Parenting seems so much more complicated now than it ever was for our own mums and dads. We're grappling with everything from screen time overload and the pressures of a test - and league table - led education system, to endless commercial messages telling us that if we don't buy this or take the kids to that, they won't have a perfect childhood.
We're struggling to balance letting them have freedom with our perception of a scary modern world and all sorts of theories about child development have left us confused about the best way to manage behaviour. Should you ignore the bad and reward the good? Use the naughty step or reward chart or both? Take away their screen time or their favourite cuddly toy? I'm truly against smacking but the alternatives take a bit more thinking about.
Family life has become infinitely more child-centric too. Whereas our parents tended to do what they wanted or needed and we kids tagged along or stayed at home making our own fun, nowadays we're wrapped up in a whirl of transporting them from one activity to another and one expensive and tiring day out to the next. We're wrapped up in this modus operandi of being their cooks, taxi-drivers (for all the activities), cleaners (because, for assorted reasons, they seem to do fewer chores), play mates and social secretaries.
Amidst all of this, it's easy to lose sight of what's really best for our sons and daughters. We're scurrying round trying to make their childhood's gloriously happy but not always thinking about what's best for their long term good too.
What NOFP is about is taking a look back at the way most of our own parents brought us up and seeing what we can learn from that but with a healthy nod to what we know now about child development and psychology, and also to the way the modern world works. After all, who'd want to turn back the clock to the 70s or 80s and all those ra-ra skirts and bubble perms?
So, NOFP is all about taking a giant step back and reassessing what's really best for our children in the long term, as well as what makes them happy in the here and now. It's also about taking a look at both the typical child rearing ways of our parents' generation (typical, because of course we all do things differently and quite right too given children are individuals) and what we tend to do now and then picking the best of both world's, to achieve a balance of firmness but fun and love.
10 New Old-fashioned Parent ways:
1. NOFP is about having the conviction to stand by those decisions which are tough but in their best interests and which occasionally make them say "I wish Freddie's mum was my mum - she's SO much better than you" or just "I hate you". Parenting isn't a popularity contest. At the same time we explain our reasons to help them (maybe) understand our thinking, rather than just barking "because I say so" the way some of our own mums and dads tended to.
2. Less using "they're just kids being kids" as an excuse and more "there's a time and a place". Of course childhood should involve singing at the top of your voice or spinning round in circles until you fall over sometimes but let's not do it in the middle of a busy supermarket or cafe. Most children, other than those with relevant medical issues or special needs, should manage to sit for the duration of a short meal once they're past that newly-mobile 'oh my, I can actually walk so I will do so ALL the time!' toddler stage. It's harder work than letting them run about but the investment of time and effort pays dividends later on.
3. Avoid guilt-led parenting whenever possible. Showering them with toys or constantly letting them get their way might soften how bad you feel about something you think you aren't doing well or about not getting enough time together, but this can do more harm than good. Instead why not drop the guilt about things you probably can't change - we're all just doing our best in the circumstances after all.
4. Children deserve to have their opinions heard but that doesn't mean you should give them equal say on everything. Sure, listen to them when there are decisions that affect them, take their views into account but remember you are the parent with a few decades more experience.
5. Don't forget your own needs as a couple and as individuals in this whirl of modern child-led family life. We're so busy running round after our kids, taking them to parties, classes and sports matches that doing the odd thing for ourselves can easily get lost. Happy, more relaxed parents make better parents.
6. Shun smacking (yes I am arguing with the Pope on this one) - it does nothing to teach children what they should have done instead and it gives the message that if you're annoyed or angry you express that physically.
7. Lead by example more generally too: children are pre-programmed to copy the adults around them. If you swear, shout all the time, or constantly check your phone for messages, you can guess what they will do...
8. Don't just ignore bad behaviour, unless it's attention-seeking. Heard that phrase "ignore the bad and reward the good"? In lots of instances rewarding what they did right does more to motivate kids than the threat of punishment BUT by letting serious misdemeanours go, we're giving them the message they can get away with it.
9. Be parents more and servants less. There's a tendency for us to let our children do fewer chores than most of us did, partly because they are so busy running between activities and doing homework, partly because it's quicker and easier to just do it yourself than invest time upfront teaching them. But they need these skills for later in life. Start them young and they might even be a welcome helping hand around the house after their initial 'training' (although granted they'll probably still moan about anything).
10. Don't obsess too much about creating the perfect childhood – of course we all want to make our kids as happy as possible but real life isn't like that all the time and being able to deal with boredom and tough situations is important. Nobody's suggesting that we should actively make our kids miserable for no reason but every day needn't be brimmed full of excitement.
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