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Parenting Hacks & Tips

10 Common Parenting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. There’s so much more to parenthood than I could have ever imagined; something I talked about in ‘5 things about parenthood NOTHING can prepare you for’. 

Sometimes it feels like whatever we do, we’re competing against the Jones’, their perfect social media feed kids and their faultless way of doing things.  

Try as we might, we’re bound to get it wrong from time to time – it’s part of the journey. Relying on our ‘Parenting instincts’ just isn’t enough and, more often than not, we’re too proud to ask for help or advice when we need it because it feels like we’ve failed. 

If you can learn to overcome these 10 common mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to becoming the best parent you can be. 

1. Fighting your children’s battles for them

It goes without saying that your children mean everything to you, right?

Of course they do.

But, sometimes you just need to take a step back and your kid learn that their actions have consequences

For example, if your child does something that has a negative impact on others, it can be tempting to jump in and protect them if somebody points it out.

The thing is, fighting your child’s battles will teach them that three is no consequence to their actions and that they don’t need to be accountable for their decisions.  

Take time to be constructive and remind them using positive language what the correct behaviour is and why we should do it, rather than ignoring it or always coming to the rescue.

2. Letting technology rule the roost

In the last decade, the way we consume and use technology has evolved massively. Smartphones, tablets, connected technology…You name it, we all have it. 

Technology is an important part of most of our lives and it gives us access to entertainment, communication and connection – particularly during a pandemic! 

It can be tempting to let your children sit on YouTube Kids or watching Netflix because of a few reasons:

  • Your child enjoys it
  • It gives you a moment of peace to get household chores done
  • You can do it together

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of streaming here and there, but try to create quality memories by doing other activities too.

Go for a walk, think up an activity to do together (Looking for inspo? Read this!) or read a book. 

Limiting the time kids sit in front of a screen will not only help you form an unbreakable parent child relationship, but it’ll teach your child some invaluable social skills at the same time. 

3. Not leading by example

So many parents know all the best parenting techniques and can talk big about the right parenting style for every situation, but their behaviours don’t mirror what they say. 

For example, I walked out of a supermarket last week and saw a mum with her child. Not only did she tell her daughter to get off of her phone, whilst simultaneously glancing at her own device, but when the girl raised her voice at her mother in frustration, the mother yelled about how she shouldn’t shout. 

I mean, seriously…

The phase, “Do as I say, not as I do” does not apply to parenting, trust me. 

Remember, you’re the ultimate role model for your child – the hero of their little story.

To be an effective parent, you need to model the behaviour you want to see in them. They’ll be more likely to mirror you than to listen to you.

4. Not dedicating enough quality time

Life is hectic, right? I often talk on our Instagram page about how trying to keep on top of parenthood, finances, household jobs, relationships, friendships and more can feel like spinning plates.

Sooner or later, one of them drops. 

With all that on your mind, it’s not uncommon to feel distracted when you’re with your kids whilst you’re busy thinking about everything you need to do.

Parents feel an immense amount of pressure, particularly with young children; it’s so difficult to keep on top of their own mental health and keep everything else afloat. 

It’s easy to get lost, though.

Remember, your children crave your attention, whether they’re being little angels or playing up. Try to spend as much quality time with your children every day because, outside of telling them you love them, being present and in that moment shows them that you love them. 

Try to make the time you spend together as ‘high quality’ as possible. Put that phone in a drawer, turn off the TV and give them 100% of your attention for as much time as you can. 

5. Not spending enough time on your relationship

Becoming a parent is a wonderful experience and that little person will instantly become your entire universe. Be careful though, your child shouldn’t replace your relationship with your partner, only add to it.

Whether you’re a nuclear family or a separated, blended family, always take the time to focus on your relationship as much as you can. That strong foundation will help you work through some of the natural struggles that come with raising a child. 

I know from experience that if you’re unhappy in a long term relationship, it’ll project into the way you bring up your children. Remember to nurture your relationship with your partner and your child will be so much happier for it in the long run. 

6. Not spending enough time looking after yourself 

With all of those important things to focus on on top of this beautiful little munchkin to raise to raise, we often forget to take the time for ourselves; I’m certainly guilty of this. 

