Raising boys – A mothering course

Four years ago I attended an amazing free course held at Rosendale Children Centre in Herne Hill, called ‘Raising boys’. Despite at first glance it may seem based on the homonym famous book, the course is instead more specifically inspired by some sad statistics in the UK. In the past decade it was noticed how in Great Britain, taken the whole number of young people who commit crimes, suicide or drug abuse, the percentage of male components was much higher than female ones. Getting a closer look at UK society patterns, compared to some countries such as Sweden for instance (where the percentage between females and males in those categories was nearly the same), anthropoligists realized that it may be influenced by the fact that boys are mainly raised by their mothers, since British fathers often work much longer hours and/or delegate all educational responsibilities to their females counterparts. Instead in northern European countries, children are generally raised in a more tribal way: each kid is actually everyone’s child, so they have many female and male role models around them to get guidance from. So the course is basically designed to give tools to female parents to approach the emotional world of their male child in a more effective and connected way, since they may not have the same way of communicating simply for being of opposite sexes.

 

Among the hundreds of amazing tips I learned from this 8 hours course spread in 4 weeks with free creche provided (if booked well in advance as they had limited spaces), one concept that stood out for me (first time I had heard of it, of many more in future) was how it is much more beneficial to encourage positive behavior rather than punish negative behavior (also promoted by another great parenting workshop, the Triple P course, still held at Rosendale). By repeatedly outlining when the child has done right, you increase their self esteem and feed their memory with the message that they can do very good most of the times, and not bad all the time.

 

The ‘Raising boys’ course purpose though, was also distinguishing between internal and external motivators. Unfortunately external motivators such as money, fame, food, prison, may not last long within the ethical development of a child as they can soon become the wrong boosters: once those are not achievable anymore (or if they become avoidable, such as not being caught by the police), one young man can feel completely lost and discourage by life struggles such as finding a new job or healing from a sentimental break up. It is therefore important to try and link positive behaviors to internal motivators such as pride, love, connection, happiness (the course gives of course lots of ideas to achieve this).

 

Another little important note was to help the child visualize progress such as with reward charts and another essential point was to never go back due to a bad behavior, in the sense that, to give an idea, a negative act could never erase the award of a sticker for a good one (crucial concept to develop the child’s emotional intelligence in a positive way). We were explained how a child moral is formed in their brain: how they finally follow the rules word by word when they are about 3 years old, only to start questioning them around 6! We were given important tactics to react to our boys misbehavior such as checking if they really had heard or understood our command in the first place, or reminding them rules before going to specific places (we are going to the supermarket: do you remember the rules? We don’t run in the aisles, we only put things in the trolley after having checked with mummy, we speak using our soft voice…).

 

We were made aware that it’s how little boys face changes from a very young age (if they can ‘survive’ in a positive way), that will determine how they accept every difficult moment in their life, even retirement… Another powerful tool which I heard for the first of many more times since then, is to always acknowledge their feelings and give a name to them. It’s OK to feel the way they do, it’s what they do about it that may need change (instead of having a tantrum in the middle of the library basically!).

 

Since Feb 2013 I have been going back to my notes from that workshop every now and then, but always regularly, at least twice a year, both for my son or my daughter. And I started understanding parenting much better for the first time since I had become a mum: it was the first time that I realized I did not need to make it alone, without tools and professional tips from parental advisors… I wanted to do a good job as a mother and instead I felt I was really struggling at times! I would not say anything wrong if I stated that it was thanks to this very first course that I have become and I am trying to become every day little by little the parent I want to be: it gave me clarity on what mother I wanted for my kids but also how to get there, without denying my own needs and struggles at the same time. That course was substantially the start of the end of the shock that becoming parents can bring, no matter how maternal you have been or how much you have wanted children.

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My kids and potty training….

This could be one of my posts of which I am so proud of, full of tips for a quick and successful potty training and overflowing enthusiasm for my new accomplishments with the kids I want to share with everyone… If only I had found the grip of how to deal with this all lol! Still up to nowadays, I don’t know why but this is certainly my kids’ phase I struggled the most with so far. Not the sleeping through the night, not the tantrums, nor the healthy eating or the socializing: the potty training. Which means that if it was not very easy to achieve for me, you can expect horrifying details of smelly explosions and disgusting stories of ‘human body products’ spread everywhere in the house! Don’t worry, I will spare you 😉

I have always been fascinated by a theory of mine (based on exchange of experiences with several of my friends): mothers that succeed quickly in sleep training tend to encounter more difficulties with potty training, whilst the ones who don’t mind if their child still wakes them up several times in the night or sleep in the same bed with them, usually start potty training at ‘ridiculously’ early ages such as 18 months and they often crack it quickly and without many bumps along the road… I guess it’s a matter of priorities and maybe our children can feel it: in fact I cannot live without a good night but compared to lack of sleep, I don’t mind cleaning a bit of poo now and then from clothes, sofa covers, floor and so on. My friends with kids, who can survive with little sleep but absolutely could not stand the whole changing nappies that came with motherhood, made it very quickly through this phase of their child.

