We Do Nanny Day

Epiphany. Chaotic mornings and frantic evenings. Family feuds. Change of mind.

What if I went about my morning routines imagining that I was the nanny to these five energetic, gorgeous children? How would the mornings be different? Would I change my tone when I speak to the kids, asking them again to pack their bag? Would I comment on the thick, beautiful hair they have as I smooth it into a ponytail rather than impatiently brush and pull their hair into a quick school updo? Would I ask each child what they would like in their lunch instead of choosing a one size fits all option and telling them that is what is packed, no choice? As the nanny would I offer hugs and kisses, an encouraging pat on the bag and words of encouragement?

I think the morning might be so radically different that the kids may not recognise me. Are you like me and turn into superwoman on a mission, goal oriented and focused on the to do list? Are you so consumed by getting all the tasks done that your forget about the human element and how each child is feeling? Do you even ask what they have on for the day and how you can help them?

Perhaps I have the wrong mindset, I ask the wrong questions or give the wrong instructions, I assume they don’t hear me, won’t follow instructions the first time or are helpless and will only respond to words at full volume!

The bottom line is that they will all get to school, wearing their uniform, fed, watered and ready with books and lunch. I may not have the kitchen bench tidied or the dishwasher packed, I may not have had time to put on lippy and find the shoes I wanted to wear, but it really shouldn’t matter. Happy kids may well start with a happy Mummy who has time for them. And maybe rethinking the way I see the morning will facilitate positive change. So tomorrow, I become the nanny.

Running Wild down the Digital Road

Danah Boyd, a researcher and author of “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens” recently featured in Time Magazine (March 24, 2014). Boyd’s observations that because today’s children are trapped by helicopter parents, overprotected and over managed, they are more than ever desperate to create their own identity in this high tech digital age.

He says that ‘Protecting kids may seem like the right thing to do, but it undermines the learning that teens need to do as they come of age in a technology soaked world.’

Left with the option of unblocking, stop tracking and monitoring every move the teenager makes online, many parents are nervous and some would argue that they are feeling daunted. But Boyd suggests that teens need their freedom and they need us, parents, friends and family to take collective responsibility and sustain a real interest in what they are doing as they run down the digital road to ‘play. Asking the right questions seems so vital.

Boyd says, ‘…ask your kids what they’re doing online – and why it’s so important to them.”
Maybe someone should be asking the grown ups as well.

Money for the Kids

I have failed at the pocket money thing. Ask our kids and some of them may recall various different schemes we have had to distribute pocket money over the years. The bottom line is that we need to be consistent and I forget. We don’t encourage the kids to spend a lot of money and we have a framework of sorts in place for purchasing big ticket items. But is is holidays and the kids will have the opportunity to travel and see new things and no doubt want to purchase a trinket or treasure, a game or a book.

So I have been thinking about pocket money again. Some things I know need to be foundational. We are a busy, large family and there are a lot of chores and household jobs to do each day. Again we are not good at implementing a routine on this, but in essence pocket money should not be linked to doing chores. We all need to regularly contribute to how our household runs. I also know that pocket money needs to be age appropriate and that as parents we need to make suggestions for how it is to be used.

I love the SAVE SPEND SHARE approach that Michael Grose advocates. With  little and big people it would seem that having three jars (not boxes, piggy banks or purses) that are clearly labelled works best.

Giving children pocket money is an opportunity to encourage kids to save – for a range of larger items that they need to contribute to like a bike or a new basket ball, to spend – a sweet treat, a new book or some Smiggle stationary and share – contribute to the the family’s sponsor child, charity or missionary friend you support doing work overseas.

The aim is to encourage children to be independent and to understand that having money is an opportunity to exercise responsibility. Being given pocket money is not an invitation to spend more, want more or have more. In fact it should have the opposite effect. We want to reduce covetousness and create opportunities to communicate with our kids about how money works in this world – for good and bad.

The BIG question is how much do you give your kids? This is one area where being fair seems unfair. The four year old should not get the same amount as the 13 year old.

So what do you do? Mums, Dads, Grandparents, friends …….. share your wisdom.

