Category Archives: Parenting Advice

5 Pieces Of Parenting Advice I’m Absolutely Sick Of Hearing….

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From the moment I found out of was pregnant, I became the target for arrows of advice being shot out from every angle.

Some advice I could take in, and other advice absolutely mortified me. I couldn’t believe how negative people could be, I mean it is just a baby, how hard could it be!

parenting advice im sick of hearing

1. Deliver vaginally or your child will suffer in a myriad of ways.

I did not have the choice with either of my kids. Despite my voluptuous size, my hips were too small to deliver naturally. But this did not seem to matter, because when I told people that I was booked in for a C-section the advice came rolling in!

From aunties telling me that my child would suffer from croup (which he does), to advice on how he would need to see a biokineticist (which he does) because he would not have been stretched out in the birth canal – I understand that vaginal birth is better, but my hips are too small!

I kept telling people that if this were the middle ages I would die in child birth, and it is like water off a ducks back as they go on to tell me another reason why a Caesarean is bad for my child. People mean well, but they do not listen well.

2. Die Krampies, Die Krampies (The cramps, the cramps.)

I know that first time mothers do not have all the answers, but sometimes we actually do want to figure them out by ourselves. I live in a very small town that is dominated by well meaning Afrikaans tannies (aunties) who are brimming to the top with advice.

When Jeremy was little he battled with colic, and this meant that he screamed, puked and suffered from reflux (probably from not being delivered vaginally I’m sure). I cannot tell you how I felt after a night of screaming, changing sheets and tear stained puffy eyes; but I can tell you that when I walk into town looking like a disheveled mess (aka new mother), I really do not want to hear you tell me what I already know.

“Yes thank you, I am aware that my child has the cramps. Feel free to take him for a couple hours; shove your breast in his mouth and let him puke all that human milk in your face”.

But what I really say is, “Really, wow thanks.” And I zone out as they begin to list all the ways that I can fix it – not one of which worked. We suffered through it and at age 4 he still battles with “Die Krampies” except now he just farts – still wanna take him for a couple hours?

3. Do not let that child fall asleep on your boob!

My mother, bless her heart, was never able to breastfeed and therefore has no idea how amazing it feels to nourish your child. And what is even more amazing, is when that child falls asleep on the breast and you fall asleep too. Snuggling with your child is such a special time!

Yes I made a rod for my own back because by age 1 Olivia had to suck on my mammaries just to fall asleep at night, but we got through it. I was never one of those mothers who could sit up and breastfeed at 2am whilst praying over my child.

Reality check – at 2am I am tired, I cannot keep my eyes open and if lying in my bed breastfeeding my child means we all fall asleep, then Eureka!

4. Parenting is a series of stages, and each stage gets progressively worse.

Yes thank you great aunt Diane, I know that it is a series of stages. But you are supposed to tell me that they are wonderful and invigorating, so that I feel like this journey is going to be worth the rollercoaster ride. But following it up with the grandslam words such as “and each stage gets progressively worse” really did not aid my post-natal blues.

Jeremy is currently punching his sister, Olivia is screaming and yes my blues have lasted 4 years longer than they should have, but what else do you expect with that kind of parenting advice. Mothers want to hear encouraging stories, not sentences of dismay from older moms that look forlorn. Good god woman, why don’t we all just jump off a bridge right now.

5. You think this is bad, wait till they are teenagers.

Hearing an older mom say these words absolutely gripes me. It grates my carrot in such a way that I actually just want to slap them across the face with a wet fish. I realise she has been to the show, gotten the t-shirt and is well seasoned, but really, can it be any harder! If this means that raising two pre-schoolers is easier than raising teenagers then point me to that bridge. What I really want to hear is that it gets easier with time and that kids are a blessing.

Perhaps South Africa is a little more negative in attitude than the rest of the world, but think twice before you tell that pregnant mother about a friend who just had a miscarriage. Or before you tell the overtired and strained mother than it is only going to become harder. And think especially hard before you tell the parent with the glazed eyes, black rings and fresh tufts of grey hair that teenagers are even worse – because deep down we know all of this. We do; we just do not want to hear it.

