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SarahLiebetrau's Comments

Supermarket Dads

06/11/2010 - 14:35

Oh this happens to me all the time! I don't think any of us can avoid judging people based on how we see them behave. You have pointed out that we don't know the full story in either scenarios, but we never will. And what I get from this blog post is a compassionate observation rather than judgement per se. You feel for the child, because you can see he's unhappy. And regardless of the extenuating circumstances, it's normal to feel compassion for a child in distress. Children are so powerless in our society, they are only as content and happy as their situation allows, and it's largely beyond their control.

I saw a woman swearing, shouting, and smacking a small boy in the supermarket. People stopped and stared and she turned around and gave them a serve too. She was saying awful things to the boy. My heart leapt into my mouth and I froze. I so wanted to intervene but didn't know what to say that would be of use to either mother or child. I was also frightened of what she might do to me or my child if I said anything, as my child was a reasonably small baby at the time and I had her in a Baby Bjorn. I still don't know what I could/should have done.

It's right and good that others in society notice and comment when we see children in distress. This doesn't automatically convert into 'judgement' on the parent or caregiver, but raising questions about why they aren't in bed, noticing that the dad is walking too fast, and speaking harshly, are what you saw. The next step to noticing and commenting is helping to find solutions, which is what you are doing with this blog, campaigning for emotional intelligence to be valued more highly and to be taught so that people can be equipped to hopefully have more contentment in their lives and their children's lives.

I suppose seeing that second dad with the kids, all three looking calm and content, was a good reminder to you that it wasn't so much the time of day they were at the shops, but the level of care you saw being given to the child/children in question that was the point of difference. And it's true that one encounter doesn't tell you the full story, you don't know what they do when they go home, but it's fair to say that most people do try to display more emotional control in public than they would at home, so it's not unreasonable to wonder, if he is speaking to the child that way in public, what would go on at home.

There's nothing you can or could have done for that one child (if indeed anything needed doing, it's possible that it was a rare transgression within an otherwise loving relationship), but still, it's useful to use that particular scenario as an example of why emotional intelligence is so crucial to the way we deal with each other and children.

Similarly, perhaps the dad who seemed happy does go home and behave badly, we don't know. All we do know is that there, then, it made you happy to see a parent relating so well to their children. And it's fine and normal for you to judge it as such.

It does concern me that if we all tiptoe around too much, so worried about seeming as though we're up on our high horses and that others will perceive us as 'judgemental', the kids being treated badly are the ones who will miss out while the parents are protected. It's possible to feel compassion for both the child being mistreated, and the adult who clearly, at that moment, has neither the skills nor the inclination to act differently. It's also important to keep talking about this, even at the risk of seeming preachy.

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Paul Kelly and car sleeping

12/10/2010 - 21:51

A little off-topic but this reminds me of what I used to call the 30 second window at around the 7-10 minute mark after one of my babies had fallen asleep in the car where I was able to successfully transfer them to the cot/bed. Too soon and they wouldn't be fast asleep enough, to late and they'd stir and the sleep would be over. I used to do the 'hand drop' test first - pick up a chubby little hand, if it dropped like a weight, I was ok to go, if there was resistance/movement - no dice.

Also slightly unrelated, I also love the Paul Kelly song 'From Little Things Big Things Grow' that has been made into an illustrated children's book. Magic.

It is hard to self-censor regularly in front of children, particularly when there's not that much time when they're not around, especially when they're quite young. You can make the mistake of thinking they're not really 'listening' but they are. They take it all in. Like Susan I hope my kids know they can always question or discuss what they hear even if it's uncomfortable. Life isn't all sweetness and light, and a certain amount of exposure to conflict is ok. The main thing I try to shield my kids from overhearing us discuss is concerns about finances, and news about friends/family/ or just people in the news that is disturbing, whether it be illness or death. Not the fact that some one may have died, but perhaps some of the more disturbing elements of that part of life I suppose.

I remember the thrill of pretending to be asleep as a child and overhearing some one comment "Oh she's asleep". I remember thinking, yes, I gotcha! Then not really hearing anything too interesting after all. :-/

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Paying for chores = slippery slope

10/09/2010 - 22:02

My instinctive reaction to the idea of paying pocket money in exchange for chores is: No. I just feel that it is like making a bargain to do things that should be, if not necessarily done automatically, then at least negotiated in something other than monetary terms. I like the idea of role modeling behaviour that I hope my kids learn to replicate - sometimes this needs to be explained to them; ie, 'I helped you do X earlier therefore I would like you to help me now' but I do think choice should be involved and I think monetary encouragement muddies the waters a little, setting up a system of expectation/entitlement.

