As parents most of us have good intentions when it comes to giving our children a healthy well-balanced diet but there are many reasons why this is often difficult in reality.
Children can be very adamant when it come to not eating certain types of food and very persuasive and demanding when it comes to eating unhealthy foods. Parenting throws so many daily battles to get through with our children, such as school work, going to bed on time and behaviour, that food can easily get overlooked as a less important issue to deal with. Yet, food impacts our childrens academic abilities, sleeping patterns and behaviour. So, it should be one of the first things we address.
THE U URSELF ROUTINE
That’s why I included it in The U URSELF Routine that I use with parents and why I dedicated a whole chapter to it in my book – The Confident Parents Guide to Raising a Happy, Healthy and Successful Child.
You can listen more about The U URSELF Routine and Food by clicking the link below.
When shopping it’s a mystery trying to decipher the jargon on food packets, and often, we just don’t have the time. But it’s worth taking a course or reading a few books on nutrition though, as what we think is healthy or low fat often isn’t and those foreign looking words can be confusing and can have many different names for the same thing, that are hard to identify.
For example did you know that there are 65 names for sugar?
We may associate sweet foods with sugar, such as biscuits but what about bread which usually contains added sugars or those healthy looking ready made tomatoe soups?
SHARING IS CARING
As a committed, lifelong learner, I believe sharing knowledge is powerful in helping to positively change the world we live in. But I know as parents, we just don’t have enough knowledge or information on good nutrition and the impact that poor nutrition can have, both short and long-term. So, I’m going to make it my mission to help parents overcome this barrier to their child’s health and wellbeing. Future blogs will centre heavily on the effects of nutrition on physical, emotional and intellectual development, if this is something you want to learn more about, then don’t forget to sign up to our blogs and newsletters and please join me on this journey.
I love the 2nd part of this home-schooling, success story of how stepmum Amy, inspired 7-year-old Archie to become a mini entrepreneur. Last week we chatted to little Archie about his experience of home-schooling during lockdown, this week we get a grown-ups perspective.
PART 2-AMY’S STORY
It began as part of a home-schooling project. Amy Frost bought a few chickens for her stepson Archie. The aim was to teach seven-year-old Archie about animal welfare and husbandry, as well as where food comes from.
Whereas some families found children resistant to home-schooling, this project turned out to be perfect for Archie. He threw himself into looking after the chickens and was soon collecting far more eggs than the family could eat. So, a business was born selling eggs and his lessons solidified about the importance of local food. He even set up a website up, running, a two-week waiting list and orders started pouring in.
“I needed to find a new way to get Archie excited about maths whilst also helping him understand how it could be transferred to real life. Archie loved the chickens we had recently introduced to our home, so we decided to run a home-schooling project about the hens. For example, we wanted to teach him what they need to survive, how many eggs they can produce in a year, why it’s important to care for the chickens with kindness and love, and the difference between ‘free range’ and battery hens. I felt there was an enormous amount of education surrounding just this one project.” explains Amy.
What’s been wonderful about sourcing the local produce is meeting new people, and how enthusiastic and helpful they have been about helping us to educate Archie about how they grow, produce, and make the food. Many have been kind enough to show him around and demonstrate how they work. We hope to bring that education to all our customers in the future.”
“Many locals couldn’t get a delivery at the height of lockdown and were left relying on neighbours to do their shopping, so although not financially viable at the start, we made a conscious decision to deliver to a wider area so that people were not left without food. If they asked, we delivered, even if it was outside ‘our area’.” explains Mark.
“We have been overwhelmed with support from the community – from suppliers, customers and even other local businesses. We have customers sharing our website with friends and neighbours and buying produce as gifts, we have suppliers who have sadly lost so much of their catering trade during Covid and are open to working with start-ups like us, and then we have other local founders who are sharing their equipment to help us grow.
After hearing Archie’s story we were curious to find out more, so here’s what Amy had to say to the questions I asked her recently.
