Welcome to another article of HelpingKids Parent Academy. Today I want to talk about financial literacy for kids, but first a celebration. 🎉 This is now our 18th article since September 2019 and it seems we are getting a few things right. Thank you for your comments and support. As always, feel free to send us questions or topics you’d like us to elaborate on and we’ll do our best to cover those ideas.
I want to talk about Money. Sometimes a dirty word, sometimes an obsessive word, many times, a confusing topic, especially for parents of younger children who are just starting to think about financial literacy for kids.
I am aware this topic doesn’t rank very high in the list of worries for parents. In fact, it is probably more of a curiosity than anything else. Yet, money and our personal approach to it is one of the most important things that will determine our children’s future. I have heard saying that our relationship with money is our relationship with ourselves. Well, I am not so sure but definitely, it is a strong part of who we are.
In this article I want to share with you:
1. General background ideas about financial literacy for kids and parenting
2. Thought-provokers to help you define what is that you’d like to pass to your children about money
3. Tactical ideas on how to help them learn to manage money. This part is mostly for children from 10 onwards, but I am sure you can adapt it to almost any age.
I am very open to this topic and respect equally those people who are ambitious about their financial goals, as much as those that are not motivated by it. I don’t see it as right or wrong but as an opportunity to teach other ideas.
I see money education as a way to teach responsibility, compromise, planning, decision making, and even empathy.
If you think about it, every financial decision we make will have the above connotations and much more. Buying an ice cream after school in the summer could be just a treat my teenager daughter/son chooses to do, but what happens when those treats escalate, when he or she feels she has to go to Starbucks (or the coffee chain of the day) and spend several pounds on treats just because their friends are doing it. It is not a question of money, but the thought process before spending that money.
On another level, think about children saving or raising money for a specific cause (to buy a new phone or to support a charity project). It takes planning, goal setting, decision making, and, in certain cases, a huge degree of empathy.
The decision-making process before parting with money is an important part of financial literacy for kids, what we teach our children and how it affects future decisions.
In one of the links I include below, they have the following quotes (please be aware I haven’t cross-checked them, but they make sense to me):
“Parents are the number one influence on their children’s financial behaviors”
Basically, our approach to money will dictate our children’s relationship, or lack of, with money. Nothing shocking there, parents are always the first and many times the stronger influence in our children, but an important reminder.
Again, not shocking as we know that our children’s personality is almost fully formed by the age of 6. However, it is interesting how wide an effect it can have.
Considering these ideas, it makes a lot of sense that we take some time to think about money.
Many of you are thinking: darn, my kid is 10, I blew it by now? Or “my kid is only two, I don’t have to worry about this for a while.
In both cases, it’d be better to consider your views. In the first case, because, as a life coach for children, I believe and see every day how we all can change and learn differently. In the second case, because the sooner you start thinking about financial literacy for kids, the easier it will be.
In the following part of the article, you will read a lot of ideas for your children. I would like you to consider them also for yourself. Remember that your relationship with money is their first influence. Basically, you have to talk the talk and walk the walk.
So, up to here, the general ideas on Money. Again, not a concern at the same level of anxieties or challenging behaviour, but an important concept nonetheless.
And now, we start with the part defining what is important to us (and hence for our children) about money.
When I was in the corporate world, we constantly repeated the concept of starting with the end in mind (From the 7 habits of highly efficient people, Stephen Covey). I still use it for a lot of my work and in this case, it is a great example of how to use it.
How do we begin teaching financial literacy for kids?
So, starting with the end in mind, fast forward a few years. If your child is below 10 years old, fast forward to when they are fifteen. They start socialising, their demands are more specific (and expensive), the peer pressure is affecting them, they are becoming independent persons. Maybe they have organised fundraising activities for charity or even they have got a job (babysitting, dog walking, chores around the house or for neighbours, etc).
If your child is in the teenage years, take them forward to their early 20’s. They might be living by themselves. They are either in higher education or working. They organise their meals, laundry, etc and social interactions (trips, concerts, evenings out) are a massive part (in time and importance) of their life. again, they will have friends with more and less money, they will see people with expensive clothes and people who can’t go out every evening as they don’t have the cash. You might be their source of income, a complement or they are managing fully by themselves.
Once you have made a picture of what could happen (remember, this is guesswork, only to help the next part), now think about what is important for you to teach your child about money. How do you want him/her to react to money, money issues, wealth, unexpected circumstances etc.
Place them in different situations and see what comes out. Put yourself in the good, the bad, and the ugly of situations. Think, how would you like your child to respond in those situations. Furthermore, think about how you react and see the pattern emerging.
Here are some ideas for developing financial literacy for kids
· How important is it to save money?
· How do you go about saving?
· Do you save for a short-term reason/goal?
· Do you save for security? (you never know when you’ll need extra cash) or because you have extra cash?
· What happens when they ask for their birthday as a very expensive present?
· How do you want them to understand the concept of value?
· Do you prioritise their satisfaction (getting the present) or the money spent?
· Do you give them a budget to think about?
What about their relationship with their peers and money?
Their friends all (it’s never all but they will claim they are the only ones who don’t have it) have the latest phone/shoes/clothing brand.
· What would you want them to do?
· How would you want them to think?
· what would you like them to say to their friends?
· Their best friend’s birthday is coming. This friend is very important for them and they are looking for a present.
· How do you support them on the money front?
· Give them a budget?
· Look for what is right?
· A combination?
· Want to impress their friend with a great present?
· Or think it’s better something personal with a nice handmade card?
Perhaps financial literacy for kids can develop through games.
They are into a computer game and stuck in one level, they can easily do it by spending money on certain gadgets, or they can work themselves through it. They have tried several times and failed.
What is the reaction you’d like them to have?
Imagine them receiving a small but meaningful amount of money.
What would you like them to do with it?
How would they use it?
Treat themselves because they deserve it, go on a trip of a lifetime, save it, save part and treat themselves to something smaller, invite their friends out…
Now, a more left-field idea. Imagine money was a person. How would this person behave, what would this person do, where would be this person’s priorities. What type of things would this person do in his free time?
One thing I have learnt after 10 years of coaching children and parents, is that many people don’t practice the strategies we develop. I wouldn’t be surprised if the vast majority of you don’t do the above exercise. It is fine, but I also know that if you have read so far, you will think about financial literacy for kids. That’s all you need.
Take a bit of time when on the bus or the car or walking the dog to think about it. We don’t need a lot of time, just a few ideas and you’ll be able to form yourself with your own concept of money and understand if that is the one you want to share (pass down) with your children or you need to make some changes yourself.
Maybe you only need one of those questions above, take that one and explore it.
And this part concludes the second area I wanted to share with you: the thought provokes.
Finally, as I said at the beginning, I wanted to share a simple approach that I believe has helped my own daughters and many others. If you have read any of my previous articles, you know that no idea will work for everybody. Hopefully, you will get the important concept behind it and take it or adapt it as you see fit.
Again, there is a lot of information online about pocket money, when to start giving it, how to do it (a fixed amount, based on chores, etc).
I personally think that before the age of 11, the children can get the concept of money, saving and decision making in a general way. Financial literacy for kids will be influenced by the talk and behaviour you display.
It is normally between the age of 10 and 12, when children are about to move to secondary school when they will start managing their own money. It is also here when independent, decision-making and responsibility towards their “income” becomes important.
At this time, parents are faced with important decisions. Do I give them money, how much, what is included in that money, what if they ask for more money. Do I give them money once a week, once a month, or as and when they need it? As before, my job is not to tell you what to do, but to expose you to ideas so you can make your own choice.
An approach that I like for financial literacy for kids is the following:
We start with defining the weekly amount of pocket money you can provide to your children. Be mindful of their lifestyle and how much they truly need. Include what areas of spending are their responsibilities (treats and special purchases) and which ones are yours (i.e. birthday presents for friends, school/sports equipment, etc.
