The Five Biggest Time-Wasters in Parenting - And How to Zap Them Today

The number of families who now need two wage-earners to keep up with the cost of living in the UK has hit a record high. We also have some of the longest working hours in Europe. But the truth is that when are overwhelmed and overworked, it can wear away at our parenting skills, despite our very best intentions.

It's not your imagination. Being a parent really is tougher these days.

More of us work than ever: the number of families who now need two wage-earners to keep up with the cost of living in the UK has hit a record high. We also have some of the longest working hours in Europe.

But the truth is that when are overwhelmed and overworked, it can wear away at our parenting skills, despite our very best intentions.

Ironically, the tactics we use as quick-fixes in sticky situations can end up wasting still more of those precious hours we are desperately trying to hold onto.

As author of the new book, 'Mum Hacks - Time-saving tips to calm the chaos of family life,' my goal is to give you back more happy, stress-free time with your kids.

So here's how to swap knee-jerk bad habits for better ones so you spend more time enjoying - and less time nagging, cajoling and disciplining - your children.

The FIVE Biggest Parenting Time-Wasters

1. Shouting to get kids to do things

Time-wasting: Yelling at the top of your voice may work the first time - by shocking your kids into submission. It's a default that many of us resort to especially when we are tireda and harassed - and we kid ourselves that a 'shock and awe' moment will jolt them into doing the thing we want them to do or 'really teach them a lesson.' The truth is the novelty quickly wears off and you'll simply teach them to switch off and close down - or scream back. Plus you'll waste your own time because it can easily trigger kid melt-downs that last for ages -and you'll feel like a terrible parent afterwards.

Time-saving: If it keeps happening, work out what is fuelling your outbursts. Learn to spot the signs that you are about to lose it and that the reptilian, reactive part of your brain is about to take over. Unless it's a total emergency and your five-year-old is attacking the baby with the scissors, leave the room for a minute or so and take some deep breaths . There is nothing, read nothing, to be gained from exploding. Remember you always have a choice - and you always need to stay the adult. See yelling as a useful barometer. If you notice yourself shouting more, it's usually a sign you need to take some steps to look after yourself.

2. Not knowing yourself what the rules are

Time-wasting: Can kids stay up late at weekends? Or is it only Saturdays? Should homework be done as soon as they get home from school? Or can they relax with some screen time first? If you haven't thought through some basic rules, you are only creating more time-consuming conflicts for yourself. That's because kids will think they have got room for manoeuvre and try to nag for for what they want - and that can go on for hours. . If you're feeling a bit tired and fuzzy, you may also forget exactly what you said before, leaving your kids to put push the boundaries even further to see where they lie.

Time-saving: Head off conflict by agreeing the house rules with your partner and how you can both stick to them. At a family meal, invite older children to have some input too it all feels more democratic - and tell them grown-ups will be abiding by them too. Make them fair and realistic for the ages of your children. Then write the list and stick them where the whole family can see them.

Writing the rules down in black and white also means you and your partner will be on the same page, and so will the caregivers coming into your home, like grandparents and babysitters. You will also probably want to refer to the list when your own resolve is feeling a bit shaky. When you're tired or you've had a long day, there they will be - like the non-negotiable Ten Commandments. This works almost instantly because the rules become the bottom line which your children realise they can't argue with.

3. Negotiating too much

Time-wasting: Although many parents believe they are being sensitive by letting children have an choice on everything from what to eat to what to wear, nothing could be further from the truth. It's a habit especially hard to break for working parents who feel guilty for not being around - and think they are respecting their children's individuality. But deep-down kids actually want to be told what to do - and are frightened when they feel in control. No child wants a total lack of structure.

Time-saving: Give them a restricted selection of choice. For example: "You can stay inside and watch Peppa Pig or go outside and play football. Which of these two things do you want to do?'' Don't give the child carte blanche - but let them choose between two equally good options. Little do they know that you are happy whichever one they select.

4. Giving in

Time-wasting: Time pressures can mean that in the limited amount of time you have your kids, you want to make it all perfect. Furthermore parents can also fall into the trap of thinking saying 'yes' to their children all the time makes their kids happy. The problem has got worse, say experts, when parents who were brought up in a very disciplinarian way during their own childhood, decided to behave the opposite way with their own kids. But give in and kids will keep pressing your buttons on the off chance they'll hit the jackpot.

Time-saving: Set limits and stick to them. It makes children feel safer. Otherwise they will feel unsafe and will push you to see what you are going to do about it. Remember that as a parent, if you don't say no, you are not doing your job properly.

5. Feeding kids snack foods

Time-wasting: When we hear the words "I'm hungry" many of us feel duty bound to swing instantly into action. For the sake of a quiet life, you may have also fallen into the trap of feeding them convience snack foods like crisps or biscuits. But although they may be happy for that moment, it's not long before the sugar content sends their insulin levels on a roller coaster - creating hyperactivity - followed by more hunger pangs. Before you know it, they are hyper and bouncing back to you, wanting more.

Time-saving: Give kids slow-release protein snacks like apple slices topped with peanut butter or cheese roll-ups. They can be just as fun. Their blood sugar levels will even out, they will calm down and they'll be fuller for longer.