole crescent I panicked.  I was late in preparing Curly Headed Boy and competition for private schools near London is intense.  He was lucky to get a place and so off he went to a private school called Radlett Prep.  (A prep school is one that is specifically preparing kids for getting into good private secondary schools).

After a few settling in problems he seemed to really start to enjoy it.  The school is very old fashioned, and hard core; but then most of the private schools are tough.  But it was always very clear what you were getting from them; maths and english.  Pretty much just that.

However, there was one problem.  I knew he was imaginative, creative and artistic, but apparently he is also bright, so the school just wouldn’t let him relax; after all he was a prime candidate for good results.  It wasn’t just the school either, as there were some kids who were ‘unusually competitive’; I’m talking critiquing his spelling, writing, reading and speech.

He said he was fine.  But I was worried that the ‘real him’ was getting squashed.  Plus he looked tired, really really tired and developed nervous ticks.

(Now don’t get me wrong; this is not a criticism of private schools as some of the kids were really thriving under the structure and pressure.  It’s very much a case of me not being sure that it suited my child, that is all.  Plus there are different types of private school; it’s just that he didn’t get into those ones).

The universe offers up an excuse

Then the big hairy northern one was made redundant.  I gave notice immediately ‘just incase’ he didn’t get a job quickly as previously he was off work for over a year.

I talked about not wanting him to choose a job just to pay for schooling; which I think shocked some parents, whose priorities are much more academic than mine and would sacrifice everything for their children’s education.

After 4 months the hairy one got a job, but I said that it was just a contracting job so it wasn’t secure enough for Curly Headed Boy to stay.

I went back to doing the school run and realised that I dreaded it; what should be 20mins was a 1.5hr round trip in the morning and 1hr round trip in the afternoon.

Then as we started to talk about the fact that he might have to change schools my son started to admit that he wanted to change schools, because all he ever did was ‘work’.  Even football classes and P.E. were ‘work’.  He’s in year 1 (6 years old); I started to have big concerns about where the ‘fun’ was in his learning.

Just incase I considered changing my mind, one of the senior teachers was very grumpy when she discovered he was definitely leaving and they were losing a cheque.  There was no ‘we’re going to miss your son so much etc etc, hope everything gets more settled for you soon and maybe we’ll see you back here’.

Learning about flowers at schoolThere was a choice of state school after all!

How ironic, after all that panic we had the choice between a small village school about 10 mins drive away with just one class per year and the local school Bomansgreen (2 classes per year in comparison to Radlett Prep which is 3 classes per year).

Remember the new head with a good reputation?  She’s not daft at all.  She did a resounding sales job on Curly Headed Boy, and so he picked Bowmansgreen.

So he’s just started at our local school in term 3 of year 1 and can now walk to school (unless it’s pissing it down, because I’m a wimp!).

He gets school dinners (it was packed lunch at Radlett), free morning snacks and encouraged to try different fruits in govt campaigns.  There’s loads more art, lots of time on the computer (maybe too much!), no drama but lots of music, and I got to see him in his school assembly with him dressed as a flower (oh yes, there were tears!)

Two weeks in and I can see the stress falling off my son, although Little Dimples seems unimpressed if her tantrums to and from have been anything to go by!

There are some problems with fitting in with the kids and it is VERY different; but he’s pragmatic about it and we’ll tackle it.  His emotions have been very up and down with the nerves and excitement, but he is adamant that he is happier.

He might be a bit bored and ahead, but they have already changed his view of reading and he  is now reading books for fun, which I’m really chuffed about.

Most of all I’ve come to understand that I want my children to have rich lives, and that academic qualifications don’t necessarily create a full life.

So the story continues …… I’ll let you know how we do!

I’d love to hear if you’ve made similar decisions to move your children at any time?

 

Which is better private or state schools

Does your past affect your worries about your children’s schooling?

What makes us feel one way or the other about education and the choices that we have to make for our children?

Some of it must be society and peers.  But I reckon a big part comes from our own childhood.

I was sent to an all girls school; hence my dislike of single sex education.

I also went private right through, my husband went half & half.  So initially we were planning on state primary for Curly Headed Boy and Little Dimples, until our options were limited to a school that had a bad reputation with the potential for improvement.  We just weren’t willing to risk our child as a bit of an experiment, so we went private.

Not just private, but private near London, which means loads of competition for places and loads of competition in the school.

After some work to settle my son into reception, he settled in well, and we discovered he was apparently very bright.  It was me who started to worry that it was too hard core, with too little emphasis on enjoyment of learning.

With the big hairy northern one being made redundant, I used it as an excuse to go to see the state primary, which had now proved itself to be on the up.  So Curly Headed Boy will be transferring there after the easter holidays, and is very excited.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

Wondering about this has made me wonder what assumptions and myths I had running around in my head, especially from my childhood?

    1. Clever children don’t to art – I was allowed to do art O’level, but not allowed to continue afterwards.
    2. Arty people are flakey – the art teacher lied about their qualifications and had to be replaced after a year.
    3. Girls who can do science shouldn’t do english – and so I had to study Physics and Maths A levels, was meant to become and engineer, not a writer.
    4. You get better qualifications at private – I don’t think this is a true or full picture of what education gives.
    5. You’ll be more successful if you go to private school – my friends and family have proved this is not true!

I’ve come full circle back to my writing, and a big appreciation for the arts as a way of providing a rich life.

What I want to do is give my children the opportunity to decide who they are without any myths; but I reckon it’s quite a difficult thing to stay aware of.  I don’t think the myths per se are bad, it’s just that we need to be aware of them when making decisions that are affected by them.

