Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chapter 3: kids now houses later

It has just dawned on us that trying to cover parenting and buying a house in one blog is slightly ambitious. As a result we apologise that our blog on 'Tips for buying a house will need to come later' as we have realised that writing on 'raising kids and being parents' is chapter worthy unto itself.
I should warn you before you read any further, that the following blog may bore you sensless if you are not expecting or have kids. If you are still childless, for god sakes, stop reading now, and go enjoy yourself while there's still time!
if you are a parent, blog reading is about as fun as it gets, so, fill up a glass of red wine and snuggle up for some breathtaking annecdotes on child rearing, yippee!

We now have two children and a third on the way. Noah was 4 in December, Georgia is 1 and 1/2 and our third baby is due in August. Whilst we don't pretend to know all the answers about parenting there are certainly a few things that we have learnt from others and our own experience. Experience that we would love to share with you, especially the first time parents.

Hospital ceiling, fluroscent lights, midwives smiling, baby screaming...where to next? The first four weeks of your parenting life will most likely be a total blur and hence forth begins the wonderful joy of parenting. Joe and I really wished that we had some of the good ideas below when we started out. We have narrowed down our thoughts to the following:

1: Routine (and therefore parent sanity).
2: Behaviour > you and your kids.
3: 'Wine Time' > how to exist beyond just revolving around your children.

1: Routine

'Looking down into my arms at my newly first born son wrapped tightly in a swaddling cloth of pink, white and blue, craftfully prepared earlier by a seasoned midwife and feeling all tear jerky at the thought of being a parent (whilst my wife almost bled to death in a cleaning storeroom because the shift change over between the operating theatre and the recovery room at RPA forgot about her) I had absolutley no idea that I would spend the next 4 years of my life (and most likely more) incredibly sleep deprived.

All first time paernts resort to desperation. This may take the form of crawling in slow motion on on your hands and knees out of your baby's room so as not to wake them (a process which once took 10 mins due to not wanting to lean on the creaky floor boards) or putting your child in the car at 4 am to drive them around the streets so as your partner gets some sleep before the alarm goes off. This is totally normal, and so much fun!

By the time they reach three or by the time you have three you won't give a hoot about them carrying on at bed-time whilst you cook dinner or watch a dvd.
Something that we have found really useful was the '5 Baby Cry Sounds'. The idea is that all babies make the following 5 cries and each cry indicates varying needs by your child. At first we were sceptical (as all good parents are) but this actually worked for the first 6 months and helped us alot.

The crys are:
1: 'Eh, eh, eh' = I need to Burp
2: 'Neh, nnneeeh, nnnneeh' = I am Hungry > feed me now
3: 'owwww, owww' = I am tired, wrap me up and put me to sleep now
4: 'Eairh, eairh' = you didn't burp me right and now I have major wind problems.
5:' Heh, heh' = I am uncomfortable, I am too hot, too cold or I need my nappy changed.

If this is too hard to follow, which some ppl find is the case, remember the following golden rules:

1: feed a baby at set times and properly> get advice on breast feeding as it is essential.
2: burp the baby> this is most commonly the key to a good night's rest, hang in there and keep patting.
3: see if it needs a change
4: make sure it is warm enough, babies are often underdressed.
5: have some distractions if all else fails such as bathing the baby or a walk in the pram.
6: if all else fails walk away, remember you can lay the baby down safely and walk outside for 5 mins to re-group your sanity.
7: Your baby may be ill, don't have any worries about going to a doctor to get advice, even if it means seeing two or three.
8: We found that a dummy was really, really , really useful. It helped them settle and sleep and by the age of 2 they were happy to give it up with out any teeth deformities worthy of an Oprah Winfrey talk back show.

The answer to our sleep deprivation was a little book called 'Save Our Sleep' (Tizzie Hall), we were dizzy for Tizzie. In short, despite spasmodically lapsing into comas of sleep we managed to read the book, these are the routines we have adapted from Tizzie's suggestions.

