My piece for The Daily Telegraph – 5 ways to be a better parent
My contribution to a ‘five experts share their parenting sanity-saving tips’ in The Daily Telegraph, Saturday 7th February 2015. Jessica Chivers is a coaching psychologist, the author of ‘Mothers Work!’ and founder of The Talent Keeper Specialists, which provides coaching for parents returning to the workplace.
Adopt a “good enough” mindset.
Few of us have time to do everything perfectly. Equally, doing everything to a standard you’re not happy with is unfulfilling. Choose one or two things you want to do to the best of your ability and agree to do everything else to a “good enough” standard – perhaps making three home-cooked meals a week instead of seven, or giving some presentations that aren’t perfect. If you find this idea difficult, imagine the knock-on effects of doing everything to 100 per cent. Is that sustainable?
Think “firm, fair and fun.”
This is a good checklist to use to ensure you and your partner’s parenting is aligned or to stop you ruminating over decisions you’ve made. Firmness is about giving children boundaries; fairness is about consistency, particularly in how you treat siblings; fun is about ensuring there is enough joy in the house, which could mean dancing with pants on your head or just having a lightness of tone. If you regularly strike this balance, you can feel confident you’re doing a good job.
Let children see you put yourself and/or your partner first.
Start by telling young children who interrupt that you are talking, then ignore them for 30 seconds. With older children, implement timed periods when they aren’t allowed to bother you. Having a mental break will help you get through the day more easily, but also helps your child. Boredom shows children their own company is worthwhile and teaches them to seek out resources and opportunities.
Be prepared to be persuaded by your child’s point of view.
This isn’t about giving in to nagging, but if your child can give a reasoned argument about why something should be so, like a bedtime changing, give it a go, at least for a trial period. This shows your child you’re a reasonable human being, teaches them negotiation and pitching skills, and demonstrates that rational argument is more likely to get them what they want than screaming and shouting.
Limit screen-time and send your children on outdoor adventures.
Outdoor time is restorative and gives children a special sort of freedom: when they’re playing a computer game there’s generally a right way to do it and an end goal, but outside, children are free just to be in the environment, playing and testing things out with no pressure. It’s also great for their imaginations – and gives you headspace.