Today’s post answers reader questions on the topic of parenting issues. You can read previous answers to readers’ questions here.
When answering reader questions I try to offer up as many helpful tips that I can from my 22 years of parenting. But I am not a parenting expert, child psychologist, or qualified counselor. My answers are for information and entertainment purposes, please make sure you seek out relevant professional advice if you have parenting issues that are causing you and your family distress.
Do you advocate part-time jobs for your older children and how do you manage parameters around the hours they do, whilst still prioritising homework, sport, family and down time?
We currently have a daughter in year 12 and like her brothers before her, she has a part-time job. Our eldest would have worked the least during the last few years of secondary school. He had a job at a local footy club running water and as a boundary umpire so really only worked in the winter. This worked for him at the time as he didn’t spend lots of money, but it did prove to be a challenge for him once he finished year 12.
As he was now 18 and didn’t have retail experience it did take him a while to find a casual job with a decent number of hours regularly each week. It was a very different experience for our second child who gained himself a job at a new local supermarket when he was in year 11. Once he finished exams in year 12 and had some time off for schoolies, he went to having over 15 hours or more each week as a casual and this year went permanent part time while he is working his way through uni. Our daughter will hopefully have a similar experience.
Our fourth child turns 15 at the end of this month and we will help him put a CV together and encourage him to get a job. I have seen two kids through year 12 and I have seen a very clear trend of kids they know who do well in year 12 have a good mix of activities. They do A LOT of study, participate in sport and other extracurricular activities and hold down a casual job.
It does require them to work on their organisational skills and without doubt they have times when they don’t get it right and end up staying up late to finish work or study, but they learn from these experiences. Most employers also understand as exams come around at the end of the year that they will need some time off.
We haven’t really set parameters for the kids in the hours they work as they usually can determine this themselves. The area I find that is hit the hardest is family time. This Easter for example only the eldest didn’t make it to Mildura for some time. We took two cars to Mildura when we drove up on the Friday and on the Monday my husband drove back with the 17 and 19 year old so they could work and study. The youngest two and I stayed until Friday having a full week away.
It would have been great to have us all together for this time, but with both of them planning time off work for other activities coming up this year (exams and holidays), they both didn’t want to ask for more time off during this school holidays.
When the kids are in year 11 and year 12 we are pretty hands off with homework. I take an active interest in their subjects in terms of what they are learning and how they feel they are going but it is up to them to manage their workload. It can be painful to watch sometimes, as there have definitely been periods where they have slacked off and as someone who has the benefit of hindsight you know there will be panic stations imminent. Our approach is for them to have this happen, feel the consequences and learn from it. Their schools are also very good at keeping them accountable and on track, so I try not to tell them what they should be doing.
How have you been able to maintain discipline within your family while letting kids be kids (like rough & adventurous play)?
There is always such a fine line between rough house play and all-out aggression. The ridiculously overused cliche “starts in fun, ends in tears” has played out so many times in our house. My husband runs the line much more than I do, so I would sometimes look to him before intervening and he would give me the look that would say “hold off” and most of the time he was right. The kids would come to the end of what they were doing and no harm had come to anyone.
But with four boys in the house and the associated testosterone surges that come with growing boys there have been and no doubt there will be more times when the roughness gets out of hand. I think because we don’t overreact to small incidences, when we do intervene, the kids know it means we are serious and it needs to stop.
At times intervening to get them to stop isn’t enough. We need to make sure the children involved spend some time apart in different areas of the house until everyone has cooled off.
Then there are those random acts of violence that kids do to each other out of frustration, spite and anger. This happens very rarely now but when the kids were younger, we had a couple of strategies that we used when kids were too aggressive or hurt their siblings:
Third person in – we took this rule from ice hockey.
Third Man In – A game misconduct penalty, at the discretion of the Referee, shall be imposed on any player or goalkeeper who is the first to intervene (third man in) in an altercation already in progress except when a match penalty is being imposed in the original altercation.Source
Of course the parents are the referee and the third man in, is any child who involves themselves in an altercation that is in progress. This rule helped things not escalate into an all out war in the house. The penalty would be the next point!
