Lifestyle / Family

Claudi Potter
7 minute read
27 Jan 2020
10:00 am

The ‘Good Kids’

Claudi Potter

I’ve sat down and examined a few of the things we might be getting right.

My husband and I were not amazing baby parents. We were sleep-deprived wrecks and we hardly went out, because the mere thought of leaving the house was too overwhelming.

To make matters worse, we were the first of our friends to have kids. We were inexperienced and stupid, and of course, all our childless friends were parenting experts who never failed to point out exactly what we were doing wrong.

“You should just let them cry it out!” “Take them out more.” “My sister says they just need a good routine.”

The reason I’m setting up an article about “good kids” with my bad baby history, is to point out that I’m not getting on my high horse – I’m just plodding along on my mid-sized pony. Promise.

But the thing is, a lot of people have said to us: “You know, you guys have really good kids.”

So, I’ve sat down and interrogated a few of the things we might be getting right. The article about the things we’re getting wrong would require a 90-page novel format.

So here goes nothing:

  1. Stick to your promises and follow through on your threats

When we make a promise that we’ll do something fun or go somewhere, our kids know that it’s going to happen. The same goes for threats. If we threaten to take away an iPad, we’re going to turn back and go home, or that there will be no dessert – you can bet your Belgian Chocolate Ice Cream that is exactly what is going to happen. There’s nothing more futile than a bunch of empty threats. And the worst part is the more you threaten and don’t follow through, the more of a fool they think you are.

  1. Tell them you love them and you’re proud of them

Again, mean it. You can’t be proud of everything. Eating dinner and picking up clothes from the floor shouldn’t be viewed as accomplishments. Being kind, working hard, giving your best – those things deserve to be recognised and celebrated. And when you tell them you love them, show them too. We’re huggers. And they don’t always like it. But hopefully, they’ll thank us for it one day.

  1. I gotta have some of your attention. Give it to me!

I feel like a lot of parents think that doing things with your kids means that you are giving them attention. Taking them out, driving them to a million activities, play-dates and workshops – these things are distractions. Entertaining the kids is great, but sometimes they just want you to hang out with them and listen to what they have to say. They don’t want a new game or another outing or a cooking class. They just want you.

  1. Respect boundaries

My kids can’t come in when I’m on the toilet, showering or having a bath. When I’m on a phone call they cannot speak to me, and when adults are mid-conversation they know they have to wait for us to finish before they can jump in. These are clear boundaries. They also know that I respect theirs. If they ask to be left alone or to be given space, they get it. If they say they really don’t want to join in an activity, they don’t have to. They choose who they invite to their birthday party and whose parties they want to go to. Their boundaries and their opinions matter, and they know that they do.

  1. But, everything can’t be a negotiation

Of course, they don’t always want to eat their veggies, or go to bed on time or do their homework. And that’s when they try to negotiate. Many parents will argue that it is empowering – you give a bit, they gain a bit, and everyone walks away happy. Only, it doesn’t work this way if every little thing becomes a debate. Some things are clear cut: Eat your food, go to bed, brush your teeth, do your homework. I have seen so many parents engage in negotiations only to get frustrated and ultimately having a huge fight over the number of peas that are allowed to still be left on the plate. Which brings me to point 6.

  1. NO is not an ugly word

It’s a simple word. Your basic 18-month-old gets it. It leaves no room for misunderstanding or confusion. UNLESS ‘no’ doesn’t mean ‘no’. When the word ‘no’ in a household becomes a ‘maybe’ or a ‘later’, then everyone is left confused and trying to push that ‘no’ at every opportunity. No. No. No. No. No. (I feel a 90s song coming on…) If you say it often enough, you just might believe it yourself. No? NO! Noooooooooo! Say it. Mean it. Stick to it.

  1. Teach them compassion

Kids need to understand that the things they do and say have very real consequences. For them to build that understanding you need to talk about feelings, you need to apologise when you were wrong, and you need to act in a compassionate way. Building awareness of other people’s feelings and learning to empathise is such a huge contributor towards raising kids that will have a healthy EQ. Plus, the world needs more compassionate people.

  1. Repeat after me: “I am the parent.”

You’ve earned the right to have the final say. You have much more life experience, you control the money, you make the money, you make the big decisions. You own those little bastards. (Just kidding. Please see points 4 and 7 on RESPECT and COMPASSION.) Seriously though, you are the parent – you don’t need their approval or their permission. I always have to hide a bit of an eye-roll when another parent says something like, “Sally just won’t let me leave the shop without a little treat for her.” Or, “No matter what I do, Sally refuses to do her homework without me.”

Is little Sally holding you in death grip? Is Sally threatening to fire you? What dirt has little Sally got on you, woman? What power does little Sally yield? Should I be scared of Sally too?

YOU ARE THE PARENT. Don’t you forget it.

  1. Be a team

Firstly, you and your co-parent need to be a united front. You back each other, you agree, and you don’t undermine the other parent. If not, they will only play you up against each other and it will result in a lack of respect from all sides. Secondly, your family is a team. Parents and kids. Always give your own kids the benefit of the doubt, and allow them to be honest with you. There will be consequences, but it will always come from a place of love and support.

  1. Give them responsibilities

“Good kids” take their dishes to the kitchen. They help out when there are kids that are younger than them. They ask what they can do, rather than wait to be nagged to do something. This only happens when they are given responsibilities. If kids are waited on hand and foot, the expectation will always be that someone else will do things for them. And guess what? They love it. Kids love when their parents trust them enough to give them responsibilities.

My mid-sized pony and I are about to take a slow trot home. I don’t have perfect kids, but I’m grateful that I have two really good kids. Also, after several years of not-so-good-babies, it’s just nice to have my boobs and eight hours of sleep back. I’ll bet you have great kids too. And it’s nice when people acknowledge that. And if you don’t feel like you do – you probably had exemplary babies, or you’ll have unexpectedly amazing teenagers, or your adult children will be the most incredible humans ever. We all get it right and wrong some of the time, so let’s just enjoy it while the going is good.

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Claudi Potter is a Creative Director, working in Advertising, and mom of two, Ani, 10, and Stuart, seven. Ani dreams of becoming a cat lady and living on a farm. Stuart wants to be an engineer when he grows up so that he can build a Transformer for each member of his family. When Claudi grows up she hopes to be the perfect mom, drive a clean car, and go to the gym. Until then, she is pretty content with short scrolls on her phone, long hikes with her family and trying her best.