Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Battles with my seven-year old

My seven-year old is a joy. Sometimes. The rest of the time she is indifferent to horrid, and sometimes we get into terrible fights. She has a knack of being able to press all the right buttons to get me and her Dad completely wound up. I have always hoped this was a phase she was going through, yet she seems to have been in it since she was about three-years old. I'm not sure if it is an age thing either, as her younger sister (who is now four) doesn't seem to provide us with half as many challenges. Some days I wonder if I should get her tested for some sort of syndrome. There must be a name for her attitude problem and her challenging behaviour. Then I remember what it is - it is genetics. She has the mix of a questioning mind and academic ability, crossed with rebelliousness and a low boredom threshold. As a result, I find her the hardest work out of all my offspring. Our daily battles are varied and many.

First of all there is the way in which she always seems to understand why she is being told off, only to go and do the exact same thing moments later - like dragging one of the twins over, and claiming the baby 'likes it' when she clearly doesn't. We tell her not to do it and send her to the very well-worn naughty-step (again). We go through the usual 'why were you on the naughty step *sigh*? routine, and talk about why her behaviour was out of order. She apologises to whichever baby she scared the bejeezus out of, and then goes and does it all again in less than two minutes. It drives me potty.

Then there is the morning routine thing. We have been getting up and going to school in a morning now for three years, at least. Why do I myself shouting at her every single morning to eat her breakfast / put her school clothes on / brush her teeth? I don't have to do this for the 4-year old, who I ask once at the most, and it's done. I hate comparing them, but my second-child is way more capable in most senses. I wouldn't mind so much, but my seven-year old's academic ability is significantly above average, so she's clearly not stupid. I know I have to be understanding of her space-cadet credentials, but it's the attitude I get back when trying to gee things up a bit that makes me want to scream!!!!!

She also seems to have a lack of talent for sitting still. Anywhere. At the dining table, in school assembly, in front of the TV. She also does this wriggling thing in tandem with sucking her thumb (the Dad's biggest pet peeve), and no matter what we do, she won't stop. Part of this is attention-seeking, and most of the rest is showing off. She likes to entertain and thinks that being silly is a way of doing this, whereas most of the time it just results in people thinking she is indeed, silly. 

We fight over her love of video games. I can't criticise too much as we've always been into gaming, me especially, and we buy the girls games regularly, but it's the way the eldest goes on and on and on about them all the time. We get constant requests for her to play Zelda, or Mario Kart, or to go on-line and play flaming Moshi Monsters. Nothing else. We've bought her other stuff too, like books, outdoor toys, and craft sets, yet she craves gaming and has little mini tantrums over wanting to play them. Nothing too serious mind as I wouldn't stand for it, but she clearly, genuinely gets upset if we refuse. And God forbid we should interrupt a gaming session with an offering of a meal. How inconvenient for her! We have turned the game off at the wall many times when she seems to be taking way too long to 'save it then I'll come', but even the threat of banning video gaming for a period of time doesn't improve her behaviour elsewhere. The prospect of having her games taken away does not seem to even faze her, and though she knows we are indeed serious about hiding her DS and banning the Wii, she always seems to end up getting her ban extended. She never learns.

The one that has been ongoing pretty much since she was born is the bedtime battle. She has had a solid bedtime routine since she came home from the hospital. We were firm about it from an early age, yet when she goes to bed we get every excuse in the book why she can't possibly sleep right now. She is usually hungry, or thirsty, or just knows she's going to have a bad dream, or she's too hot, or too cold, or the duvet isn't right. We often hear her pottering around the girls' room above the living room, two hours after she went up to bed. She was the same as a baby, unsettled in her cot and crying to come out for ages after we put her down. Now, she shouts down to us regularly trying to buy more time downstairs, with her younger sister snoring obliviously in the bunk bed below. 