Once you have done this, have a conversation with them. Tell them that they are old enough to manage it and that you trust them to make their own choices. Be also clear on what is included and not. If needed, write it on paper. Likely, you won’t get all the eventualities. When new occasions happen just think for yourself and tell them whether it is within their responsibility or yours.
I recommend then, to open a bank account just for this, set up a direct debit for their allowance, and ensure they have a debit card they can use. Most banks will offer this for young people and you will have access to their transactions. In the UK, when the kid is over 13, they can have direct access to their transactions. At this time most kids will have a smartphone and can download the bank’s app. This is a hugely important part of the process. They have the money, but they also have the mechanism to track their expenditure. It is important they take ownership of this with the full resources.
When they get extra money (birthday, Christmas, etc), ask them (or strongly suggest) if they want to put it in their account so they can keep track. It is very important you also consider how relatives or other adults might be affecting the learning of financial literacy for kids. Sometimes we have “uncle or Auntie” who will give them money for no specific reason. Ensure your children can share that with you as it might mean they are finding themselves with too much money for your goals.
Now, they are ready to start using their money (or not). Give them two or three weeks of no control whatsoever (the card won’t allow them to spend more than they have). After this period, simply ask them: how are you getting on? How much money do you have left? How have you spent the money?
Some children will be able to give you full detail of their expenditure. Others will be very vague, and a few will avoid the topic altogether. This is a very important part as you will start noticing their default approach. Are they keeping track, do they even bother about it? And you can check if those approaches are aligned with what you want them to learn.
Repeat that conversation every week or every other week. Talk to them casually about it, if they go out, ask them how much they spent and how that computes with their allowance (i.e. well if you went to the cafe and spent £2.95 in there, that is more than half/third/a fifth of your allowance, how are you going to get by the rest of the week?).
So far, this will only prepare the groundwork for financial literacy for kids. The interesting conversation happens when there is something they really want and they don’t have money, when they run out of money altogether, or when they are stopping themselves from doing things because of money.
These are the important talks. Whatever you do, be mindful of rescuing them. If you step in, they will likely create the idea that mum and dad’s bank will be there. You will not allow the learning to happen.
Some kids will ask you permission to get a job (or will find a way to get money). Again, that is another decision you might want to help them make. Is it right, is it the priority, what implications it has in their social, academic, and personal life?
I wish I could explain all the possible eventualities, but we would be here forever. Also, I don’t think you need it if you have done your thinking and thought-provoking about how you want to teach financial literacy to kids. It will not give you all the answers, but it might give you the criteria to make the decisions.
I now want to leave you with a personal story.
My daughter, 14 at the time, was not much into saving. She would manage her money, don’t ask much but wouldn’t have much in case of “need”. One day, while doing the supermarket shopping, I asked her: Me: how are you doing with your money? Her: ok Me: how much do you have? Her: I am not sure Me (thinking): hmmmmm what’s going on here. Alarm bells are starting to show Me: well, you have your phone. Why don’t you check? Her: I will later at home when I get wifi Me (thinking): ok, this promises to be interesting. Alarm bells are all going now. Me: It won’t take much, please do it. Her (moaning and not wanting to do it, eventually caves in) Her: I have £7 Me: oh… as it is Saturday morning, you got your direct debit for £5 yesterday and you didn’t go with your friends, it means you had £2 in your account. Her: ……. Me: oh well. You better think about it. I was tempted to give her some money. I didn’t want her to stop doing things with her friends or to feel less than them. But I didn’t do it. She didn’t ask for it either which was very encouraging. She blew it up but owned it. Now, the not-so-clear part. A couple of days later, we met the lady selling their Big issue in a supermarket close to our house. I frequently stop and have a chat with her. I was walking with my daughter. When the lady sees us she says: oh, this is your daughter? I didn’t know that? She is so nice, every time she sees me here she asks me if I want something. She gets me a chocolate bar or something. She is so nice. And that’s when I melted. I struggled with the decision. She has to own/manage her own money, but she is also showing generosity and not even asking for emotional credit from me. I had no idea she was doing this. I then opted to top her account a bit, ensuring she knew it was because of her good heart and generosity. We still had a chat about her managing her money and she came across as a lot more conscious of the need to do so. I found that this process was a huge learning for them as well as for me. It has clearly opened conversations that we wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for it. And that is for me in this article. I hope you enjoyed it and gave you some food for thought.
As always, please take the ideas and adapt them to your situation. There are many ways of going about any topic, the important part is to be clear on what you want them to learn and how you contribute to it.
Hello and welcome to another article, this time I want to share with you a very hot topic: children and technology
I must admit I have been putting this back in my list of articles. In my conversation with parents and children it is almost as controversial a topic as homework. Also, on a personal level, I wasn’t sure if I was getting it right for either my daughters or myself. This was until a few things happened and the result and feedback encouraged me to go ahead and share my experiences and strategies with you.
There is another reason for me to write this article: I have seen parents taking two strategies to deal with children and technologyand neither of them works in the long term.
Option 1: very limited or no technology policy
Option 2: let them regulate themselves, as long as their work is done it’s ok.
If you are in one of those approaches, I truly wish you the best. If you can make it work, let me know.
Let me start narrating what a 15 years old told me.
“Javier, I wake up at 7, and from the very first minute, I am tense. I know I have a long day ahead of me. I go to school thinking about if I got my homework right, if I will get caught by a teacher doing something I shouldn’t, or maybe they think I am doing something I shouldn’t. I must put all my attention into lessons because it is an important year. All through the day in school, I feel under pressure. When I get home, I am mentally tired, and yet I have two or three hours of homework to do. The only way for me to let some steam out is with the Xbox. I play mostly fortnight because it’s quick, and I am good at it. If I don’t do well, I can have another short game. I evade myself; it is fun and I can do well. There are no expectations. Then, I realise I have wasted an hour or two and now it is late, I am more tired than before and less able to concentrate, yet I have to do the homework, my tension is off the scale. My mum comes and tells me off, I know she is right, but I can’t accept it. She is the one putting pressure on me. Well, she is not always doing it, but my problem is the same. At this point, I am only panicking.” This is often a problem with children and technology as a means of procrastination. I mention tips for motivating kids for homework in a previous article you can read it here.
I don’t want to sound scaremongering. Of course, there are thousands of children who play games and use technology that doesn’t go through this process. However, as a dad/mum, do you want to take your chances?
Now, let me give you another very different example about children and technology.
Lola is a very articulated, charming 10 years old girl. All her school friends have an iPad, they use it in school and most of them are creating groups to text each other or play. She is fuming because her mum has a no-technology policy. This is what she says to me:
“Mr Orti, I don’t get it. I am the only one. I thought there were two or three more in my class, but everybody has the iPad, they are sending themselves messages, I am totally excluded. I must make up excuses to not give them my email or details. I tell them my iPad is being repaired because I am so ashamed of being the only one. They all can do whatever they want. I have all this rules and policies that my mum says, and I am very upset and angry. It is not fair; I am the only one. Everybody else has their iPads”
You can think the two examples of children and technology are very different (a boy, a girl, ipad, Xbox, texting, playing, talking with friends, evasion from pressure) and you are right. However, you would be missing the role that technology has in those kids lives. And that role is the same.
Fundamentally, children are using technology for one single purpose: to connect.
Many children use it to connect with their peer group, other children use it to connect with themselves. The latter is what we normally would see as evading themselves, letting behind the busy life and stress and finding a safe space.
When I see young teenagers using Snapchat, Instagram or Tiktok, what they are doing is creating a virtual world/bubble of safety (or so they think) for themselves.
Imagine their use of technology as your use of imagination when you were a child. I can imagine you are thinking this is a silly analogy, but it is not far from the truth.
When we were kids, we would spend hours (at least I did and not always at the right times as some of my teachers will testify) in our heads, creating a safe world of adventures, or fun, or connection. I can think, for most people, those worlds would be populated and there might be challenges, and good guys and bad guys. And we would overcome those challenges, and we would feel amazing and relaxed and having fun.
