Praise where it’s due

One of the best bits of parenting advice that I’ve ever read was to remember to acknowledge your children’s achievements. This might sound fairly obvious but I’m not talking about swimming 25m, reaching free reader status or winning a dance competition. No, I’m thinking on a much more everyday level. Children are constantly striving to master some new skill, whether that be a toddler potty training, an older child remembering to take their dishes to the kitchen after dinner or any other manner of life skill, necessary in life as they grow older but not usually deemed particularly praise worthy. It can be so easy to focus on the present and on what you perceive your child to be not quite succeeding at that sometimes we forget how far they’ve come and what they’ve achieved.

For example, Sophia, like all children, recently went through a phase of striding into a room, interrupting whatever conversation was taking place and demanding immediate attention. We would chastise and remind her not to interrupt, to wait for a break in a conversation or at the very least to say ‘excuse me’. And whilst she still sometimes interrupts Dan and I, I realised the other day just how often she actually waits for us to stop talking or politely makes it known that she wants to ask us something. But at no point have we acknowledged this change and whilst I’m not one for lavishing praise unnecessarily on children, I do think it’s important to make a point of telling them that you’ve noticed the skill they’ve gained.

The process of reflection, acknowledgement and praise (where due) is not a bad one to practice. In a world which can have a rather overwhelming negative bias at times, I think it’s important to try and focus on the positive where possible. This doesn’t just have to apply to children either. Obviously you probably aren’t going to congratulate your partner for putting their dirty laundry in the wash basket (or maybe you will?!) but you could definitely take the time to comment on some small positive thing in their life, whatever it may be. So next time we see our friends and family, rather than moan about the latest titbit of bad news (and let’s face it, there’s been a lot this year!) perhaps we should ask about what’s happening in their lives and celebrate all the good things that are happening. Because positive things are all around us and I believe that if we look a bit closer, we’ll see that the good outweighs the bad.

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Making plans for…Christmas?!

Call me a grinch but I firmly believe that Christmas and all it’s associated trappings belongs firmly in December. I’m not adverse to a bit of present buying in preparation throughout the year but that is where I draw the line. I cannot stand the appearance of mince pies in our shops in September, carols in October and trees decorated as soon as Guy Fawkes is over. So no one is more surprised than me that this year, in the middle of November, I am writing a column about Christmas.

Really, I blame the Royal Mail. If your child is planning to send a letter to Father Christmas and wants a reply, then it must be be sent in time to arrive with him by the 9th December. Realistically, that means it needs to be written and in the post by the 7th December. Although I could wait until we’re into December before getting the kids started, I know if I do that a week will pass, distractions will arise and we’ll be too late. So, in the week commencing 21st November, I have found myself telling the kids that we’ll be writing our letters to the big man in red. Of course there is the added benefit of knowing what they’re hoping to receive but still, it’s a bit early…isn’t it?

The problem is that now we’re thinking about this, the floodgates have opened and I’m starting to consider what I’ll be cooking (I’m hosting Christmas dinner this year for my parents and sisters), whether I need to order the meat, where I’ll fit everyone, whether we should have a real tree or drag out the fake again, when we should put up the decs…. the list is endless. I think it doesn’t help that I’m absolutely exhausted of late. The boys have been tag teaming in the wee hours and if I’m lucky, I’ll know what’s on the cards for the next 48 hours but beyond that, I’ve got no chance! The idea of tackling all of this at the moment is a little, overwhelming, to say the least.

But despite my grinch-like protestations, I do absolutely adore Christmas when I’m in the midst of it so I’ve got a plan. We’ve started night weaning Eli (a little late but better now than never!) so I’m feeling confident that in a week or two I might be feeling a little more rested. Plus, the children’s enthusiasm is contagious and at the end of the day, I know that once we are in December and I have my first mince pie and put on the Christmas tunes I’ll be positively oozing festive cheer, ready to embrace the busiest season of the year. So my advice is to continue to ignore the impending arrival of Christmas for another 10-14 days and then you can let loose with the tinsel and mulled wine, safe in the knowledge that you haven’t started too early and won’t suffer holiday burnout!