My seven-year old is a sweet and sensitive child. She gets upset with real tears when our rows escalate and I tell her that if she really hates us that much she should pack her bags and go and live somewhere else, with a family that will let her have her own way all the time. (No, I'm not proud of this, but she makes it too easy for me to say it). She clearly loves her sisters and can play nicely with them when she wants to. She has lots of friends at school, even if she can be a bit bossy with them from time-to-time. 

My long-term goal now is to try and show her the consequences of her behaviour without letting her permanently harm anyone around her, and try and get her to adulthood having learned from her sometimes destructive and challenging behaviour. I need to find a more productive outlet for her obvious intelligence and passion for entertaining. My daily battle is finding enough time to make her the focus of my attention for even a short period of time each day. I just wish that she didn't sometimes make it difficult for me to want to make the effort to spend some time with her.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Essential Kit for New Troopers

When you’ve got a baby trooper on the way, the amount of kit that people tell you that you simply can’t live without is overwhelming. You’re bombarded from all sides, advertising, magazines, friends, family, all telling you that you need everything from certain brands of baby wipes to travel systems. People ask you if you have everything you need, if you are ‘prepared’ (believe me, nothing can prepare you for fatherhood) and if the nursery is ready (the one that the trooper won’t be in for months).

When I was about to become a new dad for the first time, I took all this on board. I didn’t want to scrimp on my own offspring after all, I wanted to give them the best start possible, and of course I was pretty excited to make it all seem ‘real’ by buying ‘essential’ baby kit…

And as a result I ended up buying a whole load of stuff that just never got used. A total waste of money. So, if you’re happy to get out there and spend, spend, spend, then don’t let me stop you (it’s good for the economy). But, if like me, you didn’t really know what you need to buy but feel compelled to buy anyway….


In the first few weeks the baby trooper needs very little kit. They need to be fed, kept comfortable and clean, and loved. In the weeks before you have a baby trooper at base camp, you don’t need to go on a buying frenzy. You need to plan and prepare. You need to clean and make room for them. One thing that is going to be in really short supply in the next few months is time.

So what are the basics that you need to buy?

·        Nappies and nappy changing kit. Buy the smallest bag of newborn nappies as possible, as baby troopers grow fast. If using non-disposable (washable) nappies, again, don’t buy in bulk. You have to see what is the best fit and type for your baby trooper.

·        Clothing. Baby troopers need to be two things: to be comfortable and accessible (for many nappy changing sorties). So do not buy fussy clothes with fiddly buttons – unless your trooper is going straight from the maternity ward to a wedding or their own graduation, they don’t need an ‘outfit’. They need stretchy, soft, warm clothes that can withstand the rigours of repeated washing. I’ve listed my all-time favourite baby trooper outfit below. Buy enough of it to ensure you always have a few outfits clean (around 6) but not too many as they will grow out of them fast.

o  a cotton babygrow and a sleepsuit with poppers
o  a cotton hat (a lot of heat is lost through the head). If the weather is cold, a warm hat for outdoor use
o  scratch mits (baby troopers have sharp fingernails that aren’t easy to trim)
o  socks (extremities need to be kept warm)
o  a thin cotton cardigan or jacket 

·        Feeding. Some parents chose to bottle feed straight away, but even if your partner is going to breastfeed, you can step up and bottle feed your baby trooper in the evening. When bottle feeding full time, 8 bottles is the optimum number to ensure you always have a clean, sterilised bottle to hand, but don’t go and buy 8. Your baby trooper may not take to them them. You’ll need cleaning and sterilising kit too.

·      Sleeping. Moses basket or cot with a new, snug-fitting mattress. Cotton sheets and thin blankets as it’s easier to regulate temperature with thin layers.

·    Bathing. Somewhere safe to bath the baby. Soft flannels and soft towels, baby shampoo and baby bath.