EMMA) What was your initial thoughts on home schooling?
AMY) We were excited about the opportunity to do home-schooling. Although it seemed daunting at first, Mark and I felt we had an opportunity to really get involved with Archie’s learning. It was clear when home-schooling began that we had never really fully known what Archie was learning at school. For example, we had always been told the subject matter, but never the tasks, which made helping and supporting Archie with homework relatively difficult. So as soon as the home-learning tasks began being sent through, we were thrilled to finally be able to understand what he was learning at school and we felt much more informed to be able to support him at home.
EMMA) Where did you get the idea to buy chickens to help Archie and what did you initially set out to teach him?
AMY) Our decision was based around taking him out of the ‘classroom’ environment of the kitchen table, and creating projects that were more hands on and lifestyle based. Archie is great with his school work but his focus became all about sport and he was starting to disengage with the daily subjects of maths and literacy, so we felt that doing something totally different like learning how to look after the chickens would teach him animal husbandry, along with using the eggs to learn his multiplication, adding and subtracting. We had already tried to incorporate sports with his maths learning, such as ‘Maths Tennis’ where we would shout out the times table for every ball we hit, and he learnt his 3’s and 4’s doing this, but as with anything when teaching children, we needed to keep it fun and different.
Our little Chicken Care project developed into a wider range of education that has now taught Archie so much from a ‘school’ sense but has also developed his confidence massively. For the first time he stood in front of 8 children, whom he didn’t know, and led a talk on looking after his animals. This was all through choice, he wanted to explain to them why looking after animals is important. Prior to Archie starting this project he wouldn’t have felt confident doing that.
EMMA) That’s amazing, children feel more self-confident speaking about something they feel passionate about. Do you think schools should offer this more hands on, real life approach to learning, as opposed to sitting in classrooms being taught from text books or media?
AMY) I absolutely believe in children being given the opportunity to have experiences which aid their development. Taking Archie to a local lettuce supplier where he can see, feel and smell the lettuces, speaking to the farmers who educate him on how the food is grown and what happens afterwards, and then in turn completing a project about his experiences which he shows to his family and friends, all supported his memory of the education and ignited a passion inside of him. Maybe it was more fun because it wasn’t the norm, but by using all his senses, experiencing rather than just reading, he took more onboard, listened and learned.
I have worked with many young adults who have been afforded the opportunities to experience working in businesses and on farms for therapy and counselling, but it seems we are not teaching young people life skills to really support them in their adult life. Nor are we giving children the opportunity to have experiences which can teach them, in the early years, important facts which will help them make their own choices as they grow. For example, we have used Archie’s Produce to teach Archie nutritional benefits of food, what is healthy and what is not, what he can feed his chickens and what is bad for them, in the hope that he can make informed decisions based on his own knowledge rather than being told what not to do.
EMMA)I absolutely love that, I even write in my book-The Confident Parent’s Guide to Raising a Happy, Healthy & Successful Child- (CHAPTER 9 – FOOD- MAKING A MEAL OF MEALTIMES) about the fact many children these days think that their food originates from a supermarket and about the benefits of children being involved in growing their own food and learning about nutrition. And I also agree that children need these therapeutic experiences too, to help them learn in new, more relaxing and enjoyable ways. Some children are not academic but hands on learning can help us overcome so many barriers to our children’s success.
AMY) Emotionally these experiences have taught so much, including confidence, empathy, care and to think about subjects, which prior to this, he had not considered. We must bear in mind that Archie is only 7, nearly 8, so the level to which he is learning now is very different to a teenager, however I strongly believe that there is a huge advantage to experiencing learning in a varied environment to keep children engaged and initiate alternative and question-based thinking. It’s certainly worked for Archie.
EMMA) What advice can you share with other parents who are home-schooling to help make the home-schooling experience feel more creative, fun and enjoyable?
