The 7 Golden Rules of Calmer Parenting

The 7 Golden Rules of Calmer Parenting

This article is a little excerpt from my latest, upcoming, book ‘How to be a Calm Parent’:

The older I’ve become, the less keen I am on the use of rules, but I think it’s important to set the scene and simplify a little here. Throughout this book I will discuss many things that impact on our state of mind and actions as parents. I think it’s important to take a holistic view and to ask WHY we struggle to be calm before we even begin to think about what we can do to be calmer. The answer to the ‘why am I like this?’ question is anything but simple and straightforward. I do however believe that having a few, simple, guidelines to start with makes the process to becoming calm easier, hence here are my top seven rules:

  • 1. Everybody can be a calmer parent. It doesn’t take any special personality traits. Privilege does inevitably mean that life is sadly infinitely easier for some, but we can all do some work and make some changes, regardless of our life situations, that will have a positive impact (although I do accept that lack of privileges can and will limit the changes possible)
  • 2. Everybody loses it at times. Nobody is calm 100% of the time – nobody should aim to be. We must lower the bar when it comes to expectations of what we can achieve, and we must not compare our ‘inner selves’ (our inner most thoughts and feelings) with the ‘outer selves’ (the carefully curated illusion) of others. You’re not alone. All parents act in ways they’re ashamed of. Everybody has to try hard to hold it together. Losing your temper doesn’t mean you’re not good enough or are lacking willpower and it definitely doesn’t make you a worse parent than somebody else.
  • 3. It is not your fault that you aren’t a calm parent. Read that again and stop blaming yourself. Parents carry such a burden of guilt and instantly blame themselves when they get angry and short-tempered with their children. But it isn’t your fault, we are who we are due to the way we were raised as children, due to the situations we find ourselves in, and the relationships we have with others. Don’t think “what’s wrong with me?”. Instead see yourself as a combination of things that have happened to you and the environment you are in – you are not flawed. The good news is you can assert some control over how you process these experiences and the hold they have on you in the future.
  • 4. You are still going to have lots of big feelings. You are not aiming to get rid of the big feelings, just to cope with them in a healthier way. You will still feel anger, frustration, worry and disappointment, in both yourself and your children and that’s OK. All feelings are OK.  In short, the key to being calmer is allowing and accepting these big feelings and turning reactivity into responsivity. Putting a space between your child’s actions, your feelings, and your response. Becoming calmer is about self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-forgiveness, not trying to turn yourself into some sort of emotionally devoid robot.
  • 5. Messing up doesn’t undo all the good you’ve done before. A bad day is simply that, a bad day. It does not make you a bad person, or a failure. Even if that day stretches into weeks, months, or years. It doesn’t undo the work you have previously put in to becoming calmer or cancel out the good days. It also doesn’t have any impact on what you can achieve in the future. The road to calmer parenting is full of ups and downs, you will mess up, you will feel like you’ve taken a million steps back some days, but you just need to keep going and accept the topsy turvy progress route. Real life is messy and so is real change.
  • 6. The journey to becoming calmer takes time. Make sure your goals are realistic, you’re not going to change overnight, or even in a month or two. You are going to be a work in progress for pretty much the rest of your life and that’s OK, because even a tiny change is still a change! Although it may sound terribly cliched to say, a thousand tiny steps will get you further than one giant leap. Commitment and consistency are key; repeated small changes are better than one-off attempts at enormous change.
  • 7. You will not screw up your child when you ‘lose it’. This is maybe the most important rule to really and truly assimilate because the guilt we carry with us when we screw up, can have such a damaging effect on our future attempts. Children are resilient, our mistakes as parents actually help them to grow. What matters more, is how you heal any rift that happens afterwards. Later in this book I will talk about the ‘rupture and repair’ cycle, or as I prefer to call it ‘holler and heal’. Knowing how to heal any hurt caused during our inevitable ‘uncalm’ moments is part of the foundation of calmer parenting. So too is learning to palliate any feelings of inadequacy and guilt that accompany them, to turn them into something productive instead.

Did you enjoy this excerpt?
How to Be a Calm Parent is part self-help book, part parenting book; aimed at parents who know that they need to be calmer to raise well adjusted, happy children, but who struggle with their own emotions and stress levels.