We burn the candle at both ends, which means we become overwhelmed or frustrated at the relentless nature of parenthood and well, life in general. 

Make sure you factor in some ‘me time’ to gather your thoughts where possible. Allocate a little block of time into your routine, perhaps when the kids are in bed, to meditate, write in a journal, exercise or have a bath. 

I struggle with switching off and always feel like I should be doing something. My girlfriend will often remind me that it’s OK to just relax sometimes and she’s right – recharging your batteries will save you from burnout, making you a better parent in the long-run. 

7. Being controlled by your emotions

As our children grow, they’re still learning to rationalise their thoughts and deal with their feelings. They may act up, misbehave or whinge for seemingly no reason at all.

Children have evolved to elicit a response out of their parents because, unlike many other species on this planet, us humans and our big brains take a long time to develop. 

It’s perfectly normal to feel a sense of frustration or anger if your child keeps pestering you, misbehaving, crying…or anything else for that matter.

The important thing is to try not to let your emotions take hold. 

Remembering that children are impressionable little things and will mirror your behaviours is important. If you react emotionally or get visibly angry, your child will think this is the appropriate way to behave in future. 

If you’re feeling stressed, try to take a quick time out. So long as your child is safe, leave the room for a minute and take a few deep breaths, count to ten and get ready to go again. 

8. Doing everything for your kids

We all adore our children and we want them to be happy. If you’d have told me 5 years ago that I’d be bringing my daughter breakfast in bed every time she stayed with me, I’d have laughed you out of the room. 

It’s perfectly normal to feel a sense of responsibility to our children, but it’s important that you don’t do everything for your kids. 

Children need to learn to appreciate the value of what you do for them rather than expect it. You don’t want to set expectations for your child because they’ll grow up without any sense of ownership of their own lives. 

9. Not listening to your children

As I mentioned earlier, children can be irrational little devils sometimes. They’re still developing and their perception of the world has been shaped by a very limited experience of it. 

When a child is talking to you, parents can often shoot them down without even knowing they’re doing it. 

In the brilliant book, “How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber, she explores the concept of really listening to your children.

She uses this example:

CHILD:Mommy, I’m tired
ME:You couldn’t be tired. You just napped. 
CHILD:(louder) But I’m tired. 
ME:You’re not tired. You’re just a little sleepy. Let’s get dressed.
CHILD:(wailing) No, I’m tired!
Excerpt from ‘How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk’ by Adele Faber

Adele explains, “I was…telling my children over and over again not to trust their own perceptions but to rely on mine instead”.

Instead, encourage them to talk to you and hear what they have to say. 

Rather than denying your child’s feelings, try acknowledging them instead, even if you know the outcome will still be the same.

I’ll share an example of what I mean.

Last week we were getting ready to take my daughter, Evie, back to her mum’s house. 

EVIE:Daddy, I don’t want to get dressed
ME:Oh I don’t want to get dressed either! I wish we could stay in our pyjamas all day and play. 
EVIE:Me too! We could bounce on the bed ALL day! 
ME:That would be SO MUCH fun! I’d love that! We do need to get you back to Mummy’s house though, so maybe next time we can do that?
CHILD:(big compliant sigh) Okayyy then. 

This example is what Faber describes as ‘giving a child their wish in fantasy’. By acknowledging that Evie didn’t want to get dressed and understanding what she wanted, we imagined what that would be like to give Evie the outcome she wanted in that moment before coming back to the original task at hand: Getting dressed. 

Evie proceeded to get dressed beautifully and didn’t mention it again. 

10. Being inconsistent 

Part of being a child is testing boundaries (Man, part of being an adult for me is testing boundaries!).

Children have an amazing sense of what they can get away with and they’ll try their best to push their luck at every given opportunity. 

One of my absolute musts as a parent (and in the workplace for that matter!) is consistency. If your child knows exactly how you’ll react and that you’ll always do what you say you’ll do, parenting becomes infinitely easier. 

For example, if you tell your child they can’t watch the TV one day whilst they have their dinner, but the next day you give in and let them because you’re stressed and can’t face the argument, guess what they’ll do the next day when you say no…

They’ll keep pushing until you give in or they’ll get upset when you don’t.