So be advised world, my wet floppy fish is out and ready to slap you across the face the next time I hear even a hint of bad parenting advice!

Mom…..Where Do Babies Come From?

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mom-where-do-babies-come-from

Sex talk panic.

My friend Megan is a teacher who loves to give advice. Not too long ago she told me that my 4 year old son would soon start asking about the facts of life. She went on to say that I should tell him the truth, and with absolute certainty she said that he would never ask “how”.

It was a week later when Jeremy asked the burning question, and I answered as advised. He went quiet, and I felt a joyful streak of victory running through me. I noted to myself that I needed to tell my husband how well I had handled the question, and as I was about to pat myself on the back, Jeremy opened his mouth…

“But mommy, how does a daddy put the baby in the mommy?”

Gone are the days of waiting for the teachers at school to teach your 12 year old about the facts of life, they now know it all by 2nd grade. So how do you as a parent teach them the truth, before their friends turn it into a dirty little secret?

  1. Stay calm

Most parents feel incredibly awkward when their child asks such burgeoning questions, and like many parents before them, they have no idea where to even start. The first step is to keep calm, and at least pretend you have a grip on the situation. Some parents may find the questions entertaining but it is best to remain serious so that your child does not feel embarrassed or ashamed. Questions may arise in unpredictable situations, but use those opportunities to tell them what they need to know, or tell your child that this is something that can be discussed at home in a quiet place.

  1. Tell them the truth and keep it simple

Answer your child’s questions, but be sure you know what they are asking. Sometimes they really just want a simple answer, and not an anatomy lesson. Listen to the words they use, and tell them the truth directly relating to their question. Here is a bad example of how to answer a question truthfully,

“Mommy, where do babies come from?” says 8 year old Tom.

“Well, a daddy has a penis which is inserted into a vagina. Sperm is released upon ejaculation and then penetrates an egg…”

(You catch my drift.) Little Tom did not really want to know all of that information, and a better answer would be as follows:

“A mommy and a daddy make a baby together.”

  1. Keep it age appropriate

I was taken by surprise when my 4 year old asked about the birds and the bees, but instinct told me to keep it age appropriate and I did. You do not want to tell a preschooler about sex in a direct way. It is important to keep your answer appropriate to the age of your child.

  • Up to the age of 3, it is important to teach a child about their body using the correct names. Pet names for body parts are cute, but often lack the seriousness needed when later conversations arise about how babies are made.
  • Ages 4 to 5 is a healthy age for a child to start becoming aware of gender differences, as well as in how their own bodies feel when they are touched. It is important for a parent, however awkward they may feel to remain level headed and handle the situation correctly.

Touching is normal, but you need to teach your child what is healthy and what is appropriate especially in public.

  • Ages 5, 6 and 7 becomes a time where children start to learn from their friends, and they begin to ask about sex in more detail. They begin to question how it is that two different body parts could actually make a baby, and where it all fits together. It is important to answer the questions truthfully, because what you teach your child at this age will remain with him as they go on to adulthood. Making it awkward or dirty is not going to set a good precedence for them as they start their own adult sexual journey.
  • Ages 8 and up means that they know most of the story already, and are starting to enter into their own stages of puberty. As a parent it is important to discuss the changes your child goes through, in order for them to understand that this is how their body prepares to make its own babies one day.

4. Use the chance to teach

Every set of parents have their own morals, values and viewpoints. Use the time spent explaining the facts of life as an opportunity to teach your children your beliefs. A good foundation can help them when they need to make decisions relating to sex and relationships at a later age.

5. Check back with your child.

Once you have answered your child’s questions, it is important to check back that they have understood what you have said. By keeping the situation calm, age appropriate and truthful, you should be able to build a relationship that allows your child to tell you that they did not understand, that they need better clarification or that you completely misunderstood their question.

Parents can make all the difference when it comes to their children’s sexual choices and their level of exploration as they become teenagers. Create a foundation that is strong, honest and open to questioning so that you can ensure your children build a healthy sexual relationship with their future partner of choice one day.