‘How to be a Calm Parent’ is out in March ’22.

You can preorder HERE in the UK and HERE in the rest of the world.

Come and join me in my FREE online interactive book group, to take part in guided activities and live discussions. To gain access just send your proof of preorder of ‘How to be a Calm Parent’ (a screenshot is fine) to sarah@gentleparenting.co.uk

Why Perfectionism is the Enemy of Parents (and why ‘good enough’ is better).

This article is a little excerpt from my upcoming book: ‘How to be a Calm Parent’:

Time and time again I come across parents who feel that they are failing their children because they have flaws. They believe that if they are not always ready and able to meet their child’s needs, then they are not good enough. Each failure, whether small or large and however frequent or infrequent, is deemed an indication that they can never meet up to the high expectations they hold for themselves. Many parents live in a perpetual and tortuous cycle of shame, guilt, and regret, all because they uphold the unobtainable goal of parenting perfection. If there is one trait that holds us back from becoming calmer parents, it is surely perfectionism.

The sad reality is that those who focus on perfectionism are undoubtedly good parents, because they are so desperate to better themselves for the sake of their children, but that same perfectionism can also be their undoing. Perfection is nothing but an illusion, but when it comes to parenting, perfect seems to be the goal to aim for. If what we are aiming for is an illusion, we are all doomed to fail, yet the quest for perfection is rooted in the desperate desire to avoid failure. Thus, we enter a vicious circle of expectations and aims set too high, leading to unavoidable failure, leading to guilt, depression and dented self-esteem and confidence, causing us to once again assess our parenting skills and aim for the fallacy of perfect, each time driving our psyche down a little more, that nagging voice in our head whispering, “you’re just not good enough”. It is a toxic, debilitating, cycle that we must break if we hope to be calmer.

What underlies perfectionism?

A large majority of our behaviour as parents is rooted in our own childhood and the way we ourselves were raised, as well as the relationships and interactions we had with our parents and caregivers. The origins of perfectionism are no exception to the rule here and it is highly likely that your perfectionist behaviour is rooted in your past. 

It isn’t just our upbringing that leaves us vulnerable to perfectionism though, we live in a consumerist society that preys on our, perceived or real, imperfections and insecurities to sell things. If we all accepted our unique flaws and had confidence in our abilities, looks and lives in general, we would be much harder to sell to, in fact we would be a marketer’s nightmare. It is much easier to sell a product, or an idea, to an audience who feel insecure, who are constantly looking for that holy grail to reach the pinnacle of perfection. For this reason, then, most advertising is designed to undermine our self-esteem and contentment and we voluntarily surround ourselves with these toxic messages constantly.

What else feeds into our desire to be perfect parents?

Here we only must look at the value, or rather lack of it, attached to child raising today. Childcare isn’t valued, by society and especially not by our Governments. Those who work in the childcare industry are sorely underpaid and their choice of career is often deemed one for those who are unable to achieve higher paid, more intellectual, or qualified work. If you choose to be a stay-at-home parent, the media considers you to be lazy and a leech on society if you accept any state financial help. I can’t tell you how many stay-at-home parents I have met who have introduced themselves as “just a mum”, or “just a dad”, if asked what their job is. It’s almost as if we feel that we must apologise for not contributing to national productivity and the public purse. Raising a tiny human, although possibly the hardest and most complex job there is in the world, is considered as an easy, work-shy, choice. This lack of societal value attached to child-rearing, leaves us with the subconscious belief that we must somehow be perfect at it, to prove to the naysayers wrong and prove to ourselves that we are ‘worth it’.

As parents, it is imperative that we learn to fail with grace. We must learn that our failures are not just OK, but debatably more valuable than our parenting successes, because it is failure that is ultimately the precursor to learning and achievement, for both parent and child.
 

Why ‘Good Enough’ Should be Your New Goal

Sadly, the idea of ‘good enough’ is often associated with subpar parenting in our culture today. For some it is used as an excuse for repeatedly prioritising their own needs over those of their children, rather than a more balanced approach where both needs are equally considered. However, ‘good enough’ is not the same as ‘poor parenting’, it is not subpar, indeed it carries benefits that – if it were a real thing – ‘perfect parenting’ doesn’t have. We must let go of the fallacy of the perfect parent, or ‘the Nirvana parent’. Instead, we must be prepared to welcome failure, to make peace with it and to view it as a learning and grounding opportunity, because failure is unavoidable in parenting. We must raise our children to be ‘good enough’, so that they don’t carry with them our perfectionism.

