challenge

New Year’s resolutions for children?

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The New Year means new beginnings for many and an opportunity to start again, set some goals and make some changes.  These very often take the form of New Year’s resolutions for adults.  But what about children?  Is it a good idea or even healthy for children to have a set of New Year’s resolutions?

I must admit, personally I change my mind from year to year with regards to resolutions.  In some ways I think they can set you up for inevitable failure, in other ways I think it is good to have something to aim for.  I guess as long as you don’t beat yourself up about it if you don’t reach your goals than they can be helpful guidelines.

Anyway, I came across an interesting American article about New Year’s resolutions for children.  It quotes American pediatric psychologist, Stacy Flowers.  She says, “The New Year is a fresh start and it’s a great time for families to take a look at the past year and see where they can make improvement. For children and teens, making resolutions helps with self-discipline, goal setting and, when they are successful, improves self-esteem.”

I was skeptical at first but as I read on I felt Flowers had some interesting and helpful points.  According to Flowers, parents can play an important role in helping their children decide on goals and successfully meet those goals in the coming year:  “The first step is knowing your children. What areas can they work on? Where can they improve? Where will they see the biggest benefit?”

The key, according to Flowers, is to come up with manageable accomplishments that are personally meaningful to your child. These accomplishments will vary greatly with age.

However it’s all very well setting goals but how on earth do you get children to keep them?  Flowers suggests,

“Young children might benefit from charts and stickers to document their progress and accomplishments. Older children and teens can utilise calendars or electronic documentation of their achievements. Parents can also use age-appropriate rewards to recognise their children’s successes.  No matter how old you are, it feels so good to get something crossed off your list, and the absolutely best way to change behavior is to reward it instead of punish it.”

We, as parents, don’t get let off the hook in the article either.  Flowers says if children are making resolutions, their parents should be as well.  She says, “Those goals should be shared with the children so they are aware of what their parents are hoping to achieve. That actually makes it fun for the children. They get really excited when they can point out something their parent isn’t doing right.”

Flowers concludes that, “Everybody has something they need to work on, so resolutions can become a family tradition.”

After reading the article I felt that if nothing else it would give me a chance to approach and tackle some of the ‘difficult’ behaviour my son has made a habit of over the last year and I can set some goals that I know he’ll relish keeping me accountable to.  It could actually be fun! What do you think?

L

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Mums ‘me-time’ is just 26 minutes!!

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The ‘Changing Face of Motherhood’ is a major research project undertaken by P&G in conjunction with the SIRC (Social Issues Research Centre). The research covered a range of topics including how today’s mums feel they’re valued by society and about raising their children compared to previous generations.

Amongst some other really interesting findings (see here) the research found that the average Mums ‘me-time’ is just 26 minutes!!  They found that the majority of mums have 3-4 hours to themselves a week – the equivalent to 26 minutes a day.  64% of mums put this down to the demands of having to go out to work, while 29% say that the pressure to be a perfect mother means they feel they have less ‘me-time’.

Here at More than a Mum you’ll know by now our dual aim is to support, encourage and inspire you to be a brilliant mum AND to rediscover your identity as a woman at the same time.  In order to even have a hope of fulfilling the latter goal, me-time is essential, imperative, vital etc.

Mums are so organised in so many respects because we have to be.  Even if you think you’re not good at it – just take a look at your week so far… You’ve somehow managed to dress, cook for, ferry around, smile at , engage with, stimulate, love, discipline your little people all while possibly being  an employee, spouse, friend, relative, lover, gardener, dog-walker at the same time!

So why don’t we schedule in time for ourselves???? Because we don’t think it’s important enough.  Because we don’t think we can afford to.  Because we don’t think it’s a priority.  All in all, because we don’t think we’re worth it!!! Not good ladies, not good!

More than a Mum has said time and again that if we want our children to be happy and fulfilled then we need to model that for them ourselves.

We put out the challenge a few weeks back and we haven’t been checking up on you (LOL!) so here it is again – what can you plan for yourself this weekend or for this next week to remind yourself that you are ‘More than a Mum’?