Is Your Weight Loss Obsession Affecting Your Child’s Body Image?

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weight-loss-obsession

Staring into the mirror, I look at every possible angle of my body before I rip my clothes off in a huff and throw them on the floor.

Kicking the newly accumulated pile of laundry, I curse under my breath and try my best not to cry.

At least I have a pretty face – so my mother always said. Lying on my bed is my two year old daughter, and even though she is too young to judge my dimpled, stretched body, she has seen the effect looking in the mirror has had on me.

And the more she watches the morning dressing room escapades, the more she will begin to understand that what the mirror reflects is not something she should be pleased with.

According to eatingdisorders.com, four girls out of ten admit that it was their mother that had the biggest influence on how they saw themselves.

Growing up, I had a mother that had the best intentions, and even though I was only slightly chubby, she pushed me onto my first diet at the age of 12.

It became an ongoing saga of diet after diet, and soon enough an ingrained habit of dieting and bingeing and almost always being dissatisfied with myself. And now at 28, I stare into the mirror as my daughter watches, and I hate what I see. And as I hate, she learns to hate too.

A recent study revealed that children rated an overweight child as less attractive than a child with facial deformities, a child in a wheelchair and a child that was missing a part of their body.

The question is, where does this diet obsession come from, and where does it end? Essentially I learned to dislike my body because I felt that my mother did not like it. And the thinner I got, the better out relationship was – and it is still this way. As I gained weight, she would comment and make me feel like I had failed her.

This is not an isolated incident; millions of children across the world feel like they are failing their parents because in some way they are not good enough. This develops a low self esteem, which essentially is the route to some form of eating disorder.

According to the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, almost 52% of girls have been on a diet of some sort before they reach the age of 14.

Young children are more likely to have thoughts about dieting if they have seen their mother dieting. Children are also sharp and their little ears prick up to comments you may make under your breath, especially about yourself or somebody else.

Mothers that are concerned or even obsessed about their own weight and health, often yield daughters who negatively feel this way about themselves. Coupled with this, is peer pressure, the awkwardness of puberty and bodily changes, and a barrage of images from the media making girls of all ages feel inferior.

As mothers, we need to be aware that our obsession with weight may not create the healthy body image we want our children to have.

Eating Disorders are essentially not about what the scale says or about how one looks, but are intrinsically based on the need to quash any emotional conflicts by eating, purging or starving oneself.

Girls that have eating issues or bodily issues essentially are struggling with an emotional issue that often can be passed down from our parents.

As I stare into the innocent blue eyes of my chubby two year old, I wonder what subtle lessons I have taught her thus far.

I know however that there are key tools mothers need to implement to ensure that their children grow up confident in all areas, regardless of their flaws.

–       Build their self-esteem by focussing on what they can do, and less on what they cannot.

–       Do not make negative statements about your own body, your size or your shape. Burn that habit.

–       Tell your child that you are proud of them for who they are, what they achieve and for their personal morals and values.

–       Be aware of what magazines they read, the internet sites they visit and the media they are exposed to.

–       Be open with your child about their life, and what they are going through. Tweens and teenagers can be vicious to each other and your child needs a strong set of shoulders to cry on, and a secure foundation on which to grow.

John Mayer has a song called daughters, and I quote: “Fathers be good to your daughters, daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers and turn in to mothers, so mothers be good to your daughters too.”

When Your Plump Piglet Becomes a Porky Piggy…..

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plump-piglet

How to help your child lose weight, as a family, without losing their self-esteem.

There really is nothing cuter than a plump little baby with chubby wrists and folds of leg fat. You simply just want to devour them for their cuteness – but when does plump stop being cute, and when does it become an issue?

Growing up, I knew that I was bigger than my friends, but it didn’t really bother me. Then slowly as our moms took us shopping together, I began to realise that I was shopping in a completely different size to my friends and for my age. Unfortunately my mother, with the best intentions, turned my size into what is now a deeply rooted adult issue. But the question remains, when your child is overweight, what do you do and how do you do it?

According to paediatrician Michelle Van Beek, most children that are overweight are ashamed of their size and have a low self-esteem.