Did you enjoy this excerpt?
How to Be a Calm Parent is part self-help book, part parenting book; aimed at parents who know that they need to be calmer to raise well adjusted, happy children, but who struggle with their own emotions and stress levels.

‘How to be a Calm Parent’ is out in March ’22.

You can preorder HERE in the UK and HERE in the rest of the world.

Come and join me in my FREE online interactive book group, to take part in guided activities and live discussions. To gain access just send your proof of preorder of ‘How to be a Calm Parent’ (a screenshot is fine) to sarah@gentleparenting.co.uk

Helping Children with Nighttime Anxiety and Fear

From an evolutionary perspective, fears and anxieties surrounding being left alone at night are entirely normal and actually important. This innate fear would have kept our offspring safe, at a time when they would have been most at risk if left alone. While life has changed immeasurably as our species has evolved, this natural fear has not moved with the times. We know our children are safe from predators, warm, dry and comfortable tucked up in their beds at night and so do our children, when you hold a rational conversation with them that is. Their instincts and psyche often says otherwise though. 

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Fear of the dark is perhaps the most common fear in childhood (and a fear that many adults still possess – it’s estimated that around 10% of adults suffer from Nyctophobia – fear of the dark), it’s believed that the fear stems not from imagining monsters lurking in the dark – but from the fear of not being able to see what is around you, i.e: a lack of sensory input, which can leave children (and adults) struggling with the lack of awareness of their environment. Once again, this makes huge sense if you think of the fear in evolutionary terms. If you have a child who is anxious about going to bed, or being left alone overnight, my top recommendation is to always add a nightlight to their bedroom, to be left on all night (do make sure it gives off red light though – see HERE for why). I would also recommend adding plug in red nightlights in any hallways outside of their bedroom too, even if their bedroom door is closed, the thought of a dark hallway lurking the other side of the door can be problematic.

If the cause of your child’s nighttime anxiety seems less obvious, my recommendation would always be to look to the daytimes for the cause. This may seem illogical, after all – if the anxiety only presents, or is much stronger, at night – why would you look to the daytime as the source of anxiety? Quite simply, nights allow children to ponder more on their fears and worries, without the hustle and bustle and busyness of the day and daytime anxiety often manifests the most at night. If you think of a time when you yourself have been incredibly anxious about something, I would wager that the anxiety seems stronger at night, when you get into bed and have nothing else to focus on but the thoughts in your head. If the daytime anxiety is also linked to separation from you in some way (perhaps starting daycare or school, a new sibling arriving, or a divorce or separation where the child is physically separated from you while with their other parent for example), then the impact at night is likely to be stronger, not just because of the above reason – but it is also amplified because a further separation from you is enforced at night, when you sleep in separate rooms. The best way forward here is to focus on the underlying anxiety and ways to help your child to be calmer and more confident in the daytime (if you have a 7 year old or older, this is covered lots in my new BETWEEN book), the happier and more relaxed they feel in the day, the more likely they are to relax at night. 

If your child is scared of being separated from you at night for whatever reason, the simplest and most effective solution here is not to try to encourage the separation through a convoluted series of rewards, praise, leaving them alone for increasing amounts of time, or moving chairs away from their bed and the like, but to embrace their need for you and allow them the connection with you that they so desperately need. If it’s possible space wise, move them into your room temporarily, or move into theirs for a while. Stay with them while they fall asleep and if you do need to leave, reassure them you will be back as soon as they need you. Meeting a child’s need for connection is really the best way to help them to feel confident alone, you don’t make separation anxiety worse by staying with the child, on the contrary, you make them feel more confident when the separation is reduced. If you do want to slowly move towards your child settling more independently at bedtime (or overnight), then trying my pop in, pop out, or bedtime buddy idea in THIS article can help. I would also make sure that bedtime is not too early for the child. Very often parents try to get their children to go to sleep at a time that is not suited to their chronotype – simply, if you’re trying to get your child to sleep before their body is ready, then they are going to struggle to not only get to sleep, but stay asleep, too. If your child is three years or older, then I would aim for sleep onset to be between 8 and 9pm at night (with their bedtime routine starting around 45 minutes earlier). 