AMY) Oh Goodness I’m not sure I’m qualified to offer advice! Many of our friends put an immense amount of pressure on themselves and their children to complete all the tasks set by the school and to keep their children up to a ‘level’. At one point I also felt that pressure and worried that by doing home-schooling slightly differently, were we letting Archie down. All I knew was that I wanted Archie to have fun, after all, school is supposed to be fun! However, we’re not school, so we broke the rules a little:
We played music whilst we drew pictures and made plans, we played the bongo’s and danced when doing music practise, we had reading practise when researching types of food chickens can’t eat, for the most part, learning together and not putting a time limit on tasks really helped. We had regular snack and treat breaks, we added in some enjoyable tasks such as bike riding and football as part of the project. So, once we relaxed about the administrative tasks and took out the pressure of having to learn, or write, or read, those three factors happened naturally.
EMMA) Wow I love this approach so much, again it’s something I’ve covered in my book mentioned above (in chapters 10 – LEARNING FUN FOR EVERYONE and 11 – THE SEVEN STEPS TO SUCCESS.)
Do you feel home-schooling has brought you and Archie closer together?
AMY) Yes absolutely. I’m really lucky that we have such a wonderful relationship, but without a doubt having the opportunity to be able to home-school has enabled us to learn so much more about each other. It has also allowed us to be creative and share new experiences together.
EMMA) It would seem lockdown has had hidden blessings for many of us regarding growth, development and contributions to society, what impact has that had on you all?
AMY) The growth of Archie’s Produce has really opened up a series of conversations from where our food comes from and healthy eating, to the way we school our children and educate each other. Little did we know when we started this project how incredible the impact would be and we are extremely grateful to be able to have a little input into hopefully some major future shaping. We genuinely are a lockdown business and were born in a time when most of our suppliers had lost over 90% of their customer base overnight. The catering sector had closed, the only avenue left for them was retail and most local shops were unable to open. So, we felt a huge moral obligation to both our customers, who couldn’t leave the house to get to the shops, or shops were empty, and suppliers who had no outlet to sell their products. The support of the local community is why so many local businesses have survived, and why customers could eat, so as we are now coming out of lockdown, and trades and businesses are re-opening, it is even more imperative that we continue to support the local businesses, producers and farmers, for they are the ones that work tirelessly to save us when crisis hit, and they more than deserve our continued support.
EMMA) Amazing, well thank you so much Amy for sharing with us your experience of home-schooling. I think there’s lots of great nuggets of advice and insight there to help us all be more proactive as parents.
If you’re a parent who would like to know more about proactive parenting or who enjoys blog interviews, you maybe interested in an interview that I had this week with – The Shelf Life Book Review
Now children are returning to school, there’s a sigh of relief in the air for some that home-schooling’s over- Hooray! 🙂
But for others, it’s been a real opportunity in many ways.
I spoke to one Mum, Amy and her step son 7-year-old little Archie, about their experience of home-schooling during lock down. This week’s blog is part one of that interview. What an inspiring story from little Archie’s perspective.
PART 1- ARCHIE’S STORY
Here’s how 7-year-old Archie went from home schooling, to pint sized entrepreneur.
The 2020 lockdown changed most people’s lives in one way or another but one seven-year-old went from home-schooled little boy to pint-sized entrepreneur over the course of a few months. And, for Archie, the chicken did come first!
It began as part of a home-schooling project. Amy Frost bought a few chickens for her stepson Archie. The aim was to teach seven-year-old Archie about animal welfare and husbandry, as well as where food comes from.
Whereas some families found children resistant to home-schooling, this project turned out to be perfect for Archie. He threw himself into looking after the chickens and was soon collecting far more eggs than the family could eat. So, his entrepreneurial journey began as he decided to sell them locally. With the country in lockdown, eggs were difficult to get, and very soon Archie had a waiting list of 30 people wanting his eggs.
Next, he did his maths, and persuaded Amy to buy 6 more chickens. Still he struggled to keep up with demand, and then customers started asking if he sold other local produce too!