·        Transport. Car seat that meets safety standards and fits safely and securely in your car. I used a baby carrier in the first few months as it kept my baby trooper safe and close, but both my hands free for other tasks. I bought a second hand pushchair when my baby trooper was a few months older. Those things are built to survive all manner of knocks and there’s some great second hand bargains to be had.

·         First Aid Kit that must include a digital ear thermometer.

And that’s about it – for now. Luckily the baby trooper comes supplied with fully functioning adults who are able to assess their on-going needs and respond accordingly. And believe me, you’ll be up to speed on the real essentials they need before you know it.

Neil Sinclair is an ex-Commando and stay-at-home dad to three troopers Samuel, 10, Jude, 9, and Liberty,5.  He has written a no-nonsense parenting book for new recruits to fatherhood – Commando Dad  - due for publication on May 8 2012.

Friday, 10 February 2012

5 common parenting fails, and why we shouldn't worry about them.

For a change from Fail Friday, today we are talking about 5 common parenting fails, and discussing whether they really matter. For us parents, bringing up our children can be tough going. We have good times, of course we do, but we have bad times too. At Parenting on the Front Line, we accept that failure is an option, indeed it is inevitable from time-to-time. The important thing is that we accept defeat, dust ourselves down and move on. Please stay with us as we tell you 5 parenting fails that determined soldiers have shared with us.

1) Occasionally, we leave incompetents in charge of our children. For some of us, the results of this can be disastrous, but for most of us this is a necessary evil. We leave our children with over-indulgent grandparents, or with the less-experienced other half, or with unfamiliar nursery assistants. We feel terrible guilt, but what's the worst that can happen? Don't feel bad about it - little Timmy needs his independence, and your other half needs to learn to do stuff for them too. There's only one way for them to learn, and that's for you to suspend your anxiety for a few hours, and get you some 'me' time.

2) We throw all our good intentions out of the window. You know how before you became a parent, you had a well-drawn up battle plan? How many of you changed that battle-plan mid-war? I know I did. My child would sleep in her own bed straight away and sleep all night. Yeah, right! My child would eat all her vegetables without complaining? Hahahahahaha! My child would not be watching television and only play with educational toys? Give me a break. Changing your plan does not mean you have failed. A good soldier takes stock of the changing scenario and can alter their tactics. I hope so anyway, because that's what I've done!

3) Even though we are perfectly intelligent, educated, professional people as well as parents, we (occasionally) show ourselves up. Our failures are witnessed by other grown-ups. From wearing highly visible milky-vomit badges of honour on our work jacket, to getting stuck in tunnels in the soft-play centre, we've all done something that's made us mentally take the walk of shame.

4) We take our eyes off the ball. It may only be for a minute or two, but the consequences can be damaging. This is our most popular parenting fail, and has resulted in slug-eating babies, almost flooded bathrooms, and cross-dressing toddlers.
  • For a fail that we have all done, even with our eyes closed, visit Cornish Blonde. Oops.
5) Our biggest fail is that we think that our occasional fails mean that we are failures. We're not. Even the very best juggler drops a ball eventually. We have all felt desperate at times. The trick is to take some time out, reflect and come back stronger.

I hope you have enjoyed this Friday's round up. Fail Friday is taking a break for a couple of weeks, but we will be back in March, so get your fail posts racked up.

Sergeant J

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Does critical parenting work?

Sometimes parents are very critical of their offspring. They give constant orders to their children as though they are new recruits under the care of a bullying Sergeant Major. It's all stick and no carrot. In the army it's a technique designed to knock the young recruits into shape, they take them apart piece by piece until they eventually become part of a well oiled machine. But does this work with children?

I watched the Tiger mum's program on TV this week. I know I'm a bit behind but I never watch anything when it actually goes out anymore, I Sky+ it and watch at my leisure. Obviously you only see half the story on these shows but the thing which I was left with was the statement from one of the parents that you don't praise good, good is just what is accepted, you need to strive for excellence. Only something truly exceptional gets praised and then it's valued more. Anything less than perfect is harshly criticised. The results of these children often speak for the method. The children are highly driven and often excel, so there is something for that method, if that's what you want.