Finally, make sure your child has tools to help them with their anxiety, the bedtime buddy idea I mentioned previously helps here, but also look into using audiobooks, sleep relaxation recordings (you can find mine on Amazon, iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify) and relaxing sleep inducing music. Teaching children some simple breathing techniques (e,g: imagine their belly as a big colourful balloon filling up with air as they slowly inhale to a count of 4, and then slowly deflating as they exhale to a count of 8) and some grounding techniques (such as ‘I Spy Senses’ – where they play a game with themselves focusing on one thing they can hear, one thing they can smell, one thing they can touch/feel and one thing they can see) can really help too. It also helps here to have a conversation about anything that may be worrying or scaring them, such as something they have seen on TV, or heard other children talking about and helping them to differentiate between fantasy and reality and knowing what things exist and what things only exist in our minds and imaginations. Above all though, make sure your child knows that they can always talk to you about their fears, safe in the knowledge that you won’t ever belittle or ridicule them. 

Ultimately, the biggest solution to nighttime anxiety is time, fears, nightmares and separation anxiety are all outgrown as children get older (well – aside from the 10% of adults still scared of the dark that is!). Rest safe in the knowledge that, like most other parenting dilemmas, this is something that will pass given time.

Sarah

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10 Top Tips to Help Shy, or Introverted, Children

Shyness is often seen as an undesirable trait in our society, especially in children. I was a shy child, in fact I’m a shy adult. I spent hours as a child waiting on the sidelines, looking in at others socialising with ease, wondering what it would be like to be them. As an adult I still struggle in social situations, but now I realise that my shyness is not a flaw. I’m an introvert and proud!

Photo by Amina Filkins on Pexels.com

So, what can you do if you have a shy child, or suspect that you are raising an introvert – to help them to embrace, not feel embarrassed about, who they are? Here are my top ten tips:

1. Don’t view shyness as a personality flaw. Most shy children are simply introverts and introversion is not a problem that needs to be fixed. Instead, it is much easier – and far more healthy for the child – to accept their personality and see the positives (introverts often possess heightened empathy and intuition, great imagination and an analytical mind. Introverts also tend to make great listeners and often have a great deal of focus as they grow).

2. Understand attachment theory. In order to feel safe to explore the world and everybody in it, children first need a strong attachment to primary caregivers who act as their secure base. A place that they can return to when the world gets too much, somebody to make them feel safe and supported, to diffuse anxiety and to give them the boost that they need to go out and explore once again. A shy child who ‘clings’ to their parents is doing exactly what they need to do to recharge and build the security that they need to branch out into the world.

3. Acknowledge that you cannot force the shyness out by pushing the child to do things that they don’t want to do. Forcing (however well meant) a shy child to go and speak to others, join in with play, order their own food, or pay in a shop, will not make them less shy. Flooding them with exposure will instead likely make things worse, increasing any social anxiety. Give the child opportunities to branch out on their own if they feel confident enough to do so, but be there to support them (and never pressure) if things don’t feel right.

4. Focus praise on effort, not outcome, especially in social situations. Instead of clapping and cheering when they do manage to speak to somebody, or put themselves in the spotlight, focus instead on the tiny moments where they were brave, regardless of whether they ‘succeeded’ or not. The time they put their hand up when somebody asked a question, but put it down again before they were chosen to answer is just as valuable – if not more so – than the time they stood up and spoke in front of a room full of people. 

5. Make sure that they know that you love them unconditionally and that you’re proud of them, no matter how they socialise with others. Shy children can struggle with their self-esteem, so need to know that you think they are wonderful as often as possible. Explain the difference between introverts and extroverts to them and help them to understand that there are all types of personalities in the world and that none of them are wrong or undesirable.

6. Stand up for them and speak out if others tease or berate them for their shyness. The next time a stranger says “what’s the matter with you? Are you shy?” – say “s/he just doesn’t feel like speaking right now, we all have days like that” and move on. Those small moments when your child feels understood and protected by you will make a huge difference in the future.