Rather than sticking just to eggs, Archie was inspired to expand his venture and look around for more local produce to sell. Together he and dad, Mark, and stepmum, Amy sourced a variety of local products, starting with Alderholt Flour – straight from the local historic Mill. And Archie’s Produce was born.
Having learnt his lessons well about the importance of local food, Archie was keen to get his produce from local producers only, and that gave the business the local edge it needed to succeed. Within a few days the young man had a website up, running, a two-week waiting list and orders started pouring in.
“It was Archie who suggested we try to find other families who keep chickens and see if we could buy from them to fulfil the customers!’
Here’s what else he had to say when I recently interviewed him.
HERE’S WHAT LITTLE ARCHIE HAD TO SAY TO SOME OF THE RATHER GROWN-UP QUESTIONS I ASKED HIM.
EMMA) What did you first think about home-schooling?
ARCHIE) It was fun and I got to play. My favourite subject was P.E because I played lots of football. Then ‘Tennis Maths’ because it was outside and I like Tennis. I like writing poems so we made up songs that were funny. It was fun. Then I learnt about the Hens and I could do lots of arts and crafts making boxes for them and stamping the egg cartons!
EMMA) That sounds like lots of fun, not (school) work at all! When did you realize that you were onto a good business venture and how did you persuade your parents to buy more chickens and expand the business to other produce, such as flour?
ARCHIE) When I had run out of eggs to sell, but lots of people still wanted eggs, I needed more hens and so daddy bought 6 more, but that wasn’t enough. Then I said we should find someone who also has chickens, buy their eggs and give them to our customers. Customers asked for extra food like flour. I was happy adding things to the shop because then we can deliver the food they can’t get.
EMMA) So entrepreneurial yet considerate at the same time. How many different types of produce do you supply now and are you looking to add any more to your list?
ARCHIE) I want to be the biggest shop and sell everything! I have lots of different food; salad, meat and vegetables to New Forest Shortbread and Fordingbridge Fudge. The cows down the road make the best milk and have won awards! They are the best!
This week we added the children’s milkshakes from their milk called Meggy Moos. Named after the little girl called Meghan. I want to keep adding different food so everyone can buy something they like.
EMMA) Wow that’s great ambition you have Archie, I hope you always think big! And I’m sure you’ll have something for everyone, that fudge and shortbread sounds divine. Why do you feel its important today to support local producers and source locally grown food?
ARCHIE) All the people who make the food have families and work very hard making the food.
EMMA) That’s so very true. You’re wise and have a lot of understanding and gratitude for your age Archie. I’ve always wanted to have hens and produce my own eggs, what advice can you give someone like me that’s never done it before?
ARCHIE) The girls are friendly and love cuddles. They must have lots of water and special food called Pellets. They need to eat Grit so the shells are hard and they like to be free, not in cages, but sometimes they dig holes in the grass because they like ‘mud baths’ so Daddy has to fill them in with other grass.
EMMA) Aww cuddles… I love the image that just conjured up in my mind of me cuddling hens and the thought of them roaming freely. You give us a real sense of how wonderful and so alive these hens are, not just there to fulfil a purpose for us humans but to live a purpose that’s worthwhile to them too. Can you explain to readers what the difference is between ‘free range’ and battery hens?
ARCHIE) Chickens like mine that live free outside and can run around are ‘free range’. Some chickens are stuck in a small house and never get out, they have no feathers and are very sad, they are ‘battery hens’
EMMA) That’s very sad ☹ I hope you sharing your knowledge with us today will encourage more of us to opt for the free range variety in future. How can we find out more about your produce and where you deliver to?
ARCHIE) I’m not allowed to deliver because of Covid, so Amy delivers for me all around Dorset, Hampshire and parts of Wiltshire. You can see everything in shop on my website www.archiesproduce.com
EMMA) I do hope someday delivery will be extended to Wales too? 😉Do you have an entrepreneurial role model you aspire to be like?