Well, when children tell me about Minecraft, or Fortnite, it is not a million miles away. It is just that they are doing it via a device rather than their imagination.
So, we could say, children and technology it is not so bad then? In the end, they are just using their imagination through a device.
Well I don’t believe in black or white statements and there is one part that we haven’t yet talked about.
While our imaginary worlds could be amazing, we would either have it on our head or we would need our friends to create them.
Technology allows them to share those worlds or imagination. This forms an even stronger sense of belonging. They share their experiences and they belong to the group. This fact reinforces the sense of connection to a disproportionate level.
So, when a young person is spending time on their games, they will have many reasons, but the fundamental need that is being fulfilled is the need to evade to a world where they feel connected.
There is a big part, too big for this article about children and technology to go into detail about their need for connection. The reality is that the more connected they feel with their family and physical friends, and stronger sense of belonging they have, the less important that technology will be. So, what is driving their need for connection? or in a different way: what is driving their sense of being left out?
As I said, that is a topic for another whole article as what I want to do on this one is to propose strategies for you to guide your thinking, approach to technology and how your children use it.
Here is my experience from hundreds of sessions of life coaching teenagers.
Let’s start with the basics, according to me. Technology, like most things in this life, is not either good or bad. It is what we make of it. Also, like it or not, our world has changed, and our children are living and will live in a world different from us. They will live in a world in which technology will play a fundamental part in their lives.
I have heard the concept that the future generations will be divided (unfortunately human race does always separate) between those that understand and manage technology and those that don’t.
I am sure you have heard or read headlines about how Silicon Valley parents are raising their kids, technology free. I have done some research and have only found anecdotal information about this and, when expressed, it was more a question of restricting usage rather than avoiding it.
As mentioned, this article is not so much about technology, yes or not. It is about how to manage children and technology in a way that empowers children now, and in the future.
Here are my two principles for what I will share with you next:
1. I believe in teaching and empowering children to make decisions in an age appropriated way.
2. Children are not mature to make many decisions and you cannot delegate the one about use of technology. However, you can help them learn.
What I want to say is that, as much as I love my children and want to empower them to make the right choices, I would not give my 14 years old my car keys or let her open a bottle of whisky.
As parents, we have spent a lot of time teaching our children right from wrong (tell the truth, don’t lie, do your homework, don’t play with knives, look before you cross the road, which movies are appropriated for each age). Yet, we haven’t done the same for technology. In many cases, we have delegated that responsibility to them by the mere fact that we haven’t taken it.
Well, it is our responsibility. Any kid below the age of 16, in my opinion, is not suited to make the call of how they use technology.
Going back to my two principles. It is our responsibility and now the question is to help them make their age appropriate choices.
This works in two levels: firstly, it is which games, apps, etc will they be exposed to. Secondly, it is about how long they can use it.
Start thinking about those but be ready to adapt your decisions to your children and technology (keeping your criteria). Then you can continue with the rest of the article.
I am now going to fast forward and assume that a big proportion of you reading this article are finding themselves in the difficult situation of managing your child’s usage of technology (i.e. time). I am going to assume that your young person doesn’t have any restrictions.
Here is a strategy to adopt that has worked very well.
I have built it up in steps and I hope this helps you see the process. If you have read other articles, you’ll know I do like my processes.
Step 1: First things first: start with the data
Use your phone, tablet, or computer data before you do anything. In general, we will all be poor judges of our habits, (we will tend to overestimate what we are doing well and underestimate what we are doing wrong (have you seen the tv program: secret eater?). Your child, of any age, will struggle to give you an accurate estimation of the number of hours (I don’t think you can do this in minutes) they spend on the screen. Using real data is a must if you want to have a reasonably adult to adult conversation.
If you can’t extract data, time them over a few days before you have the conversation, set up parental controls to time them (not to control them yet).
I can imagine this first step of dealing with children and technology overuse can be painful for some of you and your children. It wasn’t easy either for me, but it is critical to do it. An option is to do this as a group, for instance, you will install and share the same information with them reg your usage.
Step 2: have the first conversation (yes, the first, there are a few more to come).
I call it explain the situation. In this conversation it is fundamental to keep a level-headed approach, simply stating what you have observed. It would go something like:
I want to talk to you about your screen time. I have been observing it and I think it is a bit out of control. I have noticed how; on average you have used your phone/iPad/computer for almost two hours per day.
I know it might seem little but if you consider this is 14 hours per week, it is like a whole awake day per week spent on your screen when you could have been doing loads of other things.
I am a bit worried about this and wanted to let you know.
At this point, stop it there and let them explain themselves. Don’t engage in conversations or challenge their assumptions. Simply mention that it is way too much.
Step 3: Defining the problem and setting up the rules.
After a few weeks (two or three is good enough) of continuous monitoring, you will find out that nothing or very little has changed (if it has improved, give them a medal!). It is time to have the second conversation. Again, remained calmed and fact based. If your kids are struggling with homework, exams or other areas they like it is a good time to bring it in. For instance:
A few weeks ago, we talked about your screen time. I have noticed nothing or very little has changed. At the same time, I have noticed your grades haven’t benefited from this (or have noticed you anxious about your friends, or tired in the mornings). Now I am a bit worried and I am not sure you are conscious of how much you are using the screen/games/etc.
I trust you are a clever boy/girl and you can make your own choices, but unless something changes, I will need to make the choice myself. Should we give it a few weeks and see what happens? But I must warn you that unless you manage this, I will have to step in.
My experience is that this will generate some short-term benefit, however most likely it will quickly revert to usual habits.
It is also important to define what you think is a suitable use forchildren and technology. There are loads of information online about this and you can use some of the links below to make up your mind. Obviously, this will depend by age group and maybe you want to bring some weekend/weekday flexibility.
Step 4: Activating the rules.
Now, assuming your children are like the vast majority, is when the potential argument happens. In order to defuse it, we will take a three-step approach. It is time to limit the usage, but it is important to ensure you don’t make a personal fight of this. There was an agreement, you gave them the choice (in several occasions) and they haven’t full-filled their part of the bargain. Here is a small script:
I am afraid nothing much has changed. We agreed to limit your screen time to certain times and a maximum number of hours, and you are still well over what we decided. I am afraid I need to set up some blocks, but I want to do it in a way that helps you. I understand it is important for you, so we have to get to an agreement.
I suggest blocking it during homework time and at certain times before bed time.
Or: I suggest you have a maximum number of hours (hour) per day.
I am not going to limit you to those hours as I know it can be annoying, but I want to trust you and you will make the right choice.
I must admit I feel a bit bad about this because it is almost setting them up for failure, however it is also a big generation of self-awareness. At this point, please continue to bring up the things they like they are not doing or the things they need to do (homework, grades, reading) that they are not achieving. This part is hugely important as it will dictate the next step.
Step 5: Implement the limits.
Now, there is no need to wait a few weeks. A few days will be enough. Most likely they will not change their habits and after a few days, while the conversation and “agreement” stills clear in their mind, prepare for the difficult conversation. It goes something like this:
This is the fifth conversation we have about this and nothing has changed. I have given you as many chances as I could, but I haven’t seen any result. It is now time for me to totally limit the time you spent on screen and when you can use it.
In this step, technology is your ally again. Use the available blocking technology and parental controls rather than physically engaging in shutting down the computer or taking their phones away, this way you can prevent some friction with children and technology while still creating an important boundary reminder.
“I will block the computer for a number of weeks. You still have X minutes during the day, and I am happy to extend that on the weekend to X more minutes.”
My personal advice here: in for a penny, in for a pound. It will be annoying to them and it is likely you will have at least one argument; you might as well go the full length and limit it as much as necessary. You can always give them something back and they might thank you. The other way around (taking further time away from them) will only result in regular conflict.
Step 6: review.