7. Be mindful of social situations and how your child will cope in them, but don’t hold them back because of your own anxieties and fears. If your child indicates that they would like to go to a group, or an event, then embrace their wish, regardless of any concerns you may have about how they will cope socially. They could very well prove you wrong!

8. Help your child with some stress and anxiety management techniques, so that they have something to help them to cope if/when they find themselves in unavoidable anxiety inducing situations. A simple breathing technique, visualisation, or fiddle toy (even just a hair band on their wrist to twiddle) can really help.

9. Build some quiet time into your child’s schedule. Introverts need time away from others to offload and recharge. Don’t be tempted to fill up all of the weekend, or summer holidays with busy activities and play dates, allow some days to have free time at home, with plenty of opportunities for art, music, reading and writing and all important solitude. 

10. Don’t swoop in and rescue them immediately. It can be tempting to hover and helicopter parent a shy, or introverted, child, but while you should absolutely be there, ready and waiting, to help and support on the sidelines, you should allow your child time to experience and resolve things on their own before swooping in to fix things for them – they may just surprise you!

Sarah

p.s: Come and chat with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram 

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You can also sign up for my free parenting newsletter HERE.

5 Ways to Encourage Optimal Baby and Toddler Brain Development

Are you wondering how you can best help your baby or toddler to grow and develop? How to encourage their brain, intelligence, language and physical skills? Perhaps you’re looking at the best developmental toys or activities to buy or do? Actually, it’s a lot simpler (and cheaper) thank you think! Here are the top 5 ways to grow and nurture your child to reach their full potential:

1. Hug them lots!

The best way to help to support your child’s development is to be responsive to their needs. When they cry, pick them up and try to avoid leaving them to cry alone. Babies and toddlers can’t self-settle. They need us to act as external regulators. Holding your baby in your arms helps to secrete hormones which grow the part of the brain responsible for emotion regulation. You can’t ever spoil a child with love or hold them too much!

2. Look after your own mental & physical health.

To be responsive to your baby’s needs, you need to meet your own needs too. This means that looking after your physical and mental health is a key part of helping your baby to develop. We live in a society that is not especially supportive of new parents, having a baby or toddler is hard work at the best of times – during a global pandemic it’s even tougher. If you are struggling do chat with your family doctor, or get in touch with an organisation who can help (I’ve tagged some in this post).

3. Expose them to music.

Music has a wonderful effect on the developing brain, it can help babies and toddlers to feel calmer and also helps with the development of language. You don’t need to have any musical skill or talent though, your child is not that discerning! Singing nursery rhymes (however off key), humming along to a radio station swaying with your baby or toddler in your arms, or making up your own tunes are just perfect.

4. Read to them.

The more words a baby or toddler hears, the larger their vocabulary and their literacy skills will be as they grow. Reading is a lovely way for partners to bond, for instance taking the role of reading a bedtime story every night. Don’t worry if your baby or toddler never looks at the pages, doesn’t seem to pay attention, or would rather eat the book, your reading will still have an impact!

5. Play with them.

Play is the primary tool of learning. You don’t need expensive developmental toys though, simple games of pat-a-cake or peek-a-boo are more than enough. Pull funny faces, blow raspberries and have fun!

Why We Should Use The Correct Anatomical Names for Children’s Genitalia

What should you call your child’s genitals?

The simplest, and most positive, answer is simply – their real names. That means:

For girls: Vulva (the outside part) and Vagina (the inside tube).
For boys: Penis and Testicles (the inside balls) and Scrotum (the outside sac).

This idea makes many parents cringe with embarrassment and disgust. This reaction is the very reason why it is so very important to use the correct anatomical terminology with children (and when I say children, I mean babyhood and up, it’s never too early!). The more adults use these terms around their children, the more likely children are to grow up without the cringe-factor that so many adults struggle with. There is nothing dirty, or inappropriate about the anatomical terminology.

Why else should you use the correct anatomical names? For girls in particular, other names can cause issues with body image and perception. For instance, terms such as ‘front bottom’, ‘wee wee’, ‘bum bum’ and similar, subconsciously imply that the vulva and vagina is somehow dirty and equates it with urine and poo, rather than sexual pleasure and conception/birth. This can absolutely impact the relationship a girl has with her body – and sexual organs – as she grows.