Children feel safe and secure when they know what the rules are and how to stick to them.

Some days you won’t want to stick to your rules, but trust me…those small ‘in-the-moment’ battles will be far easier than the on-going arguments when they challenge you on everything!  

Summary 

It’s important to remember that no parent is perfect. We all have good days and bad days and nobody expects you to get it right all the time.

Guess what? The fact you’re even thinking about it shows you’re an amazing parent already. 

If you have an off day, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just take a moment, reflect and see if you can improve the next day! 

You’ve got this! 

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Follower Focus, Guest Posts

Follower Focus: The Windsors

We have so many fantastic followers on social media. Each and every one of them has an amazing story to tell and we wanted to share some here on thebreakingdad.co.uk. Our first ever Follower Focus is from one of our earliest followers, @WindsorFamLife, an amazing mum of five from Dorset!

I’m Gemma, 40 and a Mum of five from sunny Dorset on the South Coast, married to Darren and together we make up The Windsor Family!

My eldest daughter, Lottie (Charlotte) is 16 and she was diagnosed as having autism in June 2019. My eldest son, James is 15 and was born with Down Syndrome. My youngest son, Ollie (Oliver) is 13 and my youngest two daughters, Emily and Lucy are 7 and 5.

So, if your maths is good, you will have worked out that I had James when I was just 25, which isn’t at all common, as most women that have babies born with Down Syndrome are older mothers.

Darren and I met in 2002 and we had bought our first house together just a year later! A year later again in 2004 we had our first child and in 2005 we got married.

This brings us to December 2005, when we bought our next home and within 2 weeks of moving in we had James!

We didn’t know James had Down Syndrome and at the 12 week scan (which was the day before our wedding) they told me that I had a 1:400 chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome. Not to worry they said, you are very young! So we didn’t think of it again, until the night before I went for my C- section when it suddenly popped into my head! However as quick as the thought was there it was gone again as it was exciting to be meeting our second child.

James was born 5 days before Christmas and as they laid him on my chest in the operating theatre I was going cross eyed looking at his little nose trying to work out whose nose he had as it didn’t look like mine or Darren’s.

In recovery I tried to latch James on for a breast feed but he was so floppy and sleeping, he just wasn’t interested. So the nurse did his baby check on him instead and said to try feeding him again later.

While they did his baby check, a nurse brought me some toast and a drink, so I tucked into that not really watching the baby check but Darren however was watching and later told me they were spending extra time this time compared to our first baby’s check.

A few minutes later, the midwife went off to get a second opinion of another midwife. It was at this point they said they think our baby may have Down Syndrome as he showed several physical characteristics.

  • A flattened face, especially the bridge of the nose
  • Almond-shaped eyes that slant up
  • A short neck
  • Small ears
  • A tongue that tends to stick out of the mouth
  • Small hands and feet
  • A single line across the palm of the hand (palmar crease)
  • Small pinky fingers that sometimes curve toward the thumb
  • Poor muscle tone and loose joints

There are several different characteristics and James had most so they said they would send for a blood test to confirm if he had Down Syndrome but it would be 5 days for the results.

We took one look at him and it was like the penny had dropped! That’s why we couldn’t quite place his little nose, why he couldn’t latch to breastfeed and why he was so sleepy.

They then said he needed warming up and a tube feed of some formula as he hadn’t fed since birth, so they popped him in the hot cot for the night while I was on the ward expressing breastmilk like fury!

I didn’t get to hold him again until the next morning which was really hard. Once I was able to get up and walk I was straight in to see him and it wasn’t long before he was on the ward with me again.

We stayed in hospital for 6 days, which included Christmas Day which was heart wrenching as it was our first Christmas in our new house and our baby girl was at home without her Mummy on Christmas morning.

We came home Boxing Day night once James had finally managed a bottle feed and had his tube removed!

It hit Darren hard the first day he was told James had Down Syndrome and he came home and cried.

For me, it was a case of carrying on being James’ Mummy. He was a baby who needed me. However as the months went on and all my other baby friends’ children hit their milestones, it started to sink in that James had Down Syndrome and what this meant for him. It hit me hard around 6 months – I went onto antidepressants and was at an all time low.

