I am a parent of a 12 year old, as you know. As any parent also knows, with children comes total invasion of any personal space, including the bathroom. It amazes me how often my daughter urgently needs me just after I have locked the door and got into a nice, warm bath… Relaxation over. It’s challenging and no one told me about these things beforehand. Hey ho. As a result, my parenting oscillates between blagging it and deploying management techniques acquired during my career, which have proved surprisingly useful. Under lockdown these coping strategies have become even more useful…
I’ll give you an example. We reached crisis point last week, where my irritation ramped up to fury provoked by teenage attitude! After calming down, so that I could once again speak normally, I came up with a bunch of new rules to implement the next day:
1. You have to get dressed before school starts. 2. I have changed my phone password so that you can’t be on it once yours has been locked by Google Family Manager (!) 3. I’m booking time with your friends for you as you haven’t made the effort, and you have to go out at least once a day. Brilliant!
Then I faced the knarly question of how to communicate these rules, concisely and effectively. Hmm. Its not performance review territory yet 🤔. So I went for the One Minute Manager approach. Essentially, every instruction and piece of feedback can be communicated in one minute. Very useful, as your child can listen for a minute and is more likely to remember the instructions, being short and sweet.
So, first you are driving me mad as you are not following healthy routine at the moment and are becoming impossible to live with. This will no longer be tolerated. Then I spelled out the new rules. Finally, I asked for agreement. Clearly, I did not get full agreement that night, but she has followed rules every day since. Major success 👏.
In the past, I’ve adopted a similar but more extensive approach after a few days of deliberate provocation and loss of temper. For this longer term issue, I recommend the performance review. Oh yes!
First, set a time to meet (scares the bejeesus out of them, perfect scene setting). Second, ask if the child wants to do nice things (language and rewards outlined are age dependent). Thirdly, set objectives by outlining ‘things mummy needs in order to stay sane’. Finally, gain agreement on the basis of dangling a reward. The technique works really well is fairly light touch in terms of effort, and leads to at least three months of sustained and reasonable behaviour.
Needless to say, one of the hardest ages for parents is around 5 or 6 years old. I feel for those in lockdown who have children this age. It’s the toughest one. They are still in a phase where the child needs help dressing and washing etc. combined with school and learning expectations, friendship problems and the dreaded question ‘Why?’.
This age is physically draining, emotionally draining, and sometimes intellectually draining. Please be reassured that it does not last forever. Honesty, just let them wear whatever weird combination they want to wear; it’s so much easier and the least of your worries under lockdown…
The challenges gradually shift to bigger anxieties and problems as they get older, so you can look forward to that! Complexity around friendship increases, the school work gets blumin’ hard and requires additional research, and inevitably as a teenager they just don’t like anything you do anymore… Inevitably this extends to how and what you cook, what you wear, whatever you say, and what you do for work. And I say this when my daughter hasn’t even hit 13 years old!
The best book I’ve read (recommended by her school) is ‘Untangled‘. It explains why your 12 year old daughter disappears for hours, only reappearing for meals… I assume she will talk voluntarily to me again at some point, but at the moment I come a firm second place to her phone and XBox 😂🤣.
I hope this blog helps fellow parents remain sane under homeschooling, and the related endurance parenting race of a third lockdown. I’ve stopped baking, but still escape the house every morning for a run. Who knows, next week I may give myself a lecture about actually getting dressed in the morning!!
All the best, Ruth x