Finally, pet names – ‘floof’, ‘fanny’, ‘minnie’, ‘noonie’, ‘mary’, ‘fairy’, ‘lulu’, ‘willy’, ‘percy’, ‘bits’ and so on, are ambiguous. This means if a child is sexually abused, they may struggle conveying what has happened accurately to an adult. For instance a girl saying “he touched my fairy” may be misconstrued as somebody touching her doll without permission. Using the correct anatomical names is the best way to keep children safe.

Yes, it can feel awkward using the correct names at first, but you soon get over the embarrassment – and actually, it could have a positive effect on you too!

Sarah

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Why Fear and Compliance is not the Same as Respect when Disciplining Children

Our society is obsessed with children respecting adults. As children get older, our focus on this respect for elders increases. We tolerate what we deem as ‘disrespectful behaviour’ from toddlers and preschoolers, but once children are of school age our tolerance wanes. We take their backchat, rudeness and refusal to listen or do what we tell them to do as an indication that they are lacking in respect for us and we meet it with punishments, chastisements and consequences. We are wrong.

Firstly, this apparent disrespect is actually an indication of immature brain development. It isn’t pre-meditated. It isn’t personal. It’s a young person struggling with big emotions and a lack of impulse control. We are the adult here, we need to meet their outbursts with graciousness and understanding, however triggered we may feel by them. Staying calm and mature doesn’t mean we are permissive, or ‘too soft’. It means we are well-informed, conscious of the underlying cause of the outbursts and the impact our response will have. 


Children need the same parenting whatever age they are, 2 or 20 (and anything in between). They don’t need “a firmer hand” as they get older (in fact they almost need more understanding and support!). They need us to be understanding and empathic. They need us to teach by being a great role model. They need us to stay calm and stay connected; these are the groundworks that will help children to learn best.
Punishment, shaming, most artificially imposed consequences and the like don’t earn respect from children, they create the very opposite of respect. They fracture the relationship and create fear of retribution. At best they cause short-lived compliance. They are poor educators and ineffective forms of discipline, whether you have a toddler or a teen. Never confuse fear and compliance with respect – they couldn’t be more different.

If this article has piqued your interest in gentle discipline, check out my new discipline book.  It is released under the title ‘The Gentle Discipline Book‘ in the UK and under the title ‘Gentle Discipline‘ in the USA and Canada. The book covers common tricky behaviours from babyhood right the way through to the teen years and how to cope with them in a gentle and effective way

Sarah

p.s: Come and chat with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram 

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You can also sign up for my free parenting newsletter HERE.

5 Ways to Become a more Playful Parent

Hands up if you struggle to be a playful parent? For some, being playful comes naturally, for others it can feel a little awkward and stilted. If you’re in the latter category, give these tips a try:

1. View play as a ‘must have’, not ‘nice to have’.

We are so busy with adult life, that playing with our children often sinks to the bottom of our to-do lists. Viewing play as important, not as time wasted that could be better spent elsewhere, is the way forward. 15 minutes playing with your child is infinitely more valuable than 15 minutes sending emails, or vacuuming the carpet.

2. Play at your child’s level, not your own.

What does this mean? It means not inventing mature games or activities that you think your child would like, or that you believe to be age appropriate or good developmentally. Watch and observe how your child plays and join in. It doesn’t have to make sense to you and it doesn’t have to have an obvious teaching moment.

3. Reconnect with your inner child.
As we grow we learn to be more self-conscious, we lose the value of play and we lose the skills to be great at it. Sometimes we need to go deep inside and remember how thrilling it is to be silly, how fun it is to lose ourselves in our imaginations. Dig deep and remember what you enjoyed at their age – did you like skipping/jump ropes, jumping in muddy puddles, Painting with your fingers? You’re not too old for those things now!

4. Make everyday chores more playful.
Invent a bedtime song, a tidying up dance, or a family race to get shoes on when it’s time to go out. Play can be incorporated into every aspect of family life. It doesn’t have to be a specific play time to make something more fun.