However with time and support, I got better and excited that James is just an absolute superstar!

He is 15 now and has proved to me he can do anything he wants to in life!

If you’d like to share your story, drop us an email on [email protected] and let’s talk!

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Blended Families

5 things about parenthood NOTHING can prepare you for

Parenthood is the best, without a shadow of a doubt.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to take it as a given that parenting is the best thing ever.

You’re in safe hands, what you read from here is going to be our little secret. I won’t tell if you won’t…

Now, it’s time to dispense with the niceties about raising kids and…just tell the truth.

It’s bloody difficult.

I don’t know about you, but before I became a Daddy I definitely thought I would be awesome at it.

The following things used to drive me insane:

  • Children who cried on planes and the parents who didn’t ‘deal with it’
  • Parents who plonked phones in front of children at restaurants to keep them quiet
  • Parents who didn’t deal with temper tantrums

I could go on.

“Why don’t you just pull yourself together and just parent!?”

I mean it can’t be that hard, right?

GIF of Gordan Ramsey shouting, "Wrong"

Oh, how wrong I was.

My brother and his wife recently had a baby and by his own admission, it’s been a bit of a shock.

Nothing can truly prepare you for the stress, worry and often despair that children can bring.

I’ve learned so much about myself since becoming a parent.

To be honest, you won’t find most of them in an instruction manual, so I thought I’d share them.

Here goes.

Here are 5 things about parenting that NOTHING can prepare you for.

1. The first few months of parenthood is essentially sleep deprivation torture

Man looking tired and saying he hasn't slept in four years

We’re all patient, positive and happy creatures when we’re well-rested.

The problem is, resting well doesn’t generally come with the territory when a baby comes along.

A newborn baby hasn’t yet learned the sleep manners and protocols we’re so used to and trust me, they’ll let you know about it.

Using their greatest weapon in the battle against restful sleep, your baby will let out a cry that has so efficiently evolved over many thousands of years to be as awful to listen to as possible.

Just as you think you’ve settled them, they’re ready for round two.

…and three.

…and four.

Ever tried running on empty? It sucks.

We get irrational and we get very grumpy.

Those bags under our eyes? They’re now permanent shady little fixtures under what was once a pair of gleaming, bright and wistful eyes.

Data from thousands of men and women shows rest is at its worst three months after birth and could last up to six years.

See you in a few years, sleep. It’s been fun.

The early days are tough for sure, but it gets easier. You can never underestimate the importance of taking time for yourself and should work together as parents to find time to decompress.

I often say you can’t pour from an empty cup and sometimes having five minutes to recharge those batteries is necessary, particularly if you’re not sleeping much!

2. You were woefully under-prepared for parenthood.

Man shaking his head and saying, "I'm not ready"

I remember the first time I got behind the wheel of a car for a driving lesson.

I was terrified.

I’d watched people driving all my life and I’d been in the passenger seat countless times.

But everything looked SO DIFFERENT from the driver’s seat and suddenly the driving instructor’s life was in my hands.

That’s parenting.

I remember holding Evie to my chest for the first time and being so absolutely blown away by the beauty [and horror] of childbirth.

Side note:
There is no time in a man’s life that are more totally redundant as when they watch a woman, surrounded by other women, bring a life into this world.

If you can witness something like that and EVER suggest men are superior to women, you should probably stop existing.

When I held Evie for the first time it dawned on me that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

Putting her little [ish…Evie was 9lbs 11 when she was born] arms and legs into her first babygrow, I knew that I was the beginning of a long journey of discovery.

I felt hopelessly ill-equipped for it.

I often talk about parenthood as being like a secret club; you suddenly appreciate how much other parents we know are pretty much just blagging it!

3. Parenthood is EXPENSIVE.

I have never had less money in my life than in the first year after Evie came along.

Pushchairs, cots, bottles, formula, clothes, bibs, dummies and nappies…

…Oh, the nappies.

To be honest, I stopped typing the list because it’s not fair on you as a reader.

The point is, it’s a lot of stuff.