Kik the habit

In recent weeks we have seen a phenomenon in the schoolyard. An increased use of a free social messaging app for smartphones called Kik. It has become the number one free social app in the USA and one that users are taking on with enthusiasm. Sadly there are many younger uses taking advantage of the free app as well. Parents may think nothing of it. An app that is free and allows their children to communicate with no expense. But there are always two sides to the story.

Kik is free. But it is also private and uncontrolled. So a whole range of ‘conversations’ can be had alongside the normal schoolyard ones. The danger of using Kik comes when combine Kik while using other social media like Instagram. Michael Sheehan, technologist, blogger and passionate parent has some very important things to say in his blog post on High Tech Dad: Parents Beware: Instagram & Kik Messenger Are A Dangerous Combination & What Social Dangers to Check For. Even Instagram seems to take a semi “official” line and advocates instagrammers using Kik as well – because it is ‘private’ but you don’t have to reveal any of your personal information.

Technology and how our kids use it is a parenting issue. It is here to stay. We need to be active users of technology alongside our children to ensure that privacy is being maintained. Whether it is Facebook, Instagram or the like we need to be having continuous conversations about the ever changing terrain of social media. Have you had any encounters with Kik and your kids?

Here are some online safety tips that Sheehan believes parents should think about:
  1. Privacy on Instagram – while Instagram has some privacy settings, there aren’t that many. You can block users and you can make your pictures/account private. They don’t seem to enforce a 13 and over age group when signing up. So, be sure that you set your child’s profile to “private” meaning that only people who are allowed can see photos that are posted.
  2. Only allow followers that you know – this is true with any social media service. I have made a rule with my kids that they can only allow people that they know to follow them on Instagram. It’s a bit more difficult if the profile is public.
  3. Do NOT allow Kik – It is private, it is un-regulated, it does not have privacy controls or parental controls. From what I can tell on it, having played with it on my kid’s iPhone (prior to me deleting it), is that it merely accesses your contacts and allows you to know who of your contacts are using it as well. You can block users but there is no auditing of accounts nor linking to other social network profiles (which might actually be a better way to ensure the authenticity of a user).
  4. Censor the photos – I recommend not letting your child post pictures of themselves. Try to restricts posts to pets or objects or non-identifiable items. When photos of kids are posted, you are potentially exposing kids to strangers peeping into their lives.
  5. Turn off Location/Geo-tagging of photos – it’s better to be safe than sorry. Most smartphones now tag each photo with geo-location data. While cool to see where photos are taken, many times the uploaded photos still contain that geo-specific information. Turn that feature off!

Try it Again…

So I have really been struggling being the patient, loving, calm mother I have in my mind’s eye. You know the one – the woman we all envisage being. Polite children, they have all rise early, eaten, found all items of school uniform and PE kit without any assistance, they have made a nutritious breakfast without leaving a trail of milk on the floor, we have spoken in gentle morning tones over breakfast.

This picture is far from our home truth. I was encouraged last week to use the words, “Try it again.” When things don’t go well, when we are impatient and hurried with one another, when the kids want to bicker and squabble, simply ask them to “try it again.” And do you know what? They have stopped, looked at me a little dumbfounded (…what does she mean?) and they have indeed tried again. They have chosen encouraging words, found manners and adopted a respectful tone.

So to me, my family and anyone struggling to be the parent they want to be. Try it again. After all it was what He is all about – a God of second chances, of forgiveness and grace.

Being Chinese…

Having a father of Chinese origin has always posed an interesting internal conflict for me. Growing up in regional Australia in a mono cultural environment has made my own personal journey somewhat difficult. Hence issues of gender and race have always been close to my heart.

How does Culture influence who we are and who we become?

I have been following the media responses to Amy Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
She writes:

The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—even legally actionable—to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, “Hey fatty—lose some weight.” By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of “health” and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image. (I also once heard a Western father toast his adult daughter by calling her “beautiful and incredibly competent.” She later told me that made her feel like garbage.)
Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, “You’re lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you.” By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they’re not disappointed about how their kids turned out.

 I have found this article by Albert Mohler really helpful in identifying some the strength’s of Chua’s book and where we as Christian parents might allow our faith to over ride our culture.

Let me know what you think. Did you have a  tiger mother or father?I would really like to talk about this one.