In my experience, you will need between three to six weeks to establish new habits. It is important you don’t deviate from the plan. Be aware they are crafty kids and they will look, and most likely, find ways to bend the rules (find passwords to unlock it or spend time in their friends’ phone). After this week, you will notice a big change in the family dynamics. They will still not like it and you can give them the sporadic change of routine, however, be mindful that if you break the rules too much, it will be hugely difficult to re-establish them.
Step 7: Give them some lead way.
Assuming all has gone according to plan after one or two months, you can have another conversation with your children and technology use. Think about holidays or weekend flexibility, This is about devolving a small part of responsibility to them, under the agreement of sensible usage. For instance, if you have hugely limited their use of screen (i.e. 15 or 30 mins per day) you can give them special dispensation for the weekends. It is important to use this to rather than break the rules, to reinforce them.
“I have noticed how responsible you have been on your screen time (not that they had an option) and I am so pleased. I have noticed you …. (sleeping better, more focussed, less anxious, talking more with us, spending more time with your siblings/friends). I think we can open up the rules a bit but only a bit, you are still in school and it is important to not change them too much. Also, I am counting on you to be mindful on how you use it.”
In this stage, it is important to understand that you can only give them the time you are happy for them to use. Expecting too much from them will only result in frustration.
And this is it. This is my strategy for helping empower children and technology and the one I explain to many parents. I am aware there are thousand of variations (i.e. I need to use the computer for my school work) but I hope it gives you an indication on how to go about it.
Finally, a hugely important point:
how will you do this for yourself? Chances are that you are also abusing your screen time when at home. What is a good amount of time for you? How will you limit it?
You can take this approach and do it with your children, rather than for them, creating something together, spending time playing, talking, cooking, etc.
Are you finding it scary the thought of parting with your phone? if so, it only says that you really need to get going. If it’s not scary, remember we are all poor judges of what we do, get your screen time data and see what you think.
I hope you liked the article about children and technologyand have got some ideas on how to go about it. As always, take the concept and adapt it to your personal situation. It is important you start a process you feel you can deliver. Changing the rules halfway through or not monitoring or avoiding the conversation will not help them.
Have a lovely day and do let us know how you get on with it.
In this article I wanted to talk about how to raise happy kids without falling in to the trap of providing happiness
I Just want my child to be happy.
Hello, and welcome to this article. I seem to be developing a habit of calling out the traps. While it is not a language I normally use, I can see these habits in a lot of my work and sometimes, a flashy title helps people understand the concept better.
In the previous article, we talked about the fairness trap. It is not fair! Your kid making of right and wrong or fairness a battle and parents failing to keep up.
In this article I want to call your attention over another topic, the sympathy trap. I am conscious many of you will read this and think I am a cold-blooded person, or a parent/coach out of the nineteen centuries. Well, I am not. I consider myself a tremendously caring person with very modern and well-trained views on parenting and supporting young children.
So, let’s start from the beginning.
When I ask parents, what is that they want for their children, everybody says the same: I just want them to be happy.
so far so good.
So, as modern parents, how do we go about having happy kids?
In my experience, I have noticed a confusion between – Helping and supporting our children to be happy – Giving them happiness.
What is the difference?
For me, the first is the role of an educator. The parent helps the children understand and learn how to make decision, what is right/wrong and how they can achieve their own goals.
The second, is the role of a provider. I give the children what they need to be happy kids or what they and/or I think they need to be happy.
In the hundreds of conversations, I have with parents, I haven’t seen yet one that admits doing the second more than the first, however their behaviour is very different from their thoughts. Think about how many times you had to go back to school because your child forgot their homework, or the notes written to the teacher excusing the kid from something they don’t feel like doing.
On a more extreme side, think about all those side-lines football parents. How they shout and confront referees or coaches because they are being unfair to their children.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. The second is a lot easier than the first. The main reason is because we feel more in control of the outcome. If I go and complain to the school/teacher I am certain I will pull my weight and they will do something about my kid. However, if I work with my child to prepare him for a conversation with his teacher, he might be taken for a ride and nothing will change.
Before we go any further. I want to share something that I see as fundamental in my work as a life coach for children and teenagers. Just bear in mind that these ideas (age groups) will vary depending on the maturity of the kid.
Fundamentally, this theory (which I learn ages ago but can’t seem to find where I learnt it) says that in our early years we evolve in chunks of three years (0-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, 13-15. 16+). What I have observed is that the kids needs from us vary significantly in each of those stages, however we are not always ready to adapt our role.
Here is a brief summary of what I think is important in each stage to support happy kids. Of course, it is for you to assess and decide. My main goal is to prompt you to think on how your role change as they change.
0 to 3 years old
We provide a nurturing safe space for our children. We care for them, their education, their social interaction and we surround them with love.
4 to 6 years old
The child starts school and socialise more. We provide them with academic and social support. We spend time talking to parents and teachers to ensure they are surrounded by great people and they have the best experience possible in this important formative years for supporting happy
If there is a problem (i.e. friendship issues) they tend to be small and reasonably “easy” (for the lack of a better word) to resolve. We talk to them, talk to the teacher or whoever to resolve it and restores their happiness.
I see as critical that we start talking to them about choices and options. This will be in an age relevant way and only on the topics that are suitable to them. However, this can also be brought up when conflict happens
A couple of examples: – “I know you are upset for us not doing what you wanted, you have the choice to continue being upset and we will probably get upset as well, or you have the choice to understand our decision.”
“You know it is your bed time. You have the option of going to bed, or reading in bed for a few minutes. It is your choice”
I always advice parents to provide a limites number of choices for them to think about. Two is ideal, but you can suggest three if needed. All those options will be aligned with your primary goal. Giving them a sense of ownership and responsibility will build mutual trust.
7-9 years old
Things are starting to get more difficult. The social interactions (best friends, birthday parties, etc) are getting more complex. The dynamic is changing. Academic (school and homework) are becoming more demanding and we really want them to be successful, happy kids in all those areas. We spend loads of time with them, we talk to the football coach, spent hours in cold weather watching them play football. Tell them how great they are, buy them new sports kit, provide tutoring and aim to give them great birthday parties and christmas is again full of joy for us.
At this time, we also start noticing how some of our effort is not being appreciated. That expensive toy they wanted, sits there unused for weeks. There are some more arguments around about work, decisions or bed time. The child start sharing what other parents do (aren’t they all better than you? They give them more money, buy them more expensive stuff or allow them to have much more freedom). Yet, we aim to compensate that and provide our best for them. If we need to stop treating ourselves to something, we’ll gladly do it and they will have what they need to succeed.
Yet, every now and then we have the doubt of saying: why am I pushing myself? Is it really being appreciated? But we dismiss those thoughts and continue our taxi driver duty to take them to every possible activity, our teacher duty to ensure they have the work well for next day, cooking and cleaning duty is a given. We just want them to be well, happy kids and to give them all the possibilities to succeed
I think this stage is crucial (as well as the next) to educate our children in decision making and choices. It is important to set some balance between them and us. to ensure the accept our efforts and recognise them, not desiring praise or constant positive comments about our great parenting efforts, but as a recondition that everybody in the family have their role and responsibilities.
At this age, children are now realising they are not toddlers anymore. They have mixed feelings between all the comfort they had when being a young boy or girl and the desire to start testing their independence. It is our role to help them realise they are growing up and they have a lot to look forward to.
10-12 years old
Big change to secondary school and becoming pre-teens. Their social life is taking off. The possible concerns are more marked and there are great highs and big lows.
Our role is pretty much the same as in the group before (provide everything they need) but the demands are becoming more difficult to meet.
If you remember one thing from this stage: teach them decision making. This means, help them assess what’s happening, what the possible solutions or outcomes, help them identify what is the right criteria to make a choice (within their area of responsibility. You have yours, they have theirs) and take ownership of making it happen and the consequences of it. Expanding autonomy and responsibility from this stage is important in developing thriving, happy kids.