ARCHIE) Not really, I want to be a footballer like Ronaldo.
EMMA) Well that’s very possible Archie, I’m sure whatever you put your mind to you will achieve. What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt from this home-schooling business venture?
ARCHIE) To look after things and to help people makes you feel good.
EMMA) Two wonderful lessons that prove that, home schooling can teach our children some of the most important lessons in life. Can’t wait for part 2 next week when, I chat to Amy, Archie’s stepmum and get her thoughts on home-schooling.
Do you have a home-schooling success or horror story or do you have a parenting in lock down experience you’d like to share with other parents?
Now children are gradually returning to childcare and school many parents are concerned about boosting their children’s immunity.
Covid -19 is still present in our society, it’s not gone yet, despite some easing up on lock down restrictions, and children can be affected by it too.
There’s not one magical solution to prevent it or boost our childrens immune system but there are a few things we can all do to help.
A good routine as always is key.
Exercise, a good night’s sleep, and a variety of nutritious food is fundamental to any routine. But now this is more important than ever when it comes to assisting our children’s immune system.
You can learn more about the benefits of implementing daily routine in your child’s life by reading my book The Confident Parent’s Guide to Raising a Happy, Healthy & Successful Child, available from all good book stockists now.
Our children need water to help their bodies function properly, so we need to keep those hydration levels topped up throughout the day. If they are not a fan of water then try infusing their water with fruit, so they get a natural flavour without the sugar dump of a smoothie which can cause a sudden sugar high, resulting in a sudden dip in energy.
As our childrens immune system is still developing, they need all the essential amino acids, which can be found in, poultry, fish, eggs and yoghurt.
If however we are raising our children vegan, this can pose a problem, as there’s no one single source of plant food that will offer all the essential amino acids our children need. Therefore, we need to make sure they get a good variety of plant based foods, such as, beans, lentils, rice, oats, grains, seeds, root and leafy green vegetables.
It’s a good idea to increase these in your child’s diet, whether they are vegan or not if they are fighting any type of viral infection, as essential micronutrients maybe depleted, such as the minerals, selenium, zinc and iron and vitamins C, D and A.
Selenium can be found in tuna, mushrooms, cottage cheese, herrings, cod, chicken, courgettes and brazil nuts.
Zinc in lamb, shrimp’s, haddock, egg yolks, and nuts such as almonds, pecan, brazil and peanuts and also green peas, turnips, oats, rye and whole wheat grain.
Iron can be found in pork, lamb, pork and beef liver, lentils, spinach, parsley, prunes, raisins, dates, pumpkin and sesame seeds, almonds, walnuts, pecan, brazil and cashew nuts.
For Vitamin C, try these immune strengthening, infection fighting foods- cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, peppers, watercress, tomatoes, strawberries, lemons, limes, melons, oranges, kiwi fruit and grapefruit.
Vitamin D is needed to keep our little one’s bones strong and healthy and help fight tooth decay. Try feeding them, fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel or cottage cheese and eggs and get them outside for some sun (but don’t forget the sunscreen factor 50)
Vitamin A, will help to protect them against infections and frequent colds. For an antioxidant immune boost, include in their diet plenty of carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, cabbage, pumpkin, broccoli, tomatoes, tangerines, papayas, apricots, mangoes, melon and watercress (try adding watercress into their sandwiches, egg and cress make a lovely combination giving them their vitamin C, D and A in one sitting)
As well as adding fermentable fibre from beans and fruits, like bananas that they can digest and use as energy, while feeding their good gut bacteria, and including pro-biotics such as yoghurts can lead to numerous health benefits for our children.
One of the biggest challenges most parents face though is getting their children to eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet of fruit and vegetables.
The easiest solution I’ve found is to approach this issue from a child’s perspective – which basically means – make food fun!
GROW YOUR OWN
A small vegetable patch in the garden, window box, or allotment can be a great investment, providing fresh air, fruit, vegetables, nature, exercise, education, and a fun hobby for some Us Time together.