So how does a mother safely help their child without focussing too much on the issue of weight?

To treat the symptom, we must initially find the cause. Let’s look at facts:

–    Fattening food is cheaper.

–    Boxed dinners are quicker to cook.

–    Families are eating in front of the television, mindlessly shoving foods in their mouths.

–    Sugar is hidden in almost all foods, including bread and cereals.

–    Technology has led to children being less active with their legs and more active with their thumbs.

–    Food portions are bigger, and come with an upsize option.

Actions to avoid:

 Negatively reminding your child not to eat certain items.

 Focussing on what is wrong with your child.

 Making the child feel as if his/her sense of self-worth lies in the numbers on the scale.

 Banning sugar and carbohydrates.

 Asking questions like, “Are you going to eat that?” or “Don’t you think you should stop eating?”

Growing up, I always felt that I was being watched and criticised. Eating fattening or unhealthy foods became something that I would do in secret. Guilt would overwhelm me, but I would not be able to stop eating.

Soon enough I found myself hiding chocolate wrappers in odd places like friends bags, just because I was afraid my mother would see them.

Our relationship now is tumultuous at best, and it stems from my sense of self-worth being rooted in her happiness with my weight.

Taking a step in the right direction:

Building self-esteem in your child is as integral to the weight loss process as becoming healthy is.

Healthy mind, healthy body. Self-esteem will not automatically develop when your child fits into a smaller size or suddenly looks great on the beach, because by then the damage is done.

Spend time listening to your child.

Encourage them in the areas where they succeed.

Ask them what their goals are and their hopes for the year.

Motivate them to play in team sports or to get involved in fun sports activities.

Tell them in a subtle way about what healthy eating entails and do not make them feel directly targeted.

Accept that younger kids still have a lot of growing head of them and may very well thin out as they reach puberty.

Be realistic. You cannot expect a child to have a supermodel body if genetically it is not possible.


Become a fit family:

Decide as a family that being healthy is something you all want to do together, without focussing solely on the child that is overweight.

Working together also helps everybody to feel enthusiastic and motivated especially as the results of a healthy lifestyle start to show. Try to make a pact that as a family you are going to spend less time on devices such as tablets, phones and computers, and more time bonding outdoors together.

  Play games outside that involve moving around:

o   Tag

o   Skipping

o   Hopscotch

o   Hide-and-go-seek

o   Soccer

o   Football

o   Cricket

o   Swimming

  Go for walks.

 Ride bikes together.

 Join in local activities and festivities, or even sporting events.

  Do housework and chores together.

 Go camping.

 Create DIY projects around the house.

 Volunteer at local charities.

Make healthy choices

Teach your children to listen to their bodies, and to stop eating when full. As a parent, there are also a few subtle things you can do to help your child:

–    Eat at the table as a family, slowly.

–    Eat at set mealtimes.

–    Dish up adequate portion sizes.

–    Encourage kids to eat colourful foods like fruit and vegetables.

–    Ensure they eat a healthy breakfast that is not predominantly made up of sugary breakfast cereals.

–    Look for sugars hidden in the products you buy for your children.

–    Cut out sugary and carbonated drinks, especially during the week and with meals.

–    Avoid pre-packaged microwave foods filled with preservatives and colorants.

–    If you need to make fast food stops, try making reasonably healthy ones.

–    Don’t ban sweets and sugary foods, but instead teach your children moderation.

Unless your child comes to you in tears wanting to lose weight, then keep it subtle. Do not let your child catch on to the fact that you find a flaw in him/her or that you want something to change – because that is how a child will perceive it. The immediate benefits of working together to be a healthy family will far outweigh the benefits of weight loss for your child. Take little steps and introduce new things slowly so as to remain subtle and encouraging.

I know that in hindsight, my mother thought that she was doing the best thing for me. At the time, it was a tug-of-war of emotional turmoil and rejection – and looking back I see her intentions were good, but the outworking of those intentions created long term weight issues for me.

Had this article been written earlier perhaps she would have read it and life would be different, but then I would not have been able to help you.

Remember: baby steps, each one taken with love and affirmation for your children.