7 most likely sins of Harassed parents

If saving time by being efficient in everything you do as a mum (or even dad) is your new year resolution, this book is for you.
How to be an Amazing Mum When You Just Don’t have the Time” by Tanith Carey is just what I need now when I JUST DON’T HAVE THE TIME for EVERYTHING.

by Tanith Carey

How to be an Amazing Mum if You Just Don’t Have the Time by Tanith Carey

I chanced upon this book in the community library. In this book, there are many good tips in saving time from how to handle your children, leave the house on time, to how to put on make up in minimal time and yet look good!

One of the best advice the author gave and I feel I must share to all parents feeling the same way, was how she shared the 7 most likely sins of Harassed Parents. These sins resonate so well with me, I had better remember not to fall into these traps. (Sentences in Italics are direct extractions from the book)

1) Shouting to Get Kids to do Things
Hey, I am surely guilty of this one.
When I find myself already multi-tasking to my maximum ability, shouting instructions like “Go and Brush your TEETH!” from the kitchen to the child in the bedroom, or worse, behind the closed bedroom door, is a time saver. Then when I do not hear or see response within 1 minute, I shout out the same instructions again. Whoa! What a stupid mum I look if this scene were to enact on TV! First, my kid surely cannot hear me, or if he did, it would sound like a background noise. Secondly, my instructions from afar would not sound serious.

Solution: As far as it is realistically possible, stop what you are doing for a moment, go into the room where they are, make eye contact, and tell them what you want in a low, clear, authoritative voice that makes it clear what you expect them to do. If necessary, get down on their level, so they know you mean business. Believe me, just a little eye contact goes a very long way.

Besides, yelling at the top of our voice may work the first time by shocking the kids into submission. But this novelty wears off quickly and we are really teaching the kids to scream back at us.

2) Not Being Clear About The Rules
Do you find yourself making up rules as and when you want your kids to obey your instructions at that moment? I do at times! If we make up rules on an ad hoc, as-and-when we like basis, we are confusing our kids. We will invite time-consuming conflict because our children will think they have got room for argument and will challenge our stated ad-hoc rules. And if we are feeling a bit tired and fuzzy, we may also forget exactly what we had said before. This will leave our kids to push further the boundaries as much as to see where these rules apply.

Solution: Head off conflict by setting out your house rules in advance and sticking to them. Let older children have some input so it all feels more democractic, and tell them adults will be abiding by them too. Make them realistic for the ages of your children. Then write the list on a large, colourful piece of paper and stick it where the whole family can see it. Writing the rules in black and white also means, as well as caregivers coming into your home, like grandparents and babysitters. You, too, will probably want to refer to the list when your own resolve is feeling a bit shaky. When you’re tired, when you’ve had a long day, these rules are always there – like the Ten Commandments. It works almost instantly because the rules become the bottom line which your children know they can’t argue with.

3) Negotiating Too Much
This is one very interesting advice I learnt here. While we think by giving our children lots of freedom to have their own opinion on what to wear, what to eat, etc, we thought we are respecting the children’s individuality. Working parents usually do this as they think they are compensating the children since they are not around or not spending enough time with them. But the fact is deep down, children actually want to be told what to do, and are frightened when they feel in control. No child wants a total lack of structure!

Solution: You can, however, give them a restricted selection of choices. For example: “You can stay inside and watch Art Attack or go outside and play football. Which of these two things do you want to do?” Don’t give the child carte blanche, but let them choose between two equally good options. They don’t have to know you are happy whichever one they choose.

4) Entering into a Debate
Sometimes, even after I have made a decision, and especially after seeing the kids are not so happy with that decision I made, I make a BIG mistake in trying to reason it out and explain it. Apparently, kids, being so smart, they will try to seize this opportunity to protest and this often wears me down.
And I am even guilty of making another mistake: Making my requests sound optional! If I want my child to pack his room, sometimes, I make it sound like a question “Will you please pack your room?” instead of just saying,”Pack your room please!” With this, I am giving my child a chance to say “no” and the worse part is, I do not take “no” for an answer! So, why make the instruction sound like a question???