5. Get into role playing and drama.
Remember how fun it was to play schools, shops, or mums and dads as a child? Role playing/acting out different characters is such a lovely way to play with children, it’s also a great way to encourage them to do things they don’t usually want to do (e.g: pretending to be a dinosaur hunter when brushing teeth, or a grooming chimpanzee when brushing hair).

Sarah

p.s: Come and chat with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram 

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How to Raise a Financially Literate Child

The following is a short excerpt from my book BETWEEN: A Guide for Parents of Eight to Thirteen Year Olds:

Arguably, the way we, as parents and carers, handle our own finances – the example we set to our tweens and what we teach them about money – will be the strongest influence on how they handle their own personal finances as they grow. I’ve always found it strange, and a little worrying, that this area is omitted from school lessons. After all, it’s something we all need to understand as adults and yet our tweens and teens are so ill prepared. I thought I had done a pretty good job when my children were small, until one day, at a festival, my then six- or seven-year-old pointed out a cash machine with a ‘Free money withdrawals’ sign. He called me over and said, ‘Look, Mum – they’re giving away free money. Quick, get some out!’. I spent the next half-hour explaining bank accounts, credit and debit cards and cash-machine withdrawal fees to him, pointing out that sadly, it wasn’t the money that was free, but the withdrawal.


Fast-forward a couple of years and I was sitting in the living room watching TV with another of my sons. An advert came on for a home-equity-release company. My son thought it sounded like a great idea and suggested that we should call the company and request they pay us some money. It took several minutes to explain to him that it wasn’t quite as simple as calling up and requesting free cash.


The financial pitfalls of the modern-day world are complex and many. From understanding payday loans to interest-free credit purchases, buy-now-pay-later schemes and companies offering to buy any vehicle (for considerably less than the market value), there is an urgent need for our tweens to understand the financial world they are about to enter into. And yet there is so little formal schooling on these issues. It’s vital, then, that parents and carers themselves raise their tweens with a sound financial education.

What does your tween need to know about money?
The best way to discuss money with your tween is to bring it up in discussions that happen organically – say, in response to an advert on TV or a real-life event. If you are mindful of the need to teach your tween about money, you will find plenty of opportunities to naturally talk about it.


Pocket money is an important way for tweens to learn about money experientially, as is giving them the opportunity to earn their own money. We’ll look at these ideas a little more later on in this chapter. For now, here’s a list of financial topics that I would aim for your tween to understand as they approach their teen years:

• The difference between a credit and a debit card.
• The difference between a credit balance and debt

• The difference between a prearranged and unauthorised overdraft.
• How interest rates work (for purchases and earning interest on savings).
• How to look at how much credit really costs (including payday loans and personal loans).
• The difference between renting a home and buying one (including how mortgages work).
• How to compare the cost of different items and services.
• How discount codes and coupons work and where to find them.
• How to run a monthly budget.
• How to plan savings (especially for an item or activity).
• How taxes work.
• Household bills and a rough idea of their cost.
• How investments work.
• Why gambling is so risky and why they are unlikely to win (including fruit machines, scratch cards and the like).
• How salaries work – how often they are paid and what the average salary is for a full-time worker in the country you live in.
• How sales work in stores and why they often aren’t as good as they appear (for instance, how the price of an item might be temporarily raised for a few weeks, so that it can then be cut dramatically for a sale, making the reduction appear more generous than it really is).
• How giving to charity and donations work.

So many adults today have a poor understanding of personal finance concepts, and I think this lack of knowledge – among other causes – plays a big part in the levels of personal debt and financial difficulties that many struggle with. We really must not leave our children’s financial instruction to their formal education because it is severely lacking in schools.

I passionately believe that all parents should teach their children to be financially literate and allow them to learn to earn, save, spend, donate and budget money in the safety of the family home from a young age. If we don’t, we are doing our children a huge injustice that may impact them negatively for many years to come.

If you have a tween, or soon-to-be tween, and you’d like to learn how to approach puberty, behaviour, education, relationships, screens, sleep, body-care, raising them to be an ally and more – then you may want to check out Between – *the* guide for parents of 8-13 year olds.

Available to order now in the: UKAustraliaUSA/Canada and Elsewhere in the world

Sarah

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