At this age, hey might choose to stop learning music, or give up football. You have taken them so far, now they can make their own choice. If they chose to give up something, feel happy you exposed them to it. You can continue exposing them to new choices (new sports, new activities, etc) but, in my view, it is now their decision.
As mentioned several times. This has to be put in the context of what areas they can chose and what areas are off limit for them. For instance, going to school is not a choice they can take. Where to go on holidays, can be brought up for discussion but it is the parent’s choice as it involve finances and time (both of them precious). However, giving up flute, mandating or karate can be their choice.
My rule of thumb is: if I feel they gave it enough opportunities to make a decision, I will let them make it.
The more they learn about decision, the better prepared they will be for the next stage.
13-16 years old
Independence. Happy kids want to do things on their own and we allow them to take freedom. They have a nice mobile phone, they have money to buy clothes or go out with their friends. Most children will be perfectly loving and have a solid social and academic environment, however from time to time the arguments come up. The social interactions are way more difficult than anytime before, the potential conflict seems to be out of our reach to help them with. As parents, it is fair to say that we might feel out of our depth in how to help them deal with situations.
This stage is in critical combination with the previous. Independence comes with responsibly and decision making. They will only make good use of their independence if they have learnt to make choices, to understand what is right for them and what they won’t accept.
I am aware what I will write next might scare you, but I think it’s important for you to see it this way.
When you sweet boy or girl is 14yo, they will go out with their friends. They will go to the park after school, they will start coming home later, some friends will have parties and they will be invited. As neither you nor them what them to feel the odd one out, they will go to some of those parties. You won’t be there. Maybe even no other adult will be there.
Other kids, will bring alcohol, or pull out a joint of weed. They will offer it and pass it around.
They might start flirting and having some sort of emotional relationship.
In all those moments and many more, they will have to make decisions, the hardest ever as they will be under peer pressure (omg, they are all having a go a the vodka, maybe I should do it as well). The only way to help them make the right decision, is to help them learn about decision making and the responsibility that comes with their independency.
As you can imagine, I can continue writing forever, especially about helping parents to raise thriving, happy kids. But as a way of finishing this article, I wanted to leave you with a simple thought.
There is an outdoor clothing company called Berghaus. Their tag line is: Trust is earned.
I believe my role is to educate children to be able to earn the trust they desire.
I hope you found this article useful. Please continue reading other articles and let me know your thoughts. The beauty is in the combined learning, every article will provide further information and different perspectives. Then you can chose how to go about it.
In this week’s article, I am going to discuss building resilience and why resilience is important.
Sometimes the hardest part of parenting topics are the ones that you never thought about. I know this through many years of life coaching teenagers. We all talk about sleep issues, toilet training, teenagers and sex or drugs. Yes, of course, I am not saying any of those things are easy. Far away from it. However, we already have myriads of sources of information on those. We all have friends who tell you “just get ready for the sleepless nights” or “wait until your daughter becomes a teenager”.
I respect people giving their best advice and aiming to help. However, prophesying about everything that will go wrong in the future is rarely helpful.
Anyway, (if you have read some of my articles you will know by now that I do ramble a bit) for good or for bad, we have time to think about those situations, and we can even start planning for those. However, in all honesty, we rarely do notwithstanding that building resilience is a very important skill for children and parents alike.
Guidance through a small crisis can help a child to build resilience.
There is a range of parenting topics that nobody tells us about. Fortunately, through life coaching teenagers, I see this lapse all the time. Here are a few examples: How do I react when my child is pushed in the playground? Or when he/she falls face flat and has a bleeding nose? How do I help when their best friend is not their best friend anymore and they feel rejected and isolated? Or when they feel the teacher is not listening to them? What about when, most likely in secondary school, they struggle to fit in or make friends? These are some of the instances when it is priceless to have good parenting skills.
I know most of us will have mix feelings about those situations. Some will think: it is hardly the end of the world (“come on, stand up and go to play again), others will opt for sympathy (“oh, dear me, are you ok, come here with mum/dad”), others will become very directive (“what you have to do is…” or “next time you tell him/her…”).
It is not my role or my intention to challenge any of those approaches. I believe every parent is doing the best they can every day towards building resilience in their children. Successful parenting often requires that you approach every situation from a different angle.
My intention is to help you think from a different perspective. Think about your reactions and the underlying message that you are sending. Does it help your child in building resilience or not? Once we understand that underlying message, we can assess if it is the long term idea we want them to learn.
Here are two
examples. In this case, I am using my own experience with my daughters.
Daughter number 1 is around 18months old. We are spending a beautiful day in the playground. She is understandably excited and pacing around. At a certain point, she falls. Nothing serious but enough to get a good fright (her and I) and a very loud cry. Here is a tip I learned in my first aid course with Red Cross ages ago; the louder a victim cries, the less priority is it to you. Well, don’t ask me why, but as I calmly walked the few meters distance to her I was considering what the heck to do.
So, I came up with an idea. I put her up and said a few soothing words, I cleaned her hands and chest of sand and then I said: this a naughty floor, isn’t it! I think we have to tell him he is naughty. Now, picture a 35 years old dad talking with a floor and telling him off. I just had no idea what to do or how to stop my daughter crying.
After I repeated “naughty floor” a few times and smacked it (careful here. In my enthusiasm, I overdid it and hurt my hand), to my surprise my daughter joined in. A few seconds later, we were both telling off the floor for being naughty and asking “it” not to do it again. Did this little drama teach you something about practical parenting and building resilience in children?
In between jokes, this became part of our family tradition. We told off the floor, the steps, the corners when we hit them, the tree, etc. I have been thinking a lot about what I did and how it impacted my daughter. Through life coaching teenagers, I have been able to change the orientation of children so fast that their parents start wondering the source of my magic. I am not going to claim that the response with my daughter is perfect neither is it one of the must-have good parenting skills. But it did two things;
1) deflected the attention from the pain
2) rather than playing the victim culture, it empowered her and helped her build resilience.
We are all human,
and sometimes we get it wrong.
As I write, I am thinking, maybe I should have changed the order in which I told this story. I am going from “success” to “not-successful”. Anyways, something tells me to tell it this way. It is a good thing to go from the known to the unknown, right?
Fast forward to a few months, or years—I wish I could be more exact—and my daughter is around 3 or 4 years old. One Sunday morning we go to the supermarket to buy a full English Breakfast for ourselves and visitors. The first thing we do is to get one of those large bottles of milk (the four pints, or 2.2lt). As we walk in, my daughter, eager to help says, “Daddy, can I help? Can I carry it?” I was conscious it was a bit on the heavy side, but who am I to stop her from feeling helpful? We spent a bit of time in the supermarket.
Every now and again I asked her if she was OK, “Yes daddy, I can do it”, she said, and we continued. As we approach the cashier we see two people ahead of us. The shop is almost deserted, and I am planning for a quick return home and a nice breakfast. Suddenly…. a massive splash and milk everywhere. I am not sure what I said or did. However, after checking she was fine, the shock, embarrassment, and confusion kicked in.
She said, “Daddy, it was an accident”.
Me, looking lovingly at her and finally having an idea of what to say and do, said, “Of course, honey. It was an accident”.
I wasn’t going to be hard on a well-intentioned 3 or 4 years old girl,
Well, let me tell you. I think this was one of my biggest mistakes.
The moment she blamed the event on an accident (definition: an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury), she was not to blame. That was her one step slip from building resilience. Growing through life coaching teenagers I now realize that one thing parents battle with is finding the balance between love and discipline. Now, I am not in the blaming game, but the side effect of this is that she didn’t take responsibility. Therefore, it obviously wasn’t a learning moment. At that instance, my daughter was disempowered. Maybe I am being a bit strict, but that’s how I see it. Much about practical parenting is about looking beyond the immediate action. Successful parenting pictures the future impact of our decisions on the child.
Funny enough, for the following years—I am not making a causation point here, just a correlation—she was very clumsy. There was an accident in the kitchen with the glass of water when dropping my phone or when leaving the crayons on the carpet, etc.
