At the end of January I got lucky and happened to see a text on my daughter’s preschool chat about a wellbeing event at LightHouse Arabia. I usually miss the good stuff so I was excited to see the event had not passed already. The event cost only 75 dhs (20USD) and the fee was actually an optional donation to charity.
I am a mom of three and every day I wish I had done a bunch of things differently. I want to be the calm mom and the strict mom. The mom that has polite well-behaved children, the ones that do chores without being asked. I want kids that are nice to each other and respect adults. I want them to do well in school and sports and to have nice friends. I wish they would eat more vegetables and enjoy my cooking, without complaints, every day. While I am making a wish list, I wish they would go on pinterest for inspiration and make their own goddamn lunches too.
I hope for lots of things for my children but what happens, everyday, is I get so caught up in the immediacy of it all that I end up just being a mediocre version of myself. I yell, I say things I wish I hadn’t and I settle for the minimum. Sometimes I don’t care if anyone brushes their teeth. But because I am me, and because I strive for success, I’ll feel guilty about it all later. And in this cycle I read and I write and I try to learn as much as I can. I try to have fun with them and enjoy the little moments, because they go so fast. I heard an interview with an amazing mother recently and she said everyone should be the mom that comes naturally to them and if you do that, your kids will turn out fine. It’s true though, we spend so much energy trying to be a different, better kind of parent that we can lose our strengths in the struggle.
Anyway…I do not have much wisdom for you, except that I learned a lot from the workshop that I went to and I thought I would share some of it here, on the blog to help others. It was super nice to take a break from my family on a Saturday and listen to well-trained professionals. The event was relaxing, peaceful and so welcoming. My kids did a couple of workshops for kids (technology and baking) and they loved them. I even got a free chair massage and free juice!
The first workshop I attended was Positive Discipline Strategies for Parents. I try to apply positivity to every aspect of my life, but being positive with discipline is super hard for me. Why? Because I get tired and annoyed and it’s so difficult to be constructive in those moments! Almost every friend groaned when I told them I was going to this workshop. They said, “I know how to do this, but I just don’t do it!” Exactly…
I have to say, my discipline strategies have not improved overnight from this workshop but I have been able to apply some of the principles to my everyday. These are the things that stood out to me:
Only pay attention and praise the behavior that you want to see more of instead of focusing on the bad behavior. This makes sense and it does work but it’s still challenging for me! What did help me though, is that the presenter focused on effective praise being much simpler than we think it is. You don’t have to offer rewards or gifts. A simple “thank you”or “you did such a great job with that” is enough.
The workshop included much more but the biggest takeaway I got from it was about how to engage with your kids one on one. This is my struggle with three kids. They all want me and demand things from me and I sometimes end not giving anything to all of them because I am so busy fending them off while I try to help one etc. Studies show that just ten minutes, alone with each child, doing an activity of their choice is the best way to spend quality time with them. This is not driving in the car or even reading to them. This is child directed time. Don’t interfere too much, don’t ask too many questions, only narrate what they are doing. Example, “you put all the blue blocks together and all the red ones over there.”
I started doing this each day and my kids love it. It’s given more structure to our evenings and helped with everyone’s expectations when they know their time is coming. With my youngest she wants to play mommies and daddies or Sylvanian bunnies. My middle one wants to play Go Fish or “Gold Fish” as she calls it. My oldest one usually wants to play a game of cards or a board game. The important thing is that they pick the activity and they lead the way.
Next I went to a workshop about the appropriate use sof technology for kids. I learned a lot here and this topic opens up a huge can of worms. The internet is big, guys, and we can limit their use of screens and devices and the content they access BUT it is so important to be involved with their education in technology. I also learned the hard way this year that I need to teach my children what to do if they come across something inappropriate or unsuitable for children. My instinct was just to shelter them completely and while I will NOT be giving my kids unlimited and uncontrolled access to devices or the internet, it is important to teach them how to use these things. Like everything else in life, it is so important that these lessons come from parents and that we just keep talking and communicating. They need to know they can come to us if they see something that makes them uncomfortable or curious.
Lastly, I want to tell you about the Smart Heart Board Game. My two oldest children came with me to play a life-size version of this at the workshop. They loved the game so much that I bought it from the creators. The game involves just enough competition to keep my oldest engaged and they actually like playing it together. The typical birth order issues do come out and there is some bickering but it all ends well! Even my three-year old can play, if I help her. We’ve only had the game two weeks and everyone has their own special game piece and we play everyday. I love it because it encourages talking, sharing and empathy, all the things I try to teach, but it does it in a way that is not too obvious. I now follow LightHouse Arabia on instagram so I don’t miss anymore amazing community days. For more information see links below!