Friday, 28 March 2014

This week: a book, a film, a recipe

Here is what I have watched, been reading and a new recipe I tried this week:

My husband and I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives, a film which "examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.". It was certainly interesting and as lovers of dairy, it got us thinking about our somewhat heavy consumption of dairy and we have probably eaten a little less since watching the movie!

I made chapatis for the first ever time this week. I felt like having some with a potato and pea curry I had made one evening and when I saw how easy they were to make, wondered why I had never tried them before! The two-ingredient recipe I followed was from the BBC Food site. They are quick and easy, no dough to rise or advance preparation needed. Give them a try!

After reading the parenting book I recently blogged about, I decided to move on to something completely different. I started reading Handsome Brute: The True Story of a Ladykiller. A book about a murderer might not sound very appealing but I can assure you it is a rather riveting read of a once famous British murder case that unfolded during the post-war period.

Do you have a book, film or recipe recommendation to share from your week?

Friday, 21 March 2014

Squabbling siblings

If you have two or more children, chances are they spend their time together either getting along famously or at each other's throats! It's wonderful when they get along, either playing together or contentedly playing alongside one another. When they snatch, fight, scream at each other and one or both ends in tears, it can be stressful for the whole family.

My two children are aged two and five. It's a tricky stage. The five year old is pretty good at sharing and taking turns. He is for the most part patient and giving. The two year old is at the age where sharing is not yet really understood so if she wants something, she will take it and not give it back without a struggle. You can therefore imagine the kinds of scenes that unfold in our household!

Then there is the physical aspect to their squabbling. My daughter regularly tackles her big brother down to the floor in a fun, playful way so when she is not being playful, she is not afraid to push or worse! Until quite recently, our son would never push her back or inflict any physical actions towards her. He would probably just come and tell my husband and I what his sister had done to him. However, of late that has changed and he now will push her back or be a little too rough with her for my liking. Who can blame him on the one hand? On the other hand, he is a big five year old, she is still a little two year old.

I think back to my own childhood and remember quite regular physical fights with one of my brothers, even though there was a big age gap and I was the youngest! He was the same brother I was closest to growing up though, so I also remember many fond times together. Our physical fights were soon diffused and forgotten and never had any lasting impact.

So then I think, I should not worry too much about my own children getting into little fights. It's all part of growing up, asserting oneself in one's own individual way, learning how to manage one's behaviour in frustrating situations and essentially, learning how to deal with conflict. As much as I can, I try to stay out of my children's squabbles and if my son comes to complain about something that his sister has done, I try to encourage him to come up with a way to deal with it, rather than getting involved too much myself.

Currently, that does not work very well and the situation rarely gets resolved without tears or shouting but I am hoping that with some perseverance, over time, both children will find their own ways of handling their differences and disagreements.

What is your experience of squabbling siblings? Do you intervene much and try to manage their behaviour and reactions or do you step back and let them get on with it? Do your children go through phases of getting on better or worse with one another? I would be very interested to hear your experiences in the comments!
photo credit

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Calmer communication & cooperation

In my post at the beginning of this year, New year, new parenting goal, I mentioned I was starting to read the book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. I have now finished reading it (pretty good going for my slow reading pace these days!) and wanted to share a few bits of the advice I found particularly helpful.

I will start by saying, it is a very useful book for any parent to read. It has simple little exercises throughout so that you are forced to look at your own situation and parenting methods and reflect on how you might change them (if they need changing). The exercises are helpful because you get a real idea of how the advice can relate to you specifically. There are also lots of examples of different situations other parents have struggled with, case studies if you like, that illustrate how the suggested methods can bring about positive results in 'real life'.

At the same time, it is a lot to take in and is the kind of book you can refer back to, rather than aiming to remember and practise every single point it presents. It does give real perspective to the challenges that come with parenting and reminds us that the easy option does not always lead to the best outcome. Parenting, and parenting well, is hard work after all. Like anything else we want to invest ourselves in, it takes time and effort.

It is hard to select just a few points raised in the book but if these I have listed below sound of interest, I recommend you pick up a copy of the book!

Good listening. We might think we listen to our children but many of us are probably also guilty of firing questions (How was your day? Who did you play with? What did you do?...). If we focus more on listening with our full attention, the child is more likely to open up in their own way.

Problem-solving with your child. This is one thing I tested out with my 5-year old and to good effect. I had been getting annoyed with toothpaste smeared on or next to the bathroom sink each day after he brushed his teeth in the mornings. Following the advice in the book, I sat down one day with my son and talked through his possible difficulties, my feelings about seeing the mess and with paper in hand, asked for his suggestions on how we could remedy the situation. He came up with two ideas, which I wrote down. He then wanted to draw a picture of the toothpaste on the paper and we stuck it up above the sink for a few days. Immediately, the mess stopped! After a few days, I praised him for his continued good efforts and suggested we didn't need the note on view any more. He chose to stick it inside a cupboard door where he could still see it if he wanted to (rather than discarding it) but the clean sink remained!

Describe what you see when giving praise. The book suggests that meaningful praise gives the child an awareness of their own merits. So rather than relying on broad compliments like, 'It's great/fantastic/amazing....', describing what you see then helps the child recognise their strengths. For example, to a child who has got dressed by themselves for the first time, you could say something like, 'You put every bit of clothing on in exactly the right place and didn't even need to ask for help - I'm so impressed!', instead of saying, 'You did a great job!'.

The hardest section of the book for me, in terms of relating it to my own self and my own children was the chapter on 'Freeing children from playing roles'. It talks about how parents can be prone to labelling their children, 'She's bossy / he's stubborn / she's a trouble-maker / he's a picky eater etc....' and that by doing so, reinforces that behaviour/trait in the child. It gives various ways to free your child from those 'roles', which all seem very doable and make sense. My struggle was in identifying any labels that may have been applied to my own children - is that because I have done a good job of not labelling them? (obviously what I'd like to think!!) or is it (more likely) because I am oblivious to the labelling I have inadvertently applied? For now, that remains something for me to think about further....

Do you have any thoughts on what I have mentioned above?  Have you discovered your own techniques for calmer communication and cooperation with your children? Have you read the book yourself and if so, what did you think?

Thursday, 6 March 2014

This week: signs of Spring!

We have had a few consecutive spring-like days now and it's hard not to feel a bit excited at the sight and warmth of the sun! Spring flowers are everywhere, we have some daffodils in a vase on our kitchen table - a lovely burst of bright yellow and it has been warm enough to leave the winter coats behind. People are visibly more smiley and cheerful, the walks to and from school are more enjoyable and playing out in the garden or in local parks is much more appealing again.

I had a spontaneous lunch sat outside at a cafe with another mum and her child earlier this week. There have been walks and running around with my children in the fresh air and I have been out in our garden doing a bit of (overdue) tidying and pruning. Every time I go out there, I spot some new flowers coming out and the unsightly dead-looking state of the garden is beginning to slowly switch into something prettier again.

The thick wool jumpers have been staying in the drawers and whilst I am not planning on any hasty action with regards to packing away the heavier winter clothes, it has been nice to wear some lighter layers. Sunglasses have been worn most days and the days are visibly longer and lighter by now.

All these things make me feel uplifted and generally in brighter spirits overall. The everyday routine even becomes something I take more pleasure in and I love the ease of being able to spend more time outside.

Has spring sprung where you are too? What signs of spring do you most look forward to seeing and do you find your own mood or outlook changes with the season?