So, what is that I learned? That to resolve something, we have to take ownership. If I am permitted to rate good parenting skills, this will be my top pick. The moment we do this, we are responsible and learn from what we did (not some vague accident). Each time we shift blame away from ourselves, we miss the opportunity to learn from that mistake. Most importantly, through learning, we create the magic word we hear so much: resilience.
And linking to the first example above: the moment we empower our kids to resolve an issue, we empower their confidence and help them in building resilience.
I can imagine some of you saying: he is taking it too far. Taking every
single situation as a learning moment or making a big fuss of small things seems
way over the top and tiring for the kids and for me.
And if you are thinking this, you are partly right, at least in my opinion. It can be tiring, and it can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be great fun too. Everything depends on how you do it and how much fun you want to have from those events.
How can we help young children in building resilience?
As with every parenting topic I write, I want to give you a few ideas on what to look for and what you can do. I am not assuming these ideas will work for everybody, but, through life coaching teenagers, I can tell that maybe one of them will work for you. Who knows, as you read you could come up with other practical parenting ideas that will work for you.
Now, I want us to picture a few good parenting skills and how you can adapt your style to help your kids in building resilience. Please take this as suggestions and always modify these ideas to;
1) your taste and how you feel about them
2) your child and what you feel they can accept at each point in time.
These are the most frequent advice I share with parents and teachers. I have heard loads of positive feedback about how it has helped their successful parenting drive. I hope they also help you.
Here we go: Building resilience in children
Physical distance. It is normal for young kids to want to be on you or glued to your leg. As they grow, encourage them to extend the distance from you, allow them to go to the next aisle in the supermarket while shopping, to ramble in the park playground. Allow them to develop that feeling of looking out for themselves while being reassured of their safety by your presence. This could be a good excuse to have a night out with your partner while they are cared for by a trusted person. This sounds like nothing you have seen in courses on parenting topics, right? While it is important to teach our kids to be mindful of strangers, let’s do it from the point of caution rather than fear.
“Can you help me?” This is a great telltale. When surrounded by adults, Children will aim to avoid mistakes and a lot of time, they will ask for help. This could be opening a jar or doing homework. Successful parenting, in this case, is about teaching them how to do it. Subsequently, you let them do it. Ideally, they will be successful sometimes. It is important to remember that simply because they do things once, it doesn’t mean they feel equipped to do it again. This is what I call “how many times till”. What it means is: how many times do my child need to do something, reasonably successfully, before they feel comfortable to do it by themselves. Observe your child and make some assumptions. This is one of the good parenting skills you need to develop; being observant. Of course, there will be things they only need one or a few repetitions (most likely because it is easy or they’ve done the job/repetitions before). Other times, they will aim to avoid doing the thing. At such instances, successful repetition is critical for them to gain confidence and success. Be sure to guide them, but not doing it for them (or mostly doing it for them).
Silences. This is probably one of the most frustrating actions for parents. The child hides behind them and doesn’t talk to her auntie or her friend. It is also one of the, in my practical parenting opinion, hardest to overcome. At this point, it is crucially important to dedicate yourself to help him or her out of the habit. I am not saying we all have to be extroverts. I respect introverts and thank goodness they are here (I am not one of them). For me, the goal is determining if the child is happy with that behaviour or unhappy for the lack of connection. If the child is unhappy, we can do loads of things—which you will find in most parenting topics—to help them out. Encourage new activities, play days, bring new people (cousins, neighbours, kids, or classmates) home. Think about how to help them socialise in safe groups and slowly increase the changes. It is likely going to take a long time. However, you will see how eventually they adopt those new behaviours.
Obsession with winning. For good or for bad, our society is obsessively geared towards a winning or losing mentality. Let’s be honest, what is the most frequently asked question after your child’s Sunday football? “Did you win?” followed closely by “Did you score?” I understand these are important. However, what if we were to ask: did you enjoy it? What do you think you did well? How do you feel you played? See how these questions take away the pressure of winning or losing. The situation is that a lot of children feel they need to be at the top (score, class or whatever) to please their parents. On many occasions, the parents are not consciously promoting this idea, but the children still feel they need to do it. I don’t suggest you ignore the outcome all together (at the end of the day, we want them to achieve good marks). Nevertheless, balance the focus on outcome vs the ability they used to achieve it (concentration, creativity, determination, etc.). I am planning to write a detailed successful parenting article on this point. Look forward to it.
Playground, friends or school interfering. This is a similar approach to “can you help me?” when relating to third parties. This is especially critical when they are having friendship issues or struggle with a particular teacher. I am aware it is a delicate topic and, as with everything above, please, use your common sense and do what you feel is right. I am aware many young children will avoid conflict, and it is not the same as a sporadic argument with a friend that is consistently bullying them. However, here is a simple technique I took from one of my daughter’s school. Think TAG. T: tell them you don’t like it. A: ask them to stop G: get an adult. By using those three steps, we are encouraging children to take the first two steps in resolving conflict. Consequently, we are giving them an exit strategy (safety net) if it doesn’t work by involving an adult. But more importantly, we are allowing them to build resilience and confidence through their own accomplishments.
These are the most frequent advice I share with parents and teachers looking for practical parenting skills. I have heard loads of positive feedback and I hope they also help you.
Helping our kids to grow up into confident, happy and resilient adults is an everyday job. Some days we’ll get it wrong. That’s fine. We just have to use our own resilience and say, how will I do it next time? Other times we’ll get it right and feel really proud of our achievement. Those days we tell everybody! Just kidding.
Hello again in this week’s article about good parenting skills we are going to tackle the unthinkable: Teaching children responsibility through tidying up.
After 10 years working as a life coach for kids and parent coaching expert, and 14 years since my first daughter was born, I have noticed something obvious. There are a handful of crunch points in our daily routine with our children that trigger us. Simple things that we do every day and yet, we manage to get them wrong pretty much every time. Ok, maybe not every time. However, getting it right is the exception rather than the norm.
I am talking about morning school run, eating habits, homework, bedtime and the topic for this article: tidying up.
I am aware the standards change from home to home. However, in my peculiar case, it happens that my wife is tremendously tidy. She is a Tetris master of the universe in placing things in the kitchen cupboard. Her drawers seem to be organized with a ruler, and her jumper folding skills could pass an SAS Sargent inspection with flying colours.
I am not so organized, but I do like a clean room, bath towels hanging up rather than on the floor, and shoes, if not in the shoe cupboard, at least paired up nicely rather than all in pile at the entrance of the house (I just hope my mum is not reading this because she will be laughing out loud as this has been a late development for me).
While the children are young, understandably, we do most the tidying up for them. However, as they start becoming more independent and have a lot more stuff, things start getting out of control. This is exacerbated if you have several kids. In my case, I have two daughters, and I have all the respect for those that have more. Even with two daughters and the advantage of being a life coach for kids, I sometimes think I need to attend parenting classes too. Hats off to you guys, you deserve a statue in Trafalgar Square.
responsibility prevents arguments and strengthens family bonds.
For the last 14 years, I have been acutely aware of the home routines around tidying up. You may also find this article on tidying up interesting. I also grow very discontent with the arguments that this can trigger (“how many times I told you …..”), the last-minute rush (“have you seen my trainers, I left them here, and I can’t find them” “where is my maths book. I left it on my desk”) or those calls from school in the middle of the morning, most likely when you are in a meeting or about to get on the bus/underground/car, saying how they forgot their sports kit or homework and if I can bring them to school. I won’t stop emphasizing that coaching kids is a tough job. Also, being a life coach for kids expert doesn’t make it easier for me.
As you can tell, the whole point of this article is much broader than tidying up. It is about teaching children responsibility, to own their actions and be conscious that failing to do them has some consequences. Let’s assume we are having parenting classes. I will be using tidying up to illustrate all those points.
