In part I, we talked about parenting hacks we used to cultivate awareness of recycling and repurposing items in different ways, creating mystery and encouraging curiosity, using toys to aid learning, as well as planning a productive work day by leaning on activities best suited to your child’s style of learning.
Much of our parenting hacks in Part I revolved around having parents shift their mindset and understand how to utilise their limited resources, while being strategically sneaky.
In this article, we’ll be talking about our parenting hacks that can help your child cultivate a different mindset and independently plan, manage and monitor their own behaviour. Our disclaimer? This isn’t going to happen overnight. It takes time. So be patient, persevere and consistently give your child opportunities to assert themselves. One day, you’ll be surprised!
Managing their own time
Teaching your kid to be in charge of their time seems like such an impossible feat, but children can do it. What you need, are what we would call the 3Ps
Let your child know how much time he or she has to plan out. Your child may not possess a complete understanding of time yet, but as long as he or she is capable of understanding number sequences (i.e. that 30 is more than 20 and 10), this would be good enough.
Let your child propose what they would like to do with that time.
Discuss with them whether it is feasible or not, then suggest alternatives, or let your child come up with other suggestions.
Let your child go and play how he or she wishes to! Help your child stick to his or her plan by giving them a five minutes heads up – or you could use a kitchen timer to help you out!
Stick to it
When their playtime is over, be firm.
Doing this frequently with your child encourages them to be more independent and pick up the basics of time management, an essential skill they will need later on in life. Child development experts have suggested this may be the most critical skill in the 21st century, where so much of our attention is controlled by the media. Someone who is able to consciously and deliberately make decisions with regards to how they spend their time, will be less likely to lose control of how they spend it. With the addictive nature of the media, e.g. through videos, computer games, etc. that the next generation will inevitably be exposed to, this will be a critical life skill.
As we’ve emphasized frequently, parent modelling is probably the most significant and organic way our kids learn from us – set a good example yourself. If you tell your child you’re going to head to a meeting in the room and should not be disturbed, but promise to play lego afterwards, do your best to stick to your promise.
Here however, you can insert conditional exceptions (which you should also allow your child to do), to ensure you can work undisturbed in case of an emergency. Try not to abuse this, as these conditional exceptions are rooted in trust. If your child learns early on that an adult is going to “cheat” by using our superior reasoning to make room in a loophole, your child will turn it back on you in the near future, because that is precisely how you’ve taught your child to act.
Lend a Listening Ear
Kids are ego-centric and the best way to get them to be independent is to listen to their train of thought then value-add on to it.
This sounds hard; and we ourselves had difficulty too, but try to refrain from closing down conversations with your child.
In tandem with your child’s development, ask questions or suggest appropriate activities in return.
E.g. What’s this? (child points at a snake)
Age 1 – 2 How do you move like a snake? No hands, No legs (identify / touch the body parts), but the snake has a tail! Do you have a tail? Can you find something to make a tail?
The snake is green! Can you find some green things for mommy?
Read our guide here for more ideas for children aged 0 - 2
(Please give your child some time to answer, they take a longer time to articulate and respond at this age)
Age 2 – 3 Can you move like a snake? What sound does a snake make? What letter is it? Shall we learn about the letter S? You can ask your child to form the letter S with toys e.g. lego, or paint within the outlines of the alphabet (draw or print this!), or do some colouring, or run around the house looking for the letter.
Ask them to describe everything about the snake. What kind of eyes, what kind of body, is it long or short? This encourages them to use and familiarise themselves with a wider vocabulary.
Age 3 – 4 Similar to the above, but scale it up to stretch their creativity, observation skills and abstract thinking. Draw five different kinds of snakes, make up a snake song for me!
Age 5 and above – Encourage scientific analysis. What do you think a snake can do, what do you think it cannot do? [Read our guide here on developing your child’s observation, analytical and critical thinking skills]
Similar to how we encourage children to plan and be responsible for deciding what to do with their own time, encouraging ownership is a critical life skill that can make your day-to-day life as a parent much easier.
Start small, with toys – how should we sort them? How should we keep them? Allowing your child with some liberties, understanding how they think and make decisions is more important for you, as a parent, than maintaining that picture perfect Instagram nursery.
Extend it to small scale chores, e.g. putting their dirty clothes in the laundry basket / service yard, helping to choose and preparing fruits e.g. peeling a banana, washing grapes…, setting the table for meals (count together!), putting clean clothes in the right drawers (e.g. bibs). These are suitable for children as young as 18 months, with adult supervision.
From age three, they can learn to fold clothes, simple ones like tee shirts and underwear – this enhances their fine motor skills, helping to sweep the floor, or packing their pencil box (though they can get obsessive at times!) and pack their outing bags.
As they get older, scale the activities up in difficulty, in accordance with their abilities. The more children are involved in their environment, the more engaged they feel; and you’ll be surprised at the ideas and innovations they come up with!
Setting a physical boundary will help your child distinguish when you are in “work” mode; and when you are in “play” mode.
We’ve talked about purpose driven discipline – a long-term, broad approach that focuses on nurturing our kids towards ideal behaviours, whilst clearly communicating our expectations to them.
With that in mind, parents will find that taking the time to explain to their kids their expectations, encourage their children to manage their own time independently, help them out with their planning by giving them some suggestions, then address their need for attention by assuring them they will get some quality time with you.
A simple “signal” I arranged was using construction paper at the back of my laptop. A traffic light arrangement, of sorts.
A green paper indicated “it’s okay to talk to mommy anytime”.
An orange paper meant “Mommy is a little bit busy, please be patient if you need something from mommy”
A red paper meant “Please don’t disturb mommy, ask others for help!”
Similarly, my little one had fun using the same traffic signals on her playhouse. Hers had different meanings, which she came up with!
A green paper meant “I’m okay mommy, I’m happy”
An orange paper indicated “Mommy, please come and play with me soon, I’m getting lonely”
A red paper meant “Emergency! Come now!”
In this way, we did our best to respect each other’s space; and I managed to work, cook; and do the other zillion things busy modern moms need to do.
Set yourself free
Being at home is both a joy and a pain; but one thing is abundantly clear – it isn’t an office. Set yourself free from all your preconceptions of a “perfect” working environment. At home, it’s messy, it’s insane, the conversation is with an entirely different age group – it took me a long time to figure out how to be productive.
Being able to let go of what I previously believed to be “necessary” and forcing myself out of my comfort zone, let me discover and realise how much more creative, resourceful and organised motherhood made me.
Work alongside your kids whilst they do activity books or painting. Rehearse presentations and entertain your kids with over the top dramatic expressions, then laugh as they mimic you at your best (and worst!). Get around the toughest mental blocks with a burst of physical activity with your kids – neuroscientists have proved that even the simple activity of walking can have significantly favourable results on work performance!
Where possible, break up your work into micro-units of small, achievable goals that can be accomplished around the schedule of your kids. Save the tougher, longer tasks for naptime, split tasks into heavy-duty (needs complete focus) and light (can be accomplished on the go, on your phone e.g. brainstorming). Be flexible and begin to open your eyes; and mind, to how working from home can benefit you and your family.