I cannot really say that it has been a total disaster in our family, however there are common behaviors in both my kids to note and try to understand once put together. They both were absolutely not interested in potty training at all and never really gave us those famous signs they were ready for it (books legends in our case lol). They got to start it totally under our initiative as it felt it was time to put a limit to procrastination: around the age of 3 years old, my daughters 3 months before her birthday, my son 3 months after. They both had constant wee accidents for over 6 months so we had to keep on asking them to sit on the potty every hour or so to avoid those (you may be happy to do it only in the initial 4 weeks every book promises you will need, but after month 3 you are so sick of it!). The main remarkable fact is that they both kept on pooing in their pants absolutely uncaring: rather than just going to the loo and get done with it quickly, even if they knew by now how to do so as it had happened in so many past occasions, they preferred doing this way despite they had to then interrupt their game afterwards to be cleaned and changed.

My daughter who is in month 7 of her training still does this, she does not like to tell us she feels she needs a poo, so she closes the door of the room she is in to remain alone or she would hide behind a curtain whilst she feels the stimulus: if we catch her in time we have to promise her several stickers and some chocolate to convince her to sit on potty or loo… And my son who is now 6 still suffers from nocturne incontinence. I hear some children do, even girls, without being too worrying, however it may be a bit embarrassing to have to wear a night pull-up at a sleep over, no matter how nice is your best friend… I have to say I should not be surprised: I wet myself when I laughed wholeheartedly until the age of 15 (my kids do the same if they have not been to the loo for a while when they start laughing hysterically at something funny!).

Maybe I started too late? Though I was waiting for those signs and did not want to force things through too quickly… Maybe it’s their way of getting my attention, as an amazing child advisor pointed out so well with my son (‘Do not get angry when it happens, it still means attention to him, even if negative… Instead praise only when he does well and make all accidents very boring with the changing clothes procedure and no reaction on your side’ – Great advise as it sped up the training with him after a moment of despair!). Maybe my expectations are too high and everyone on average takes a few months to assess in their whole new condition of autonomy. Maybe it’s just genetic since they act in the same way and I had some issues too… Well if you had a better experience please free to send me some tips in the comments! Or comment to relief me if you had worst situations than mine 😉

 

 

Can we judge a mother’s heart?

In the last few weeks a national scandal has being discussed by literally everyone back in my home country, Italy. I can see it from my friends’ Facebook feeds where several different articles were posted by them regarding a recent tragedy known to the whole nation. A mother had left her 18 months old daughter in her car for 5 hours whilst going to work: the child had died due to the heath in the car left in a parking space under the sun.

Italians can really have some sordid deranged fun with this kind of news. Yes, they can. They like to discuss all the horrible details, make speculations on what happened and start using words such as ‘monster’ in no time. But deep down I am not even sure they really care about the topic, I suppose they are just looking for an impersonal scapegoat for all of their private issues, a topic of distraction to their sad little lives, or they simply don’t know any better, after centuries of catholic sermons, than to easily judge others.

I feel an immense compassion for that poor woman who lost her daughter and will not see her ever again for what was most likely a big mistake. I cannot be sure if she did it on purpose or she just forgot she had not left her at nursery before going to work. Whatever happened, no one in a sane state of mind would do such a thing, it seems so obvious to me that if they really wanted to kill their child they would find another way to hide it at least! I read a very interesting article regarding the matter, whose title was ‘when a mum breaks down’.

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The end of the tunnel (at least for a little while)

When your kids reach an age where:
– They are both invited to the same birthday party on a Sunday afternoon and you can drop them and use the spare time to wonder around in Brixton market, relax and have a coffe with your husband before you pick them up again;

– You can book a babysitter between 6 and 10pm to attend a surprise birthday party on a Thursday night knowing they will be absolutely fine, maybe they will just fall asleep a bit later than usual for their excitement;

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One of those random nights

I never thought being a mother would be so hard. I mean to the point that there are moments I regret having had kids. All in all I am sure I won’t when they will be older and out of the house, living their own lives and connecting with us time to time, but in this precise moment that I feel so overwhelmed I do.

Maybe what I will regret when they are older, after being totally immersed with them 24/7 and resenting feeling totally drained by motherhood (emotionally and physically), when they will be teens and they won’t want to stay with me anymore all of a sudden, then I will terribly miss them and curse them to have poisoned me with an addiction to cuddling, speaking and taking care of them so much, much more than I would have had time left for myself every single day for 15 years.

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Third baby… or not

Why I should not have a 3rd child…

– I’ve only got 2 hands to hold my kids when crossing the street;

– I am not longing to get back to wake up 5 times a night and being unable to nap in the day time to get energies back as I have to juggle older kids during the day;

– We are already too many on this planet, let’s not be stupid, not to say selfish;

– I was blessed with a boy and a girl so I am already the mum of a son and a daughter;

– We can only afford a 3 beds flat and the space is just perfect for a family of 4, we would be a bit sacrificed if we were 5, especially for the 2 siblings sharing the same room;

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Parenting standard is not related to social classes so raise your kids outside the trend

Have you ever heard in movies or in real life parents sobbing as they have an addicted/criminal child and they don’t understand where they did wrong? They may keep on talking about all they got for them, how they taught them some good manners, that they sent them to the best schools there could be… The truth is our children don’t remember how we tell them they should behave, they simply pick up on who we are and how we treat them. Drugs, lack of moral and even bad health conditions are not just a problem related to social classes: as parents we are all the same, from the poor, to the middle class, to the wealthy ones.

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