Even now, the biggest proportion of my disposable income goes on Evie by far.

It probably always will.

I’m OK with that.

That said, some of the best fun we ever have together is when we’re finding things to do at home on a budget.

If you’d have told me before I joined the ‘glamourous’ world of parenthood that I’d be making home-made ‘rainbow rice‘ and routinely baking with my little munchkin, I wouldn’t have believed you!

4. You WILL be that annoying parent who posts takes too many photos.

It’s early September.

The glistening summer sun is starting to beat its end-of-season retreat and autumn is on its way.

It’s here.

The kids are going back to school…

You make one fatal mistake.

You open Facebook or Instagram.

All-of-a-sudden, your feed is swamped with pictures of your friend’s child stood uncomfortably, harbouring a forced and uncomfortable-looking, grimace-like smile.

Why? Because it’s an important to parents, for some reason.

I mean, the biggest difference is that they’re wearing a different outfit know as, ‘School Uniform‘.

There they stand in all their generic glory, boasting a pitiful shade of red, blue or green.

Some kids, if they’re really unlucky, wear brown.

You’ll know the ones, they always look like they’ve accidentally stumbled across a time machine that warped them from World War II.

Why does the fact your child is wearing a school uniform for the first time in the school year mean anything at all?

Bad news Brenda, your kid looks the same in that picture as they did yesterday; the key difference being that they’re not wearing the unfortunate outfit you chose for them in the misguided pursuit of stylishness.

“I’ll never be one of those parents who over-shares their child’s meaningless milestones on social media because nobody’s interested.”

I mean, those are words I SAID.

Certainly not words I live by.

From the moment your kid enters this world, every single development is precious.

I’ll level with you.

At this moment in time, I have 37,995 photos stored on Google Photos account.

Screenshot of Google Photos storage with 37,995 photos

I shudder to think how many of those are of Evie.

The first time she opened her eyes, the first time she smiled, the first time she laughed (that was a video in case you’re wondering), the first time she slept on her tummy, the first time she had solid food…

Honestly, it’s ridiculous.

What’s more surprising is I could go back and pinpoint each photograph and when it happened, but I can’t find my car keys and wallet from 10 minutes ago.

Do you want to see the first time Evie went in a swing? No?
Baby daughter uses a swing for the first time

Too late, sorry – it was a milestone and I cared about it, so I shared about it.

After having children, you see that they very quickly become the centre of your universe.

If people don’t want to see it, they’ll soon fall out of your orbit.

Oh and a confession:

Evie’s first day at school was magical.

As a parent, I was absolutely bursting with pride to see my baby all dressed up in her smart little uniform and ready to kickstart her education.

So, Brenda…

Please accept my apologies; I will be posting every year for the foreseeable.

5. You’ve changed.

Children painting a father's feet

Up until the day your child was born, your life was yours.

  • Fancy a nap? Crack on.
  • Want five minutes peace and quiet? Sure thing.
  • Fancy nipping to the gym? Go flex ’til your little heart’s content.

Until you have children, you’re the custodians of your own destiny.

Whatever you fancy doing with your other half this weekend – you can.

[Within reason…we’ve just been plunged into another national lockdown]

Parenthood changes you, permanently. I can’t honestly tell you whether it’s for the better or worse, everybody’s different.

If you have children, see if you can relate:

  • I often look back at the first 27 years of my life and know that I”ll NEVER again underestimate the value of a nap.
  • Snot GROSSES me out, but I’ll regularly wipe it from Evie’s nose with my bare hands so she doesn’t have to be snotty.
  • Being urinated on, farted on, thrown up on and covered in poo…is, unfortunately, par for the course.
  • I HATE sharing food, but Evie can have whatever she wants…even if she decides she doesn’t like it and spits it back onto my plate.
  • I’m VERY GOOD at playing Mums and Dads
  • I’m AWFUL at doing Evie’s hair.
  • I smile KNOWINGLY at new parents who say they’re finding a newborn difficult when they haven’t yet experienced a two-year-old.

As somebody who has yet to or chosen not to have children, you might look at that list and think it sounds horrific…

For the parents reading, you’ll know that all of this stuff contributes to that magical journey we call parenthood.

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