I previously wrote about rules for our children. This one is about rules for parents. These are a sample of things I have learned as a parent that I wish someone had told me before. Not only was I not told these things before, but I was told the exact opposite. If you are already a parent, then it’s too late for you too I’m afraid. New parents – learn from my mistakes.
Rule 1 – Don’t get your children into a routine from an early age
That’s right, I said don’t. We are told that babies and young children thrive on routine, yes that’s all well and good, but life is not routine, not all the time anyway. If you have your little one in a set routine, then on those days where life dictates something different, you will have big trouble on your hands. So I say vary the times you get them up, wash them, feed them, play with them, nap them, go out with them. The more variety the better. That way you are building adaptability and flexibility into your child which will help you in the short term, and them in the long term.
Rule 2 – Don’t feed them at set times and certainly don’t tell them what the names of the meals are
This is really a sub-rule to Rule 1, but I felt it deserved its own category as it has been, and continues to be, a biggie for me. Most days you and your children will probably have breakfast, lunch and dinner (or breakfast, dinner and tea, or whatever you call it where you come from). That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with that, but as with Rule 1, when situations don’t allow for that, you will be faced with tantrums and protests if you have not got them used to alternative ways. At least once or twice a week, do the meals differently, instead of three meals, have a big late breakfast and then a big early dinner, and no lunch. Or just go for all day snacking. The key thing is not to tell them the names of the meals. For as long as you can get away with it, don’t give your children ‘breakfast, lunch, and dinner’, give them ‘food, meals, and something to eat’. I wish I had done this – my eldest is now 12, and if for instance we suddenly find ourselves having our main meal in the middle of the afternoon, she will refuse to eat it until it has been categorised and explained “What is this? Is it lunch or is it dinner? If it’s dinner then we haven’t had any lunch, and if it’s lunch then are we still going to have dinner later?”. “It’s just food” I tell her. But deep down I know it’s too late for that now.
Rule 3 – Don’t treat your children equally at all times
This is one where many parents, especially me, have made rods for their backs. From the moment my second child was born and for the years following, I had it in my head that they both had to be treated equally at all times. Never was one to be bought something without the other being bought something too. Never was one to have some special undivided attention from me without the other getting the same (stopwatch at the ready). Never was one to be asked to do a chore without the other one being asked to do something. Trust me, if you have this mindset, you will regret it. I have only realised this error over the last year or two, and have tried to break it, but it’s very difficult. On an almost daily basis, I am still faced with protests “You owe me a chocolate bar because you bought him one yesterday!”, “Why did you spend half an hour playing a game with her but only 20 minutes with me!”. It could so easily have been prevented. All you have to do is regularly show favouritism towards one child over another (just make sure it’s a different child each time). As with Rule 1 and Rule 2, it’s all about managing their expectations – if they don’t know what to expect, then they won’t complain if they don’t get it.
These may sound like selfish rules which just focus on making the parents’ life easier, but as everyone knows, a happy, stress-free parent makes for a happy, stress-free child (I’m led to believe).
I’d better put a disclaimer here – I am not medically trained (apart from my first aid certificate), so do not take any advice I have given here over advice given by a medical practitioner, particularly in relation to Rule 2, which in any case should not be applied to young babies who probably do need to be fed at set times.