So I’d love to know:

What myths have you left over from your childhood?

Are you more biased to the sciences, sports or arts?  Why?

Have you followed the same path with your children as you followed?  Or are you making different choices?

Or have you really made a different choice and gone for home schooling or Steiner education?

Agony Aunt for Mums

Problem Corner: Tips for dealing with being intimidated by other mums at toddler group or school gate

A lovely Mum I know posted the following tweet oneday ‘Hate that I’m intimidated by toddler group. Need to grow some balls. Figuratively speaking.’ so I offered to do a question corner post for her, because what she doesn’t know is that we are all scared shitless of walking into those places (well 99% of us!).

She was ill during her pregnancies and has fallen into the habit of being a bit of a recluse, which has of course affected her confidence terribly.

Now the great thing is that she has volunteered to be a guinea pig for my new book ‘Six Weeks To A Sparkling You’, so I know that there is tonnes in there to help her out generally speaking.  But I wanted to give her some extra exercises, that I have done myself, which really help.

I too have felt nervous when walking into classes or toddler groups.  But there were two situations that I found more difficult than usual.  One was going to a church toddler group in order to meet up with a busy friend of mine, so I also had to face her extremely long term friends who belonged to the church.  I felt extremely awkward, because I knew I didn’t know all the politics and set up.  I remember making one awful faux pas at a party with them, and being very nervous afterwards!  The other was when Curly Headed Boy started at his second nursery, where the ‘Yummy Mummies’ were a massive step up from the ‘Yummy Mummies’ I’d met previously; I was terrified!  The good news is that getting myself more confident in that nursery situation got me prepared for the school gate, which would have been way worse otherwise.

Rules About Life

So first a couple of rules about how life works ….

1) You can never please all of the people all of the time: in fact you are going to appeal to about 50% of the people, so never worry about or attempt to be liked by everyone in life, as you are going to FAIL!

2) There are always people who are obviously, or quietly supporting you, whilst other people are being unpleasant or unfriendly.

3) If you don’t know why they would like you, then don’t expect them to know.  They will either think that you are nervous, shy, or at worst unfriendly, awkward and stand offish.  Hardly any will take the time to stand for a moment in your shoes and wonder how you are feeling.

4) Everybody is cliquee: It’s about numbers, that’s all.  I’ve found the Mums who are better dressed and richer can be unfriendly, but so can the more ‘normal’ ones.  Even you have been cliquee and scary to some people at some point in time!

5) No one is perfect, we just try to hide it, but if you look hard enough you will see the chinks in everyone’s armour.

So what to do about it?

1) If you are clearly ignored, disliked or blanked by some of the Mum’s notch them up to that 50%!  Now look around for the others.  They do not all like each other.  Stand back for a while, and watch.  Look for the body language and the cracks in the friendships.  Look for the people who are also nervous or shy.

2) Actually decide you are going to go, but be really quiet and watch for a while.  You must actively watch the other Mums, get there early and leave late.  Stop looking at your shoes; This way you will start to get to know what’s going on.  I’m amazed at the Mums at school who don’t do this, and turn up at the last minute, and I’m pretty sure it’s because they are shy, but they miss out on becoming friendly with the other shy Mums.

3) There are some exercises that you can do.  Get a cuppa and a notebook (you will want to be able to remind yourself of the answers sometimes when you lose your confidence again).

Changing Your Perception And Outlook

Step 1: Face Your Fears

You are worried, but what of?  Sit down and think about what the worst thing that could happen is?  For instance, they don’t talk to you, you spend the whole time alone, and no one wants to play with your son.  Apart from being a quiet and lonely hour, it could be quite chilled to not have to make polite conversation?  Look at it and see if it’s really as bad as you think?  Don’t exaggerate though, the likelihood that no Mum will ever talk to you and no child will ever play with your son is 0% (see previous points!).

Step 2: Work Out Why You Are Fab

  • Why are you interesting?  What have you done in your past that is unusual?  Where did you go?  Who did you meet?  What was/is your job?
  • What are you good at doing, that might help them out?  What are your skills?
  • What are you really interested in, so have spent time learning about?  You might have tips on meals, crafts, sewing, classes, what is it?
  • Now don’t argue with me, because I know that you are interesting and fabulous as everyone is; you can’t possibly be the only person in the whole wide world who breaks that rule!
  • If you struggle, then ask a partner or friend to help you get going

Step 3: Stop Being So Intimidated By The Other Mums

So you think that those other Mums are so amazing do you, in fact so amazing that they wouldn’t want to look at you?  Well I want you to look at the other side of the coin.  If you can see where they are great, you can also see where they are not so great or where their lives are not quite as perfect as it appears on the surface.  I don’t want you to do it until you don’t like them, just until they are not as scary as you think and you can see that they are just human beings.

Look for the obvious things: the week when they look more tired than usual, getting stressed with their kids, scuffed shoes, puke/snot on their clothes, being late, being too skinny, being over-weight.  Are they really stand offish, or maybe shy?  Are they divorced, is the husband away a lot, are they working.  If you can’t find it, it just means that it’s more deeply hidden, but it’s there: everyone has problems and everyone has weaknesses.

It’s not about being friends with everyone in the world.  It’s about not being intimidated or scared, and making great friends with the people who will really suit you and your son.

I’d love your comments or questions on this; feel free to post them below or on my facebook fan page.  If you would like to post your own question corner check here for more info.

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.

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!