Solution: Don’t enter into a debate. Don’t ask; tell. Once you have made your decision, keep any explanation brief. If absolutely necessary, make direct eye contact and state clearly in thirty words or less why that’s the rule. Don’t feel guilty about asserting yourself. As a parent, that’s your job.

5) Giving In
My girl is a very smart girl. She often does this: when I am almost checking out at the counter, she will pass me something she likes in the shop and asks me politely,”Mummy, can I get this one?” It is just a thin line of saying a direct “no” and handing the thing to the cashier. Buying is an impulse. Time pressures can cause us to give in to our children. Sometimes, we fall into the trap of thinking since we have already limited time spent with the children, then make it a happy time by saying yes to all their wants. Oh, this is also when the time I break my usual rules and be so flexible because I really treasure the time spent with them after long working hours. It is so easy to GIVE IN to their requests. However, by doing so, I am letting my children keep pressing on my buttons on the off-chance they will hit the jackpot!

Solution: Set limits and stick to them. It makes kids feel safer. Otherwise they will feel insecure and will push you to see what you are going to do about it. Remember that as a parent, if you don’t say no, you are not doing your job properly.

6) Feeling Guilty
Needless to say, if you have been reading my blog, you would have read my guilt in A working mum’s woes.
Guilt creeps in from all nooks and crannies. Sometimes, when I see the kids yelling unfair and cry and scream, I would think that I had gone overboard to cause such hysteria. The author assured me that “The fact is that most children can weep at the drop of a hat; that’s the way they are wired.. Many’s the time when I have been amazed by seeing my kids go from a zero to sixty tantrum – and just as rapidly back to zero again.” Okay, so it is normal for kids to cry. They are just protesting or maybe more dramatic.

Solution: Stick to your guns. Unless you are stressed or have completely got the wrong end of the stick, your initial instincts were probably right. Pretend you are somewhere else if you have to be or go into autopilot to hold your line. Make it clear that when Mummy says no, she really means no. If necessary, repeat it like a mantra until they get the message. Otherwise, clear your diary for an endless round of exhausting tantrums and whinge-fests – and I mean exhausting for you, not them.

7) Feeding Kids Snack Foods
I am not guilty of this one, thank goodness that I have done something right out of the 7 sins.
I have known some parents who are casual about kids’ nutrition, and have no qualms about giving limitless sugary or junk food. I think 3 proper nutritious meals are very important to give the children the right nutrients and right energy to learning. Sugary snacks are not encouraged in our house even though I do not impose a 100% out of bounds to sugar or sweets. Occasional indulgence like ice-cream and sweets are alright, and even serve as an incentive or treat to look forward to. But there is always a limit and the kids know they have to seek my permission to touch these treats. The last thing I want is to see hyperactive kids in our house due to a surge in insulin levels. Neither do I want empty calories to replace proper meals.

Solution: Give kids slow-release protein snacks like cheese strings, nuts and pumpkin seeds. They can be just as fun. Their blood sugar levels will even out; they will calm down; and they’ll be fuller for longer.

How do you find these 7 sins of time deprived, harrassed parents? I am documenting this down as a reminder to me to refer to whenever I feel I have fallen into these traps and not able to keep things under control.

Are you guilty to some of these sins like me? Share with me how you deal with them!

23 thoughts on “7 most likely sins of Harassed parents

  1. These things are such easy traps to fall into! And I am constantly battling myself against all of them. The only one I’m not going to follow is the bit in #4 where you talk about phrasing your instruction as an option. I do this all the time and I agree it does leave the door open for debate (and we do have that debate – “But you were asking a question, it was optional!” “Yeah, no…”) but I expect my kids to be able to (eventually) learn to hear an instruction even when it’s phrased as a question/option. Moreover, I expect my kids to learn when and how to phrase their requests in this way in order to sound polite.