In my many conversations with parents during parent coaching sessions we often talk about their routines. When casually talking about their home routine, I notice a pattern. The parents take on all those responsibilities from early on and through the years, take on more and more stuff, while the children take on less and less. Most parents think “the little ones already have homework and school to deal with” or “it is faster if I do it” or “they don’t know how to do it”. There are a million more reasons I get in parenting classes which all end in parents doing everything. Consequently, the little ones binge on their favourite tv program comfortably laying on the sofa and asking us not to make too much noise because they can’t hear.
However, as the kids get into more stuff (football on Tuesdays, chess or Wednesday, play day on Thursday, karate on Fridays and swimming on Saturdays) this becomes unbearable for the parents. If you multiply these tasks by the number of kids you have, I can tell you it is going to burn you very quickly. You will explode. It is not a question or “if” but “when”.
children responsibility early.
The main problem with coaching kids is that we often begin late. By the time we want to change it, it is now way out of control, or mum/dad can’t do it anymore, it is almost too late. We have taken on responsibilities for so long that the concept of owning those back is totally alien to the children.
During these series of articles, I will be writing about responsibilities, how to help them become independent, good home routines, etc. There are loads of great information out there. I particularly like searching online for “age relevant tasks for children”. I admit some of them seem a bit ambitious, but overall there is a lot of great advice which I always share on this blog or during parent coaching sessions.
You can also read the “good homework routine” “or the school run” article to get further ideas from my site.
Since the title of this article is about teaching children responsibility through tidying up. Let’s get into it
Firstly, as a life coach for kids, I want to mention that what you are about to read is not my invention. In fact, I struggled with the issue of tidying up for years. However, with time, there was learning in every place and in every person.
In a casual parent coaching conversation with my friend Beatriz Marquez, the topic came up. I almost dropped my coffee when she said, “I sorted it out ages ago, but not only that, my 21 years step-son just moved with us, and he has got it sorted in three weeks. His room is immaculate”.
The kids coaching strategy she developed was so simple and powerful that I almost felt silly to not have thought of it.
Before you continue reading, here is the disclaimer: this technique of coaching kids is not for those light-hearted parents. This technique is simple, yet requires you to take necessary action and stick to it. You won’t get the guts for this technique from parenting classes. The approach is a one-hit home run. Do it well the first time and reap the benefits for life. Do it halfway, and you’ll blow it. It will not work, and you will struggle to implement it later.
I have to admit that we toyed with the idea for a few weeks. We saw the
value and potential of it but were not brave enough to do it. Yet, when we did
it, it transformed the routine.
Ok, enough rambling.
Here goes the strategy: “whatever is on the floor is rubbish.”
This is your mantra, your truth, your Ten Commandments all in one.
And here is the in-depth explanation.
When is it appropriate to start coaching kids do this? I think at a very young age. Your child as young as three can help out in tidying up. Therefore, our role as parents is to help them learn (honey, can you put your toy in the box?”). This will also give them a sense of realization and will feel connected to you as you are doing something together and, most likely, he/she will get nice praise from you. In this case, I suggest establishing the rule around the 8 or 9 years mark but, as my friend Beatriz did, you can start at any age.
What do you need to do to teach children responsibility?
First, have a grown-up conversation with them. As a professional life coach for kids, I don’t fail to mention to parents in parenting classes that communication is everything. Choose a time in which everyone is calm for the conversation to happen. Ensure all the kids are there. Simply tell them briefly (please don’t talk too much, they will switch off) that keeping their things and rooms tidy is their responsibility. The overall cleanliness of the house is your responsibility. Here is my speech:
“As you know, we tend to get into silly arguments because things are on the floor or your room is a mess or your cupboards are impossible to open. You are old enough now to look after your own things. Also, I am confused and tired. I don’t have time to tidy up everybody’s stuff. So, from now on, there is a simple rule that applies to everybody: if I see one thing on the floor, I will assume it is rubbish, and I will throw it away. This applies especially to your room, but also to the things around the house”
They will probably be amused and confused about this approach. You might
want to do a walk around the house and point at all the things that are out of
place and can go to the rubbish bin.
This part is setting up the agreement. It is not a discussion, it is not flexible, it’s what it is and what it will be from now on. Take time to explain it, but ensure there is no concession. Open their cupboards and, if things are piled up, explain that you will put them on the floor and if they are not hung or folded when you return, you’ll assume it is rubbish. Therefore, it can be thrown away.
A critical part of this kids coaching approach is to ensure you separate responsibilities. It is their responsibility to tidy up. Not yours. If they leave something on the floor, they are making a choice, therefore, own the responsibility of that choice. You’ll understand in a couple of paragraphs why this is so important.
What can you expect from them? In all honesty, very little. They will be
amused, but most likely they won’t believe you.
Now that the rule has been established, we go into action. In our case, we reminded them a few days of the rule with some but very little success. Eventually, we said: from tomorrow morning the rule start. If you are struggling with taking decisions, I do parent coaching too. So, yeah, you are welcome to join my parenting classes.
The next day, we did the morning routine as usual. We didn’t make any
comment about the tidying up, and they didn’t mention it.
When we were home alone, we went to their room and took everything that
was on the floor. All went to a black bag which we left by the door.
According to my friend Beatriz, not throwing it away was a mistake. I agree with her, but I guess she is more strong-willed than me. However, we did manage to correct it.
When the girls came from school, they ignored the bag (to be fair, they didn’t know what was in there). Only when they went to bed and missed their toy, did the conversation start:
Daughter N2: “Mum/dad, I can’t find Robin. Have you seen it?”
Daughter N1: “I can’t find Thomas either. I am sure I left it here this
Me (with my heart pumping): hmmmm don’t know. Was it on the floor?
Daughters gave me a mixed look of confusion, panic, and begging. “No, I
don’t think it was on the floor.”
Me: well, if it wasn’t on the floor, it will be there. If it was on the floor,
I assume it is rubbish.
Daughters: No!!! You haven’t thrown it away!! (Now the confusion and begging part left their looks, and I could tell it was more panic).
Important note: the next line is probably the most critical part of it
all. I copied literally from my friend, and I can swear by it.
Me (calm and casual): no, I didn’t throw it away. You did throw it away as you chose to leave it on the floor. It is your responsibility, not mine. You know the rule, you made your choice.
At this point, I pointed I hadn’t had time to go to the dump, but that
tomorrow I would take the black bag there to throw away.
Well, I have never seen them go downstairs so fast and agile. They
suddenly became Olympic athletes jumping steps down.
They opened the bag, saw their “precious” possessions that had been ignored the whole afternoon and evening, and pulled most of them out, took them to their room and left them in a nice tidy way. Took their stuffed toys and, calming themselves down, went to bed.
We had a bit of a chat, and I reminded them about the rule.
The next day, during the morning routine, I did remind them of the rule,
and the room was perfect. This continued, in a good pattern for a few days.
However, as my friend Beatriz predicted, the standard slowly decreased.
One day, we repeated the exercise. I have to be honest and mention that
I moved the stuffed toy to the top of their desk. Everything else was in a
black bin bag, and I dumped it in the rubbish bin.
A small explanation: in Spain, the rubbish is thrown into skippers that
are collected every day. Where we live in London, we have Wheelie bins that are
collected every week.
A few days later, on Saturday, my daughter N2 was looking for her
favourite jacket. She only needed a second after asking her mum (“mum, have you
seen my leather jacket”) to go into a panic. However, the clever rat ran to the
wheelie bin and found it. In any case, the effect was almost as good as
Since then, their room tidiness has improved massively. I am not going to lie, it is not to the standards of my wife, but hers is a tough standard to have. However, they are more responsible and organized.
During this kids coaching technique, I am sure we will have a few runs to the bins every now and then and, eventually, they will lose something precious. Remember, it is their responsibility, not yours as a parent.
My youngest daughter has just read the article and made a valid point. They were seriously annoyed at us. Of course, they would be, but it passed, and they learned. As they take responsibility for their actions, so do we.