Involving them with food shopping, preparation, and spending time discussing ingredients and where they come from, looking at recipe books, watching cookery programmes, and the cooking and preparing of meals provides children with basic general knowledge and understanding of the world.
Assisting us in meal preparation will also teach them mathematical concepts such as weighing, timing, and food in its natural state, and the scientific changes it goes through, such as solids melting.
Giving them a part to play at meal times by way of laying the table and helping us out also boosts their self-esteem. And having a regular mealtime routine ensures they get the right type of food they need at the right time.
A lot of children today think their food originates from a Supermarket. We can educate them about food and where it comes from when we involve them and grow our own, this encourages healthier eating too. Sowing, planting, picking, preparing, and cooking their own food teaches them the whole food process, from where it comes from to how it ends up on their plate. And provides a sense of achievement and pride, helping them feel connected to the food they eat, as well as encouraging them to experiment with new foods they wouldn’t normally.
To read more about Food and The U URSELF Routine you can take a sneak peek inside The Confident Parent’s Guide to Raising a Happy, Healthy & Successful Child below.
In these empty days of lockdown, for once, it gives us the opportunity to do all those tiresome jobs we’ve been putting off. My filing cabinet and accounts are in the best shape I’ve ever seen them, while my husband’s been doing all those odd jobs around the house that he never usually has the time to get done!
As a parent to a young toddler you may already have your hands full, especially if you have older siblings at home that you now need to home-school but this is the ideal time for lots of parents to potty train.
I’ve been potty training (as its termed, I’d rather call it ‘toilet coaching’) toddlers for the past 16 years and I know that, in those first few years it wasn’t a task that I relished. Now however, I’ve found if the timing is right and the child is ready and the environment is supportive, toddlers will more or less train themselves, with a little fuss and excitement that is!
As parents we just have to make it an enjoyable experience for our children and try to allay our own anxieties. This new routine of using the toilet independently takes a lot of skill and practice to master, but if they are ready, master it – they will!
ARE THEY READY?
So, if you think your childis ready, that is they can,
Understand basic instruction, I find many children can’t articulate themselves well at this age but they understand lots. They have the vocabulary and understanding tucked up inside their heads even though they may not yet use it verbally, that’s why it often feels like they start talking in sentences overnight, so even if they cant say what they want, if they can understand what you want them to do such as ‘Sit on the potty’ this is a good indicator.
Also, they may not like the wet or dirty cold discomfort of a soiled or wet nappy and may tug at it, point or lay down as if to say ‘Change my nappy now!’ this too is a good indicator.
As well as if they notice they need to go to toilet before they go or display signs to you, they are about to go. In my experience I’ve witnessed children going to hide behind the sofa and curtain or hold onto their nappy, especially at a certain age, when they start to feel a bit more self -conscious and like to go somewhere private as we normally would when we use a toilet in a bathroom. Or they suddenly stop what they’re doing and make a funny face as if to hold it in or their face flushes as they are straining to let it go. They become aware they have wet or soiled. They can often tell you if they have the vocabulary to do so such as saying ‘poo, poo’ although I’ve found this term can mean either a wee or a poo some don’t differentiate between the two. At this stage though they may still not be able to let you know they are about to go to toilet before they actually go, but there maybe physical signs as above such as going to a certain place when they feel the need to go. At this stage we have to be proactive as parents and observe our children carefully, taking the lead from their cues. Another cue is some children have bowel movements at a certain time each day like clockwork, this is so useful to know when it comes to toilet coaching. If we know little Johnny has a poo at around 11am we can have the potty at hand ready and waiting to limit the mess of an accident. As their bladder capacity increases their nappies will remain dry for longer periods of time too which is a good sign they can hold on.