I've been thinking about this a lot because I've been feeling pretty demoralised recently. I know I'm an adult but I still want to make my parents proud and recently I feel under constant criticism. Now I know it's meant with the best intentions, my parents wish they could help out more and they can see we're struggling a bit. If I said this to them they would be horrified, they don't realise how it makes me feel. However I'm feeling like a failure and I know it's mainly through the things they have said. Here is a small snippet:

Those trainers are so old even a tramp would be disgusted to wear them.
You're not exactly a yummy mummy are you?
Have you seen all this stuff under your sofa?
You always leave everything on display for people to steal.
Oh dear, that carpet has seen better days.
That coat has seen better days.
It's really time you got a hair cut.
I can't believe you haven't planted that tree I gave you.
I can't believe you haven't sorted out the children's bank accounts.
You really should send a thank you card to your aunt.

I could go on. This was just a short snippet from one day. Some things are said as a joke. If I question anything then I'm told, "we're just trying to help"

It's made me wonder if this is how it's always been. I'm feeling a bit low at the moment so it's getting to me more than normal. However, I know I can't take any form or criticism and I have to feel like a success at all times. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get everything right, to be perfect all the time and if I get anything wrong I'm devastated. So are these traits the result of having a critical parent?

What do you think? Do you have critical parents, has it affected you, and are you critical yourself?

Monday, 6 February 2012

#MedalMonday - 6th February 2012

Huzzah! It's that time of the week again where we have a good old gloat to everyone else about what brilliant, stroke-of-genius parenting stuff we've been up to. 

Come and join in with Medal Monday. Grab the victory badge and link up your blog post below. Don't forget to tweet us the link to your post, and leave us a comment so we know you've linked up!

Last week we had two victorious tales of parenting brilliance. 

Headspace blog was back again (if it weren't for her fantastic fail posts here on a Friday, I would be beginning to think she is THE ultimate in parenting excellence,) with her tale of an activity to keep your budding mini-fashionista occupied.

At the front this week, we have Tales of a Twin Mum who, with the aid of an essential piece of kit, managed to achieve something us other parenting losers can only aspire to - SLEEP!!!! Hurrah! Don't mess with her or she will send you to bed and you won't be coming down til the little sun on the clock comes out. To avoid this happening to us, we will award her the honour of being our star-trooper this week. 

medalSo, come back over the next few days and read all about other parenting successes. Link up your own story (old or new) if you've got one and we'll all swing by and cheer at your triumph. If you haven't got a story for us, then come back on Friday and link up with other parenting losers with your story of defeat and utter failure. We know you've got one of those at least, and anyone who says otherwise is a big fat liar. So there.

Signing out, 

Sergeant J

Friday, 3 February 2012

#FailFriday - 3rd February 2012


Fall in line for Fail Friday.

For the benefit of all you deserters, Friday is the day we show our battle scars, and report back with our stories of defeat. So, if you've dropped the baby on it's head, turned your back on a room full of crayon-laden toddlers, or made a complete arse out of yourself in front of your teens, then we need to know about it.

Our enemies are numerous - teachers, foodstuffs, bloody craft thingy-me-bobs, and the children too. Some days it seems they all conspire to make us as miserable as possible. Come and sprag them in to us.

Link up your blog post below, tweet us @ParentFrontLine with the link to your post, and leave us a comment to let us know you've linked up. Don't forget to award yourself the big fat fail badge (on the right) if you know how, failure!

Today, we are on maneouveres, but will be armed with our essential tools (smartphones naturally), so get linking up and come and say hello!

Last week, we had one report of defeat. When you can't speak the lingo, the potential for failure is mahoosive. It certainly was for this unlucky trooper. Read it and thank someone, somewhere that it wasn't you.