And that’s it.
Simple, isn’t it?
As a life coach for kids, I will advise, if you have kids of very different ages, you will need to adapt it slightly making small concessions for the very young. However, if the kids are all over 6, I suggest the approach applies to everybody.
As I mentioned above, the core of this article is a lot bigger than tidying up. It is about coaching kids to learn responsibility, being independent and being considerate of their own things and the request of their parents. Failing that? You may want to look at our article on unruly teens
A question every parent has asked themselves at one time or another. Even though I am a successful child life coach and a parent, I find myself asking this question too. There is no denying the truth, successful parenting is tough! So, I want to start by stating the obvious. I know it’s strange to hear since you and I have not formally met, and I am sure you have heard it before, but you probably didn’t believe it when your partner, friend or your mum said it.
Here it goes: you are doing a great job as a parent!
Yes, you are. And you should be proud of it.
But, if you’re reading this, it is because you are finding some difficulty dealing with a situation and having a moment of doubt. Maybe your kid is not responding well to your instructions, or your daughter is struggling with friends. Perhaps your son is not sleeping well, or they are experiencing some anxiety. Let me guess, you are looking for good parenting skills or parenting topics to help you to overcome these challenges, right?
As a parent of two and child life coach, I can fully understand how that can make you feel. But the point I want to make is that you have the right intention, and, by and large, you are doing a cracking job already. Having the right intention is a good first sign of successful parenting.
Let’s face it, how many of you wake up every morning thinking: Today, I am going to make my kid’s life miserable? Well, none that I have heard of.
Here is another quick question, how many of you go through the day saying, ‘it’s their problem, I dealt with my stuff, I don’t care what they are going through. It’s their time to toughen up now’? Let me guess, not many of you either. Obviously, there might be some. But, I don’t think they will be reading this. Only those who want to become better parents will care to read parenting topics. A few of you might have gone through online parent courses or considering one. Well, I am here to offer parenting skills that will help.
What skills do you need to be a good parent?
Leelanau Children’s Center has a list of 10 skills of practical parenting. It says;
“Love and affection, You support and accept the child, are physically affectionate and spend quality one-on-one time with each other.”
Speaking from years of experience as child life coach, it all starts with one single line;
I am trying to do my absolute best for my children. I
admit I get things wrong, but my intention is always full of love.
Now, let’s complement this line with another that, maybe, we are not using as much:
I am trying to do my absolute best for my children. I admit I get things wrong, but my intention is always full of love. When I get things wrong, I try to learn and make them better next time. I might not get it right, but I will continue to learn and try to improve. Sounds like a paragraph off online parent courses, right?
It’s the ability to acknowledge our flaws and continue to build
upon them every day that moves you from good parents to successful
Writing this, I imagine some of you saying; what does he know? He doesn’t know me! Doesn’t he know how hard this is for me? I suck at practical parenting but it is not entirely my fault. I am a single mum, or I have four kids that don’t listen, or the older one is continuously shouting, and the youngest one still sleeps with me most times.
Well, you are right again. I don’t know you, and I would never generalise. But in my journey as child life coach, I have worked with thousands of children and parents, and I see some reoccurring patterns.
One pattern I see often is parents losing faith in themselves. When this happens their attitude or reaction to problems becomes fight, freeze, or flight. Since we cannot “flight” from our responsibilities, they go into fighting or freezing mode. The truth is, neither of them are good parenting skills. They just don’t work.
When we freeze, we pretend the problems are not there. It is a phase, it is hormonal. You may say your child is having a bit of pressure now due to exams. However, deep down the bottom of your heart, what we really mean is “I don’t know how to deal with this. I am going to see if it goes away.”
That is the bad part. The big question now is,
What are the signs of good parenting skills?
When we go into fighting mode, well, I think you know what happens;
Arguments, bad energy around the house, moody teenagers and partners, and a repetitive loop of action-reaction. You don’t need online parent courses to show you these. They will be so obvious that you can only pretend not to notice. I highlighted some of these in one of my previous posts about children tantrums and bad behaviour.
So if those strategies don’t work—and, let’s face it, they don’t—what should we do? The alternative is to start praising ourselves a bit more. Take stock of our work, dedication, and love for them. To embrace our ability to learn and get things better. Finally, to learn to adapt to the situations and grow with our children.
This is the reason why, after almost 10 years working as child life coach, I have created Helping Kids Parents Academy. With this project, I want to share with you all the experience, techniques and information I have collected and still collect in my day to day work that can help you in your quest for successful parenting.
I will share client cases, their stories, the emotions driving
the behaviour, the approaches we used, and how it was resolved.
I know that not everything I do will work for everybody in the same way. This is because practical parenting is not a one-cap-fits-all. However, I know that you will find something that works for you. I also know that many of you will rev up your creativity, and with time, come up with even better ideas.
I want to create a space in which practical parenting becomes successful parenting. Nonetheless, it will not be because you are doing the things I tell you to do, but because you embrace yourself as a loving, caring and resilient parent who is the best example for his children.
While writing this article, I did a lot of research and thinking on my own experience as a parent, and on the hundreds of conversations I had coaching children and parents. It is not an exaggeration to say that virtually all the advice you can find in online parent courses is about what we, as parents, must do or say to our children. Which words to use, how to praise them, what to do when they have tantrums or suffer from anxiety. However, little is said about how the parents can appreciate themselves and their efforts.
In my mind and experience, there are only a handful of key ideas that make up the qualities of a good parent:
1) Love from day one. Despite moments of despair and
difficulties, the love of a parent for their kid is constant.
2) Respect for their children’s uniqueness. Each child is an individual and should be addressed as such.
3) Support the children in their learning, struggles, ambitions and whatever it is that they are experiencing or want to experience.
4) Educate them on the core values that are fundamental to us. It doesn’t mean our children will take on those values. However, it means you made a conscious attempt to share something really important—and will appreciate it someday.
5) Evolve and adapt our role to the changing needs of our children. Evolve from doing everything for them to letting them make their own choices. Changing from being their source of learning to learning with them to learning from them.
I must admit I was aiming to come up with 10 ideas. However, after reading these five over and over again, I think it’s more than enough. With these five points, anyone can write an entire book on good parenting skills.
Now, make a list of these five qualities of a good parent. Spend a few seconds, or more if you want, and tell me if you don’t have them.
I bet you do have them, and you display them regularly. However, because of self-doubt, you might be thinking that you are lacking all the basic ingredients on parenting topics. I hope the realisation of how good you are already hit you now.
So, going back to my initial point: you are doing a cracking
job. It can only get better from here!
In summary, let’s answer the two most common questions in practical parenting.
– How can I improve my good parenting skills?
This is an exercise I do regularly for different areas of my life. I’m kind to myself, I take time out and treat myself to calm and a nice coffee. I highly recommend taking some time to be quiet and reflect.
Once you are relaxed, take a pen and paper and think of the last few days and come up with five things you have done well. It is crucial to think about what you did, and not on the effect it had or the result you achieved. This is a crucial exercise that is often left out in parenting topics. For instance, you might have kept a calm temper even if your child didn’t talk to you for an hour. Aim to make them as different as possible. Of course, it may be tricky at first as we are not used to giving ourselves positive feedback, but persevere and believe you are worth it. Your quest for successful parenting skills depends on this.
Once you have the list, keep it in a place close to you (wallet, purse, your desk). Every day pick up one of those qualities and focus your energy on doing it as well as you can. Only one! No more. After the first five days, do the exercise again. You are allowed to keep two and come up with three new ones. After four rounds, you come up with a list of what makes you good. At this point, embrace the things you are doing well, there will be time to learn others.
Further reading on parenting topics that I liked and hope you enjoy as well are found below. My approach focuses on what you have to do towards yourself. As you will notice, all further reading, as well as most online parent courses, focus on what you have to do towards your kid. You need to master that too. Therefore, they will make a good read and starting point for building your parenting skills. Enjoy!