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An Entrepreneurial Spirit

For nearly three years now, Sophia has been obsessed with the idea of selling things and making money. It started with her sweetie shop, for which we tested several recipes of things she could make to sell and moved onto wanting to sell paper masks, various assorted crafted items made out of pipe cleaners and pom poms before finally, this week entering the world of selling handmade jewellery. Which is why, on Monday, she was found sat at our gate in the freezing cold with some brightly coloured bracelets and necklaces on a little table for sale as part of her ‘Fabulous Jewellery*’ shop (*10% of all proceeds go to charity). Impressively (largely thanks to kindly neighbours), she actually made £2.50 for herself, £1.20 for charity and 50p went to Isaac for fetching her a blanket, drink and other assorted things that she deemed necessary.

I have to admire her tenacity. She has no fear of rejection and complete confidence that people will want to buy the items that she has made. I on the other hand, am slightly more nervous about the whole business. But I’ve decided the best thing I can do is to support her in her endeavours and just offer realistic advice about it. If she had her way she’d be out there on a daily basis but we’ve suggested maybe once every few weeks instead. I’ve never felt particularly ambitious when it comes to making money. I do a little part time work to supplement our income and have a tendency to undercharge.

But Sophia is a whole different kettle of fish, she’s driven, motivated and obsessed with the idea of having a business. I think the reasons are twofold. Firstly is the obvious advantage of having money to spend on trinkets and magazines and other things that I tend to say no to. But I also think she likes the feeling of independence and maturity it gives her. Recently she’s started referring to the boys as ‘the kids’ and is acting in a very grown up manner. She is reflective about her mistakes, helpful and considered in her actions. My little girl is growing up! So I will help her to foster her entrepreneurial spirit and let her run with it for as long as she wants to. Who knows what the future holds for her? If she’s this ambitious at 6, I look forward to seeing what she gets up to at 16. I forsee success in her future, the next (female) Alan Sugar perhaps?!

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An alternative reality…

As I woke up this morning, I suffered a horrible case of dejavu as I asked Dan to pass my phone so I could see the outcome of the US election. An ominous feeling, almost a physical manifestation of dread, sat in the pit of my stomach, like a twisted gleeful troll. The unthinkable (to most of us) had happened, the absolute joke that is Donald Trump has been elected to be the next President of the United States of America. For the third time in two years, politics has taken a surprising and wholly unwanted turn. 

Of course, it’s not actually unwanted by everyone or even the majority. A flawed democratic system it might be but it is still a democracy, the votes were cast that led to this result. If anything though, I find this even more depressing. That a significant proportion of the American electorate chose to back a sexist, racist, homophobic, inexperienced thug of a man over a woman who, whilst admittedly has many flaws of her own, is at least experienced with some semblance of moderation and equality. Misogyny is alive and well it seems.
Comparisons to the rise of Nazi Germany are rife, social media is (as it was post Brexit and after our general election last year) saturated with bewilderment, satirical memes, general despair and fear at what might happen next. I won’t add to the fray with my similar thoughts. I’m taking it as a given that many of us are outraged by these results and feeling even more stirred to action than we already were. But, will we follow through? Will our rage and desire for change grow and incite us to action? Or will it simply dissipate, returning us back to our lives as they were before in a matter of weeks? 

I will ashamedly put my hand up to the latter. Since last May I have done nothing more than sign petitions, go to the odd demo and complain loudly about the state of affairs. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what else I can do. I alternate between burying my head in the sand and focusing on trivial, personal matters and being your typical disillusioned middle class hippy who simply complains a lot. My ability to actually do anything more than that is somewhat hampered by the three small beings I seem to have almost permanently in tow but I’m sure there is something I could do. I just don’t know what.

So for now I’m sticking to my theory that you’ve got to start small and that doing something (anything!) is better than nothing. I am committing to building up the culture of love and inclusivity that already exists in our society at a grass roots level. We need to carry out acts of kindness and wherever possible, promote equality and acceptance. We need to teach the next generation to be better, to make better choices. We need to talk to our children about politics, about being brave and standing up to hatred. We can turn this result into something positive and I think it’s imperative that we do.