Laters men!

Sergeant J

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Words of wisdom from Mama Jax

Mama Jax is here today to share with you all some tried-and-tested survival techniques.

How to survive a sleepover

Sleepover. One of those misnomers, right up there with 'fun run' and 'sports personality'.

Last night Phyllis had her first ever sleepover. Her friend, also 6, came for New Year's Eve and stayed. We survived; having had 3 kids I have developed a very strict set of rules for sleepovers:

1. Choose your guest/s wisely. Phyllis' little friend came from Good Stock. We know the parents and knew that they were bringing her up well. She was polite and fun. Do not choose a child who has multiple piercings under the age of 10, is named Checayne, Tequila or similar, and who's mother is 12. On the flip side, do no allow a child to stay who has a live in nanny and a maid. They will sneer at your Factory Shop furnishings, and demand scrambled quail's eggs on a fat/sugar/salt free brioche for breakfast.

2. Give them sweets. Yes, I know that is against everything you have been brought up to believe, but look at it this way: They will be hyper anyway, would you rather blame their behaviour on Haribo or your total lack of control as a parent?

Thought so.

3. Cram in as many children as will fit in the house. Again, this may seem crazy, but the less space they have, the less they can move. Moving=mischief.

This also makes the inevitable arguments more interesting and varied, and chances are they will tell each other to go to sleep as the first few get tired, saving you a job.

4. Invite children who have unusually early bedtimes. Phyllis' friend is usually tucked up by 6.30pm. The odds on her being tired at a reasonable time are significantly better than, say, a child whose usual bedtime is 9pm.

5. From the age of about 8 or nine, sleepovers become a popular and regular occurrence, particularly with girls. Parents of said kids will usually take turns to host the sleepovers. Make sure your turn falls in the summer months and stick them all in the garden in a tent. Surprise them with one unannounced 'supervision' visit to let them know they are being watched, then leave them to it.

6. Behave totally inappropriately in the house (see 'How to get your teenager to go to bed') to ensure they only come in when absolutely necessary, like if an alien abducts one of them. And maybe not even then.

7. If they are old enough to have a sleepover, they are old enough to make their own breakfast. Leave out a selection of easy things for them to make, like the cornflakes you've been trying to get rid of for months but no-one in your family will eat. Hide the nice stuff! I cannot stress this enough. This particularly applies to teenage boys...

Today: Phrases that may be used in an emergency

"I want you all asleep by 10pm. If you're quiet though, I might forget you're not asleep and you may get to stay up longer..."

"Ah, poor thing. If you can't settle to sleep here, maybe I should take you home."

"Of course you can come in! ***'s (insert name of your child) dad is just watching the 'News at 10' in his pants, but you won't mind that will you?"

For loud music: "Oh my gosh I LOVE this song!! Turn it up!" Dance outrageously.

And further words of wisdom……..

How to get a teenager to go to bed

If any of you like me have a teen, you will know how difficult it is to have some time to yourself. You can't say to a teenager, "Come on, it's bedtime now," without being called lame, or having a HUGE list of whinges and arguments which would fluster an experienced lawyer.

I would like to share with you how I managed to get some alone time for me and my husband. My 16 and 13 year olds go upstairs at 9pm like clockwork, without a murmur, and don't come down at all. They are allowed to read or (16 year old) go on the computer until 10pm at which time, lights out.How did I achieve this minor miracle? Well, after a couple of weeks of constant battling I reached the end of my tether. The conversation went something like this:

Bobby: You're so lame, none of my friends go to bed before midnight, I'll be bullied at school if anyone finds out, blah, blah, blah...

Me: Ok let me put it this way. At 9pm, me and your dad are going to get naked and have sex on the couch whether you're here or not.

You have never seen teenagers move so quickly!!!

For further parenting wisdom, you can visit Mama Jax’s blog. Thank you to Jax for sharing her advice with us.
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