My logic about most of my parenting decisions needs to be watertight as the chances are that my son will at some point require concrete explanations for them. Trying to explain that I'm giving him pocket money in exchange for chores in order to teach him about money doesn't ring true for me. There are other ways to teach him about money: just giving pocket money (no strings attached) and having him save up for things that he wants; explaining about our weekly 'cash envelope' budget system (when he's old enough) and explaining how much things cost whilst at the supermarket (which I already do); going to garage sales in search of bargains. When he sees a toy that he wants, instead of saying outright 'no' or 'save your money' I get him to put it on his "Christmas list' or 'birthday list' (whichever's coming up next) so that closer to the time he can inspect the list and make a choice. All of these techniques teach him that money is something to be careful with; but I don't want him getting the idea that in order to do something that some one else wants him to do, he needs to be paid, or that for anything he wants, all he needs to do is pay for it.

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Different parenting styles

23/08/2010 - 21:14

Yes a very interesting article. Carol your situation sounds infuriating! Hopefully your kids will realise that it's you and your husband that call the shots and grandparents opinions are null and void! Get them to read the fine print on any competition rules, and explain that mum and dad are the judges, all decisions are final and no further correspondence will be entered into. Easier said than done. It is really awful when relatives seek to undermine the balance of an harmonious family - whether intentional or not, due to jealousy or control issues or whatever. It sucks!

Once I was saying to a friend that I was anxious about my husband being 'tougher' on the kids than me, and that I although I understood where he was coming from, I didn't feel that I had it in me to emulate that kind of black and white thinking. I was also over-sensitive about him being too hard on them. She pointed out that kids can adapt to knowing that mum and dad have different limits and different ways of dealing with particular situations (much as you have illustrated in this article). I analysed what was at the core of my concern and I realised that I had been subject to overly authoritarian parenting at certain stages of my childhood and as a result I was over-reacting on behalf of my children to the slightest echo of any such behaviour from my husband. But when I looked at the actual rather than the imagined interaction between my husband and kids, and the impact it was having on my kids, it was nothing like the scenario I had experienced as a child. I had superimposed my own childhood experience over the current one, and in my eagerness for my husband to parent the same way as I do, or for us to 'meet in the middle', me trying to be 'harder' and trying to make him 'softer', I was in danger of not allowing either of our natural styles/personalities to come through. He was overcompensating for my perceived lack of firmness by being extra-firm, and I was overcompensating for his lack of softness by being extra soft! Once I let go of this I realised that within reason, we can both be 'ourselves' (it's what makes us work as a couple after all) and the result is we both move closer towards the middle! I can be firmer without worrying that he'll come down too hard, and he can be softer without worrying that he's got to do all the discipline.

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Bedtime shenanigans

23/08/2010 - 19:46

I don't know whether to be heartened or horrified by the tales of children much older than mine requiring similar cuddles-to-sleep routines as both of mine currently do. I've managed to persuade my husband that it won't be for too much longer - soon they'll be wandering off and putting themselves to bed of their own accord - but secretly I'm in no hurry for it to stop. It's a really nice, relaxing time of day for me. Well, that is, if it lasts for less than 30 minutes. Over and above that and it's just plain annoying (or I fall asleep before the child does!).

My 4yearold son has 'blue bear' - a formerly blue small teddy now much more grey in complexion. We actually lost blue bear for a good 6 months - there were many tears and recriminations, bedtime wailing, pointing out blue bear in happier times in family photos - we'd eventually come to terms with his loss when lo and behold he turned up in the empty drum of the 'spare' (read: broken but never fixed or discarded) washing machine that had been sitting in the laundry next to the working, usable washing machine that whole time. Possibly the only nook or cranny that I had not in fact looked in 386 times. Oh the celebrations that were had when the prodigal blue bear returned from his sabbatical. We too have since vowed never to let him leave the house, although in our case that can't be too reassuring a thought for either blue bear or the 4yearold, given the history.

When our daughter was born our son, who was 2 at the time, had needed me to lie with him each night to get him to sleep, but I couldn't keep doing it with a newborn to feed so we introduced the 'Mum in the day, Dad in the night' system which has more or less been in place ever since. The 2yearold still feeds to sleep, holding her water bottle in one hand and teddy in the other, while the 4yearold needs Dad and blue bear, plus a sincere promise from me to check on him in the night. I have a feeling that the 4yearold will go on needing reassurance at night longer than the 2yearold, but for now they're even stevens.There's a reason why we have three Queen sized beds in our house!

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Gifted children and emotional intelligence

12/08/2010 - 13:16

This is an interesting topic. I wonder too whether sometimes gifted children are held up to higher standards/closer scrutiny than their average peers, perhaps there is an assumption that because they are gifted in a certain area they should have emotional skills beyond their age, too. Sometimes it's easy to forget that a child is, say, 5, when they are displaying the mathematical ability of a 7 or 8 year old. Perhaps when children struggle in general more leeway is given (usually by adults) for the potential concurrent emotional issues? Just a thought.