Routine for 6 week – up to 10 month
□ 6:00 am wake, feed/btle
□ 9:30 feed/btle, burp and bed
□ 11:00 wake, activity
□ 12:30 feed/btle, burp, bed
□ 2:00 wake, activity
□ keep up until 6pm feed/btle, burp and bed
□ 9:00pm > wake > quiet feed/ btle, burp and bed
□ 12:30pm> wake > quiet feed/ btle, burp and bed
□ 3:00 am> wake > quiet feed/ btle, burp and bed (baby usually drops this wake somewhere along the line)
□ 7 am wake

Routine for walking kid (1- ½) – 4 year old

□ wake 6:30am breakfast > activities
□ 11:30 lunch
□ 12:00 milk, bed
□ 1:30 /2:00 wake, activity, afternoon tea
□ 5:00 dinner
□ 6:00 milk, bed

Routine for a 4 year old

□ wake 6:00am breakfast > activities
□ 11:30 lunch
□ 12:00 quiet time > this is a time when Noah looks after himself, he reads books, plays board games by himself , or does drawing on our bed with the door closed. During this time I can rest, make dinner or just have lunch. Usually after 1 hour I join him for half an hour of time spent together.
□ 1:30 afternoon tea, activity
□ 5:00 dinner
□ 5:30 – 6:00 reading, story -time, this is a great way of spending time with your kids but also calming down before bed-time, Noah and Georgi both love it.
□ 6:15 bed
□ 9:30 toilet, we wake Noah up and take him to the toilet (he is out of nappies now but not sleeping all the way through without needing the toilet).

noah enjoying his bbq lunch on a drizzly day , aged 2 1/2

2: Behaviour
All children misbehave, and every parent deals with this in their own way. Some things that we have found useful are the following. Be unified as parents on the rules, be consistent, stay calm, and follow through with punishments - no empty threats. MOst importantly, give praise where its due to encourage the behavior that you want.

a) Positive Reinforcement:
As teachers, Joe and I both became aware of this catch phrase called 'positive reinforcement' prior to having kids. Positive reinforcement is basically commending your child for something they have done well or are trying to do well. Learning to implement positive reinforcement will solve a great deal of your child's behavioral problems, as a child that is +vely reinforced regularly is less likely to behave poorly. The best positive reinforcement is constructive time that you spend with your child. Second to this is saying things like "wow ___ you are doing such a great job making your bed, well done, I am very proud of you".

b) Example: Practice what you preach. You are the primary educator, the way you deal and speak to one another and your kids will set the foundations for their social development.

c) 'Emotional tank': adding to your child’s emotional tank is essential. Every drop counts, whether it is spending quality time playing or reading a book or something as little as a hug or play with their hair. Ultimately a parent needs to spend quality time with their children. Plan it in advance, have activities prepared e.g. going to the park in the morning.
(Some activities that we use are the park, pool, library, inviting ppl over, play group, painting, art and craft for example cardboard box rocket ships, making paper chains, sticking and gluing coloured paper scraps, threading penne pasta, jumping on an old foam mattress (rainy day), bed sheet cubby houses, cheap blocks and sticks from $2 shop or helping with household duties. Everybody has an emotional tank, they are like a car's petrol tank, to function each day we use up what is in them, therefore they need regular re-filling if the car/child is going to work properly the next day.

d) When a kid is poorly behaved it is important to have a consistent approach, this is what we do.

1 – tell the child to stop the behaviour and explain why its not right. warn that a consequence will follow if it continues.

2 – if the behaviour continues follow through with consequence, what ever you do don’t chicken out because every time you do it will become harder and harder. Don’t forget you are in charge. If the behaviour does not continue after the first warning tell the child they are good for listening to you and doing what they were told.

4 -explain to the child why the consequence has come about > stay firm but calm and don’t loose your temper “the reason you aren’t getting your lollypop is because you threw yourself on the floor of the shop and were screaming and mummy asked you to stop and you didn’t”. Do not be the parent who gives the child the lollypop just to shut them up, easy short term solutions will lead to long-term and much more difficult problems. Don’t be embarrassed or afraid of your child screaming and crying in public, better that you suffer the embarrassment of this when they don't get their way the first time then the child kicking and screaming its way through the next 20 years because it knows that this is how it will get its way.

5 - Pick your battles and remain positive. Don't be down on a child all of the time, any criticism you make needs to be a learning experience and the child needs to not feel constantly attacked (remember the 'emotional tank'). It is a good idea to give kids an opportunity to prove that they can behave well, for example to be a help and follow instructions. Say to a child “Daddy will play soccer with you this afternoon once you have cleaned your room, the quicker you do it the longer we will have to play”, then go in during room cleaning and say “wow you are doing such a great job” (+ve reinforcement).

6. Last of all, take the time to spend time talking with your kids and spend quality time with them - this siolves a lot of behavioral problems.
theres heeps of other stuff too i guess, but we just wanted to share some of this with you incase it helps somehow. Anyway, next week we will give our top ten tips to buying a house and return to the garden topic, with ideas on how to start your very own funky frontyard vege garden.

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