If they can then hold on until they reach their potty or the toilet, remove their clothing and sit on the potty or toilet, then they’re ready, although this will take some practice. There are things we can do to help such as dressing them in clothing that is easy to remove. I prefer to toilet train when the weather is nice, usually during the school holidays when there’s no school runs or too many children. Easter or May half term or the six- week summer holidays are ideal. We can allow our children the freedom to run around in just their pants and a vest around the house as the temperature is warm and this is the easiest clothing to remove. Its also usually the time when we take time off to spend with our family. At the moment time home with our family is something most of us have.
I’ve found children between 2-3years take to toilet coaching a lot quicker, any younger and its difficult for them to control their bladder or rectum and any older, their voluntary control sometimes becomes a bit lazy as they haven’t been practicing, but there’s no exact age to start, only you will know your unique, individual child, even if you’ve got ten children, each and every one of them will be different and will learn things at different times and at different rates. Their siblings may all have potty trained at 18months but if little Johnny is two and a half and still not ready then you have to wait until they are.
LEARNING TO GROW UP
I usually set aside two weeks if possible, of no going out to soft play etc… and focusing solely on the goal of toilet coaching.
I also find it very helpful if I have more than one child of appropriate age, who is ready also, to coach both children together. This way they motivate and learn from one another.
What I’ve found over the years is that children love to grow up and do the things the older children or us grown ups do, which is more than helpful at times like these.
Many parents buy their children a potty to play with from a young age, way before they are ready to understand what it’s for. I personally don’t recommend doing this as over the years I’ve encountered children who do just that- play with their potties or use them as seats to sit on, especially now you can buy these fancy thrones that sing and light up.
I know we want to make the process attractive and fun but most children I find are naturally drawn to the big toilet, especially washing their hands afterwards with the liquid soap in the sink. They don’t want more singing toys; they want to be like us. We are their greatest role models, I know for most of us its almost impossible to use the toilet ourselves without an audience of little people tagging along, and this can be good, especially if you have a son following his father and observing and imitating his dad, this helps him to learn, likewise, our daughters can learn from us mums.
It’s also great when our children attend childcare settings such as a childminder’s, where they are surrounded by children of various ages, at some point they will experience being the baby or youngest child, middle child and then the oldest and they learn from the other children and copy them. This is great when it comes to toilet coaching as they will see the big boys going to the bathroom to use the big toilet and will naturally want to be just like one of them.
It seems ironic that – the bathroom or toilet is the one place I stop the babies and nappy wearing toddlers going into, one -through fear of germs while crawling round the ubend and two- losing toys or ornaments down the loo (this is more common than you may think!) so the banned room as you can imagine is their run to place as soon as my back is turned. Its attractive because its somewhere they know I don’t want them to go without me!
We don’t want to create germ phobia particularly now in this time when they will already be watching us obsessively handwashing and disinfecting the house several times a day, due to the current coronavirus epidemic. Yes, it’s more important now than ever before to wash our hands thoroughly and teach our children how to do so, but again we must make this a fun experience not get neurotic. If they have an accident in the bath that looks like a scene from ‘Kevin and Perry -Go Large’ then don’t panic, keep calm, cool and collected, this is what we call a learning opportunity.
They don’t do this on purpose to upset us so, just remove them from the bath while explaining to them what has happened, where its come from, how it’s a normal bodily function to get rid of what his body no longer needs, and give it a name so he can recognise it.
Remember babies and toddlers seldom get to see their faeces, its in their nappies which we change so, being able to see it helps them to identify with it, I call it ‘Poo, Poo’ your child may find a better or at least a funnier name for it. Just be consistent when referring to bodily waste so your child is clear what you mean when you say it, so for example, if your child likes to use the term ‘Wee, Wee’ you may throw them when you ask them to go for a ‘Pee, Pee’.
NOW IS NOT A GOOD TIME
Sometimes though they maybe ready but we aren’t, this is what happened to me with my first child, I had just arrived home from the hospital after giving birth to my second child and was in the middle of breastfeeding him when she announced ‘I need a wee wee on the potty!’ and ripped off her nappy.