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Sibling rivalry

07/08/2010 - 18:15

It's so interesting, so many sister-less women I know fantasise about how awesome it would be to have a sister, and for some women it is awesome, but a close sibling relationship depends on so much more than just gender. People often debate the age gap and how that affects things, or whether two of the same gender is best - I really think it comes down to the individual components that are unique to each family. My sister and I are 18 months apart, two more different individuals you could not find. I love her dearly yet find it frustrating to spend much time with her (I imagine but am not sure that she feels the same way).

I am glad I have a boy and a girl because my sister and I suffered from endless comparisons being made by others throughout our lives that were not helpful to either of us. People tend to compare a boy and girl less in my experience. My kids are 2 years apart and still very young but don't display much rivalry at all so far, of course they do battle for parental attention and the odd toy, but by and large there doesn't seem to be a battle for dominance or one stronger personality than the other. The eldest is the sensitive one, concerned with doing things by the book, and the younger child seems to be a more relaxed and cruisy individual, very self-determined and prepared to boss her brother around as and when she deems it necessary. He generally takes this in his stride but sometimes uses his clout as the older and wiser of the two to triumph. It will be interesting to see how their relationship develops as they grow up.

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Great post. I have a very

05/07/2010 - 22:34

Great post. I have a very sensitive child who will be going along in leaps and bounds and then seemingly out of nowhere will have a few difficult days where tantrums abound and he struggles to make sense of his very strong emotions. This can be frustrating for the whole family- his dad and I tend to take somewhat different approaches to managing this and also his younger sister tends to get less attention when we are focusing on resolving his issues.

One thing I have noticed is that he will often get a burst of emotional episodes concurrently with developmental surges, eg, mastering new independent skills such as washing his own hair, conquering his fear of dogs or eating a wider variety of foods. I think he has put so much energy into this new endeavour that there isn't always a lot left over for the rest of daily life! So for us, an increase in emotional outbursts sometimes has a parallel with more positive personal developments particularly new skills but also increased emotional resilience in certain areas.

Secondly, because he is so bright and mature in a lot of ways, perhaps people (sometimes myself included) don't cut him enough slack, after all, he is only 4 and tantrums are part of growing up. Even adults have them on occasion! Wouldn't we all like some one who took our moments of weakness in their stride and calmly but firmly took control of the situation by letting us express ourselves safely rather than instantly telling us to put a lid on it?

Thirdly, I have found a great way to build this emotional resilience is to undertake small activities to test out his reactions to things, (kind of like a desensitisation process)- for example sometimes we go around various garage sales together on a Saturday morning. I give him a budget of $5 and we see what we can come up with. This works well on a number of levels. He gets to spend time just with me (a rarity with a younger sister around most of the time); he gets to manage his own money (and the sense of trust and responsibility that goes with that builds his self-confidence); and he doesn't know what to expect - so he has to deal with the prospect of disappointment ("we might not find anything we like") or triumph when we hit the jackpot and score a bargain. He also has to gauge when to quit while we're ahead (spend now and go home, or save and risk finding nothing later). It's all played out on a very small, safe scale but I have found that he has been very good at accepting both coming back empty-handed and the occasional windfall - either way he has spent a morning with mummy. It's much nicer than a trip to Kmart trawling the toy aisle.

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Yes great tips, thank you. I

05/07/2010 - 22:20

Yes great tips, thank you.

I also have a little boy with a sensitive temperament so I have a feeling we are going to have a few of these "I feel sick" days when he heads off to school next year. At the moment he tells me he just doesn't want to go, and after a while I am able to coax the reason out of him - kids laughing at him or hurting him at pre-school.

I have used the strategy of talking him through various scenarios and the options available to him to counteract the behaviour. I also found it useful to explain that sometimes other kids are still 'learning' the correct behaviour and that they are acting out of their own frustration, to help him understand that it's not necessarily about him. And similar to the 'that's your opinion' comment by Jodie, I have encouraged him to think about whose opinions he really values when he feels upset by names a child is calling him. I asked him whether what that child says is really important to him, compared to what I (or other friends whose opinion he values) say, and he agreed that it's not important. I tried to reiterate that it's ok to feel upset about it, just remember that it's not too important.

It's tricky with very young children to not over-do it to the point where they become confused, but I am pretty sure it reassured him. He asked me why children like this one boy are constantly doing things to hurt others, and I replied that maybe he has just not learnt how to control his feelings just yet, but that doesn't mean that you have to put up with it. Doing something about it in a constructive way helps the child process their fears and act assertively without retaliating or becoming a helpless victim. It's worth perservering with this valuable lesson.

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