Answers on a postcard – well on here and on Twitter anyway 😉

L

Nature V Nurture & National Adoption Week

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This week is National Adoption week.  To mark it, on the radio station where I work I interviewed 3 ladies for the women’s programme.  They were; a retired clinical geneticist, a former family lawyer who now works for a well-known family charity – Care for the family – and a post-adoption team social worker.  All are also mothers.  We were tackling the age-old debate of Nature Verses Nurture in the light of adoption.  When we have children, or adopt, we hope and believe environmental forces i.e. parenting, above all else excels a greater force on our children than nature.  That their personality will be shaped by love and discipline.  But is it really?

I love a good debate and this is one I’ve revisited time and again particularly since I became a parent and especially since I became a ‘single’ parent.  The radio discussion was fascinating:  The geneticist, understandably, argued that there is a limit to what good parenting can do as genes do affect behaviour characteristics.  However, she added we are never programmed fully by our genes.  Ironically, the social worker had done a thesis on nature V nurture years ago and concluded that nurture was the prevailing factor.  However, after years of social work she admitted her view has changed somewhat and now believes a lot is down to nature.  The ex-family lawyer and charity worker felt, like the other two ladies, that in the early years there is a key opportunity – in particular the first year and continuing until age 5 – when good parenting and a lot of love can have a profound effect.

My problem with this debate is there are very strong arguments on both sides.  There is no doubt certain traits and characteristics are passed down through our genealogy and we only need do a case study of our own familes to see it.  But, I also believe our environment and circumstances (in this case love and good parenting) can go a long way in shaping the people our children will become.  Our genes do affect who we are but the bit I’m interested in is, are we a slave to them or can bad genes be overcome with good parenting for example?  How much of children’s behaviour is due to parenting and how much is due to their innate character?

Lionel Shriver addresses this beautifully, if not darkly, in the brilliant ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ book.   (By the way don’t read it if you’re pregnant with your first child).  The book doesn’t really provide clear answers but wonderfully explores whether a child can be ‘evil’.  Furthermore, if this is possible, is it an innate evil that cannot be overcome or a result of experience and circumstance?  It’s just been made into a film starring Tilda Swinton if you can’t be botehred to read the book!

Studies suggest that many temperamental and behavioural tendencies are ultimately 30 to 50 per cent genetic and five major personality traits are identified which show the strongest influence called the Big 5: Extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness and openness to experience.  Others with a significant genetic legacy include altruism, shyness, accident-proneness and even self-esteem.

I guess we could all frantically go through this list and analyse our children trying to see if they have that same ‘look’ in their eye that mad uncle George had and end up paranoid and fearful.  However, it was in fact the geneticist who pointed out in the interview that although good parenting goes a very long way indeed it is helpful to acknowledge that genes play a part because despite our best efforts sometimes our children do go off the rails and parents are the first to feel guilty and ask the question ‘Where did I go wrong?’

As it is National Adoption Week, I have to also mention that I was astounded to learn that despite numerous research concluding that early years are the key time to provide, love, consistency and lay firm foundations for children, there are 3600 children in care under the age of 1 and only 60 babies were adopted last year!  I find this disturbing and quite frankly disgusting.  Apparently on average children have to wait 2 years and 7 months for a new home by which time a considerable amount of damage will already have been done.  It angers me that red tape is getting in the way of these babies having the love and stability they deserve especially when there are adoptive parents put there waiting to provide it.

To end on a more positive note, the family charity worker gave some great tips for making sure your child not only knows they are loved but feels it too.  She said we can tell when our child’s ‘love tank’ is empty when they start acting up (at this point I did think Bearcub must be running on empty a lot of the time lately!) but she then went on to quote a fantastic book, which I’ve read called The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman Chapman explains that it is imperative that we learn our child’s (or partner’s or friend’s) ‘love language’ and communicate to them using it to ensure the message gets across.  The Five Love Languages are – Time, Touch, Words, Gifts and Actions.  It’s about learning how an individual wants/needs to be loved.  I for one found this quite a helpful tip for making sure that BearCub’s Love-tank is regularly and fully topped up!

L

What is a good childhood?