Act of violence job – if a child is violent towards another sibling, even if that sibling was totally annoying and provocative, they would receive what we called an act of violence job. A mantra in our house is the violence does not solve a problem. The type of task given to the child depended upon the level of the violence that was handing out by the child.
In terms of adventurous play, we actively encouraged it while teaching them ways to keep themselves safe. For example, when climbing trees, only climb as far as you can get yourself down. If they got stuck, rather than getting them down, we would talk them down (unless dangerous) and this would help them set their own limits next time.
With 5 children in our house, it is chaotic and loud. How do you get the middle child (ren) who aren’t toddlers nor pubescent teenagers to respond without throwing a tantrum?
I am not sure that any parent has a fool proof strategy to do this 100% of the time. Sometimes there is just so much going on, no matter how you approach the child/ren they will not want to willingly do what you ask. We have found there are some things you can to increase your chance of a non-meltdown response:
- Give them advanced notice about what you need to them to do. This can be as simple as going to them and saying “In five minutes I am going to need you to go to the shower” or it might mean that you forewarn them earlier in the day “after lunch you and I are going to declutter your bedroom”. Pulling them away from their siblings or their activity without any warning can definitely set off tantrums!
- Give them a limited choice – the tantrum can be a result of the child feeling out of control. Giving them a choice hands them back some control and can help prevent a tantrum. For example, you can give them the choice of cleaning up their room before or after dinner – the choice is not about whether they want to clean up the room, that is a definite, but they can choose when they want to do it within your parameters (and you have given them advanced notice too!).
- Be wary of transition times – transition times are when kids need to move from one activity or area of focus to the next. It is when we need to get the toddlers to stop playing and have a bath or when older kids need to get off their devices and come to dinner etc. This is not the time to make a big ask of your child because they may already be struggling as they do not want to move from one activity to the next. Give them some time to adjust from being on the screen to occupying themselves and then make your ask from them. I have written more about transition times here.
How do you balance the needs of every child – taking older kids to sports etc with the needs of younger kids?
I have written a number of posts around these topics:
- 10 Tips For Managing After School Activities
- Managing after school activities – video
- Managing weekend sport
But in brief my approach to this is:
- Limit activities.
- When you have little ones, you will often end up in the park or playing more than watching your older kids do their sport. Try not to fight it and see it as an opportunity to spend time playing with the kids.
- It is okay not to watch every game your child plays.
- Kids are very resourceful – once in secondary school, as needed the kids get themselves to their activities via public transport and that is completely okay.
- Little ones can miss naps occasionally and still be okay. Sure they may be grumpy and behave a bit worse at the end of the day, but they will be fine.
How do you budget effectively without the kids missing out on things?
The quick answer to this question is we don’t! There are times when our kids don’t get things they would like or do things they would like to do. That is the reality of our family life. But I would like to ask a question of the question asker – what are they really missing out on?
There were times when our kids wanted to do more after-school activities than they were doing. They were always limited to two activities per term. They were given a choice with the activities (with the exception of swimming lessons until year 5) of what they wanted to do. They needed to work out which they wanted to do more and couldn’t do a third.
This was definitely a financial stance but it is was also a quality of life stance for me. Two activities by five kids and that is 10 activities a week! Quite often one was swimming when they were younger so we could knock that off in one night thankfully, or the amount of running around I would have done would have been ridiculous!
Our kids saved up and worked together to buy the PlayStation4. One of the older kids pays for Netflix, before that we didn’t have it. While it could be deemed that the kids are missing out because of our need to stick to a budget because of these things, honestly I don’t think they are really missing out.
I could be saying this to make myself feel better of course, as we all have our own cognitive bias but I really think they have been fine. While they may have a complained a little when they were younger, when I talk about it with the older kids now, they don’t feel they really missed out in the grand scheme of things.