As a parent I feel so fortunate to stand on the shoulders of so many. Over the years I have met many incredible people who have shared parenting tips and they have had an enormous impact on my parenting style. Some of these people I still know and others have been forgotten – my sincere thanks to all of you for your ideas and tips.
Parenting is one of those occupations where most are amazing at it, until they have kids! It often feels never ending and is a constant search for ideas and techniques that will help ease the frustration and increase the fun factor. Many people ask me how do I maintain a strong relationship with my children when I travel so much?
I think it is relatively simple – we have created rituals and traditions to make this happen…
Here are some of my favourites…
A month in the front: Our children seem to fight about the smallest of tasks. We constantly heard “It’s not fair, he fed the fish yesterday.” “She did the plates on the table 2 days in a row!” “I never get to…” It seemed endless. Then I learned this concept from my friend, Verity – ‘A month in the front.’ Simply allocate a month for each child to choose the best of the perceived jobs. In our house we rotate from Child 1 to Child 2 and the Adults share a month. If it is your month, you can to choose the best jobs for a month. It is the small things; preferring to set the plates on the table and not the cutlery, sitting in the front seat of the car (when it is free) etc. When it is the Adults month they share the tasks and learn to cooperate knowing their month is coming.
Phones at dinner table: Before our children had personal phones, we made a rule: No phones at the table. My husband and I practised not answering our phones and modelling the behaviour we wanted our children to exhibit. The rule was easy to enforce once the children had their own phones.
Rites of Passage: With more than one child it is often challenging to recall at what age you gave each child a privilege or special event. We have created a small timeline of when we felt was an appropriate time for certain events to occur and a particular age. (We often made this up as we went along, however it was important for the younger child to know when she could expect the event.
Age 8: Pocket money – this is their age in dollars (See Pocket money idea further down)
Age 8: (or somewhere in that year when we felt the child was ready and questioning) The birds and the bees talk. The basics were explained with both parent present with the aid of the book (a personal copy to keep) “Where did I come from” by Peter Mayle.
Age 10: Explained the truth about Santa. While many people disagreed it was an important moment in both our children’s lives when we were upfront and honest and recalled the fun and excitement that the ‘story’ had given over the years. In fact it was a real relief for our son as he had heard from other children and was grappling with the incongruency of message between his peers and parents.
Age 11: We stopped automatically hosting birthday parties and the children could choose between a party or $200 in their savings account.
Age 11: Cook a meal a week – yes the whole thing! The children have always helped in the kitchen and at age 11 were given a cook book for their birthday. Macaroni cheese was a staple dish cooked for a while!
Age 12: Set up a social media page together and post together throughout the year, while talking about cyber safety. (I believe it is easier to sit with your child and monitor their online behaviour at 12 than 13 when they are naturally pushing for more independence)
Age 13: Given a cell phone for their birthday. (This may need to be earlier for some children) Our daughter by passed this slightly by saving up to buy her own phone at 12!
Age 15/16: Strongly advise and coach them to get a part time job.
And there we pause as we invent the next rite of passage… Please let me know if you have some we can add..
Pocket Money: Many years ago I came across this great money box which teaches children about personal finance and wealth. It has 4 compartments; giving, living, saving & wealthing – with the latter 2 being screwed shut to avoid spontaneous withdrawals. (After a few months this money was transferred into the bank to earn interest in 2 separate accounts.)
Our rules are simple – from your pocket money $1 goes to giving and this is the tithing money for charity, buskers, donations or put towards our sponsor child in Tanzania. Two dollars must go into the savings and wealthing. The left over goes to the living compartment.
Living is for week to week needs such as treats, two dollar shop purchases, buying something from the market etc. This is their own money to spend as they see fit, without parent approval. If we are shopping and they see something they wanted, I simply asked if they had enough money in their living account. I quickly discovered if it was up to them to fund the purchase, they often decided it was not that important!
The savings goes toward a bigger item they wish to purchase. Our son spent 2 years saving for his iPad while our daughter used this money to buy her first phone. Spending of this money must meet with parental approval.
Wealthing is money to invest for growth. Both our children have a small share in forestry in NZ. This is all about ‘getting into the habit’ of being money wise. You do not need the fancy money box – four labelled jars will work as well.
Dinner Time: This is almost a sacred time in our home. The chance to be together, share, chat and learn. We have created a ritual of a question of the day. When the children were small we simply asked, “What is you favourite part of your day?” As they grew we added, “What are you grateful for?” and about 3 years ago we also added a question from a colleague, Rowie; “What positive difference in the world have you made today?” The dialogue which follows is powerful and often intense.
Monthly family day: Each month we schedule a family day – something we do as a family, usually during the weekend. Whoever’s ‘month’ it is (see above) chooses the activity, researches it and plans the day. The only rule is you cannot do what was done last month or what you planned last time. There is an available budget of $50 for the day and this includes the food. It is becoming harder and harder to do something with a family of 4 for under $50, however we have all become quite creative in the process! The children watch the specials and deals closely and often plan a picnic, walk or drive which does not cost. The older the children are, the more sport they seem to be involved in so this tradition is becoming more of a bimonthly or quarterly occurrence. We often make a sports game a family time with a small picnic or walk on the beach afterwards.
National Wagging Day: Inspired by the Pumpkin Patch founder, Sally Synott, we now have an annual “National Wagging Day.” During a week day, all of us wag school or work. Sometimes we go to the zoo, staying in bed and watch movies all day in our PJ’s, go for a picnic or walk or just hang out and play cards and board games together. My favourite part of the day (usually we pre schedules so it doesn’t clash with a school event or our work – knowing we will not be in) is when I tell the kids they can’t go to school today. There is always an outcry – “I want to go to school!” and I tell them they can’t. This day usually happens in the third term when we are all tired and sick of the cold winters days.
The key to the success of these ideas has been our consistency to uphold and execute the ideas. They have become the “this is the way we do it around here” traditions. I believe it has created more stability and certainty in our home, as well as having increased our closeness and fun factor as a family.
Our children are now 15 and 13 and one of the most important factors for success is we started early. We are certainly not perfect at any of this and we are still searching for more ideas and continue to bring new techniques to our parenting tool box. It is not too late to start.
Please share your family fun ideas and the traditions and rituals you have created in your family…
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