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As well as being a mum and a singer I also work as a radio presenter and producer. My show is for Unsigned artists and I meet some incredibly talented people.  This week an artist who is also a friend of mine (Jules Rendell) sent me a new track she has written which was inspired by the 2009 Children’s society report.  The song is called Never been Loved and it’s in response to the findings, which basically said that children are more anxious and troubled today than ever before.  It largely put this down to parents striving for material success and pursuing their own self-centered ends rather than the needs of their children.

Wikipedia puts it like this: The Inquiry’s report, A Good Childhood: Searching for Values in a Competitive Age [8], was published in 2009 and received considerable media coverage, including from the BBC[9]. It found that ‘excessive individualism’ is causing a range of problems for children today, including family break-up, teenage unkindness, unprincipled advertising, too much competition in education and acceptance of income inequality.

The song is fantastic and speaks of discovering an unconditional love that can spur you on to hope but what really impacted me was the summary of the findings that she sent along with the track (above).

This ‘excessive individualism’ can be seen throughout our society and I agree that it’s spreading like an endemic disease. It is all the more deadly because it is not only seen as acceptable, but the norm. We are programmed from an early age to strive and compete to ‘have it all’.  In deed in this day and age we believe it is our ‘right’ and that we in fact deserve it.  What’s worse is many young people are growing up believing these ‘things’ should come their way without doing a thing to contribute to themselves or the society they live in.  This dissatisfaction with life is what I believe was at the root of the recent UK riots primarily amongst the youth: Young people who feel the world owes them more without having to earn it in any way.  And it is not just the under-privileged youths that have this attitude.  Middle class children who want for nothing, have the latest gadgets and get everything on their Christmas list are also turning into adults who ‘expect’ material gain with little effort.  But as super-nanny would say (bless her) usually it is not the child’s fault for their behavior and attitude.

Along with this, the lie is sold that by gaining these ‘things’ you gain happiness and fulfillment along with it.  Mums and dads who work all hours, most days just for a luxury 2-week holiday twice a year are modeling this same attitude.   I must say I get challenged every Christmas when I find myself wanting to buy BearCub every toy I see that I know he would love.  However I had a stark wake up call recently when he started to ask and expect a new toy every time we went out.  I had been spoiling my child.  At the risk of sounding all ‘when I was a wee lass’, when I was a child we had secondhand toys which we were overjoyed with and I remember my sister and I crying for joy when my mum managed to scrap together enough to get us a second-hand Commodore 64!

We ought to be showing our children what is important in life and the only way we can do that is to find out what really fulfills us and make sure we’re living our dreams too.  This will inspire our children that happiness and fulfillment equal success – whatever the route there may be for each individual.

L

The More than a Mum Challenge

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So most of you will be familiar with what we’re about by now: More than a Mum is all about helping you to be the best mum you can be while rediscovering your identity as a woman at the same time.  Well, we’ve had quite a few posts on issues that affect you as a mum but we are equally committed to encouraging you, supporting you and inspiring you to remember you’re more than a mum; you’re also a woman.

So, today we are kicking off our ‘More than a mum weekly challenge’.  The rules are very simple:  You just have to commit to do one thing this week for yourself that will remind you that you’re a woman in your own right as well as a mum.

It’s so easy for us to lose our identity as a woman because it can tend to be swallowed up in the all-consuming role of mum.  From your comments it’s clear that many mums feel this way and that most mums recognise the importance of ‘me’ time – but just how do we fit it in?  This is where we want to help.

We’ve realised that rediscovering your identity as a woman need only be done in the tiniest steps, actions and even thoughts in order to make a big difference.  We may not all be able to afford the time or money to go away on a weekend spa break but we might be able to challenge ourselves to read a book that is nothing to do with parenting, join an exercise class where no one knows you’re a mum or even just paint your nails.

Each Thursday (I know it’s Friday today) we’ll be posting suggestions and ideas of what you could do this week to remind yourself you are ‘more than a mum’.  All you need to do is take up the challenge and then tweet about it using the hash tags #Thursdaychallenge #morethanamum.  Our hope is that this will not only publically commit you to seeing it through but will also inspire other mums with ideas.

So are you in?

L