    I think this is a very cultural one as some cultures speak more directly than others, so some kids will have to cotton on to this phrasing earlier if they’re to fit in with society. Hence I continue to fight that battle.

    The other ones I could definitely do without!

    • Interesting take on #4! I never thought of it this way! I am quite sold to your reasoning. Indeed they need to hear how a question is asked and at the same time is an instruction itself. You are right about the culture. Chinese or rather Asians are more direct than others. But I do still think that some instructions have to be told to show importance and authority. Actually now I think of it, I would really hope to know how Caucasian kids (we really mean non-Asian kids or Western kids) are so vocal and not hesitant to ask for what they want or want to know. I feel my kids and many Singaporean kids have that little fear of asking for what they want especially to strangers. Maybe it’s the way of upbringing or just maybe it’s in us, shyness. Perhaps you can give some light to this since in my opinion, you are really good in parenting 🙂

      • I think my preaching is better than my practice 🙂 It’s much easier to know the right thing in reflection than carry it out in the moment. And you’re right in that there’s a time and place for just saying what you mean in very definite terms, especially since all these things happen so gradually for kids and you have to keep sane while they take their own time learning!

        As for the second bit, I think it’s cultural and individual. By which I mean some individuals are shy/hesitant by nature but I don’t think a whole group of people can be explained like that. So I think broad differences across a whole society are probably in the upbringing but I haven’t quite cottoned on to exactly what it is about the upbringing that makes it so! My impression is that it’s a lot of subtle things rather than one very obvious thing.

        I wonder, for example, if having more involvement from the extended family makes a difference as there are more “helpers” of all ages for younger kids (including grandparents, older cousins, etc) but when it’s just the nuclear family and perhaps also one parent is out at work most of the time (or both, with day care) you have to be more assertive from a younger age?

        But I also think it’s just a matter of how acceptable it is for kids to speak up. Babies are born knowing how to speak up! So I suspect unless they’re actively trained out of it they’ll continue to think it’s ok.

        I think it’s different again in expat families compared to those who live in their home country. As an expat the kids just get used to new people coming in and out of their lives and having to make new friends in new places. And they see their parents responding to the situation as well and treating newcomers as friends whereas in non-expat communities they might treat strangers as strangers.

        But personality plays a big role. I was one of the shy/not speaking up kids (like my Mum). On the other hand my sister is a walk-up-to-people girl (like my Dad). Very chalk and cheese even within the same family.

        Now if you have any tips on how to stop a kid interrupting that would be awesome. We have a big Fail on that point in our house so we could use a bit of that shyness/hesitancy you talk about! It’s our current battle!

      • Now you prompt me into thinking again… about babies being born knowing to speak up. My toddler indeed is very vocal in voicing out his wants and don’t wants. I still can’t figure out what happened in between that stops that.

        For interruptions, it’s the same with my kids too despite constant reminders. Sometimes we chose to ignore but they kept pestering for a reply. I think you may know the solution earlier than me.

  2. Agree with Agy, great tips and reminders! I think we constantly need reminders. Like constantly. Maybe someone should develop an app that can notify you with reminders a few times a day. wahahahahah

  3. I’m a yeller! But I yell TO Mr T and not AT him – if that makes sense! I had a girlfriend who thought I was so awful and a mean mom because I’d yell down the hall – until she had kids, and then it all made sense! 🙂
    Sounds like a great book, especially if it helped you out!

  4. Love this post! I have a clear idea of rules in my household but haven’t gotten around to writing them down. It is a MUST do once we get home. Currently at my in-laws place where grandma and grandpa are very indulging and all my rules have gone out the window!

    • When it comes to rules, I think it is important to write it out and paste it on the wall for everyone to read. I am also drafting my rules and I have to ensure the rules apply to all 3 different age kids. Grandparents will find it hard to follow our rules even if they come over to our house. To avoid much conflicts, I will choose to close one eye and only get it strict after I come back from work and during weekends. I look forward to your sharing of your rules on the blog!

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