No way I thought as I flew up from my seat to come to her aid, but she just did it…. sat down and wee’d and that was that. I was relieved and over joyed she had achieved her first independent pee on the potty and she was chuffed to be getting all the attention. And that was that. ‘No more nappies’ used to be our daily mantra!
And it worked, she put on her big girl knickers and basically toilet trained herself with little coaching from me. I know I was lucky, I’m not bragging, I’m sure her baby brother coming along and hogging her lime light helped in her gaining the praise and attention she was used to, so the timing although initially I didn’t feel was right- worked out perfect!
But we had done other things leading up to it, such as reading books about potty training so she could associate the potty with going to toilet, not as an object to play with or sit on. I kept the potty in the cloakroom toilet so it had a place too, so she understood we only go to toilet in this place.
But you also need to feel ready, ‘toilet coaching’ is just another new routine that you and your child will need to get used to and like all new routines it requires patience, energy, and understanding on everyone’s part.
The secret to successful ‘toilet coaching’ will largely depend on how patient we are and how we encourage our children to use the toilet or potty.
It means showing unconditional love even when they’ve had an accident or wet their pants for the eighth time that day. It’s tempting to expect them to change overnight because we want them to, but children won’t change if we force or rush them.
HANG IN THERE & PERSERVERE
Routines present opportunities to learn new and better ways of doing things, but they are best carried out in a calm, relaxed, and patient manner. Telling them off or rushing them is unproductive. So regardless of their age, I think more important is understanding your child and their needs and choosing a time when you personally feel both mentally and physically strong and determined. It’s easier for us to give up and put the nappy back on our children if we are tired or frustrated ourselves.
We just have to take it one day at a time. No matter how much we prepare our children or no matter how prepared we think we are, we will still find toilet coaching difficult at times, likely when we are mopping up yet another puddle in the living room or worse. That’s why we need to choose a time when we can commit one hundred percent and start as we mean to go on. Once we have decided to go for it and they are using pants and not nappies we need to keep the momentum going. Going back to nappies only tends to confuse children and means any effort made previously in toilet coaching was all in vain and a total waste of time, tears, effort, and energy.
WHEN SHOULD WE WORRY?
I do however, know of children who have been toilet training for years, there can be a number of factors why this happens including, physical developmental issues or emotional ones but on the whole, setting those issues aside, if your child is ready the process will be more like weeks before they are dry throughout the day rather than years, so don’t worry.
The word enuresis derives from the Greek word ‘to make water.’
When children initially start potty/toilet training, we can’t expect them to be dry at night, overnight. Taking precautions to protect the bed such as using waterproof sheets and putting them in pullups to sleep in is a sensible option, along with expecting night-time wetting. While in a deep slumber, a child’s muscles relax, making them unable to notice they need a wee until they are wet.
If they are under five, then it shouldn’t present much of a concern, especially in the toilet training stages. Making sure they use the toilet just before bed so they don’t fall too deeply asleep and have an accident or wake up needing to go to the toilet in the middle of the night helps.
It’s also a good idea to limit or stop the amount of fluid they drink prior to bedtime, offering only sips of water after four thirty pm, not milk or juice.
If they have not gone more than a few months dry at night after successful potty training in the day, they could have a developmental issue with their bladder, this can be hormonal and usually nothing to worry about. There are treatments available, and you can discuss these with your doctor. They could also have a small bladder capacity, if this is the case, you will probably notice that they urinate often throughout the day and find they are often desperate to go. They may wet at night due to emptying their bladder too frequently during the day. Either way, it’s always advisable to consult your GP if you are concerned at all.
If they’re still bedwetting past six years of age, medical causes, as well as emotional factors, need to be looked into with their doctor to rule out any medical condition. Once they have been dry at night for several months to a year but then regress back to wetting at night, this nocturnal enuresis would suggest some sort of emotional stress or anxiety is responsible. If your GP has ruled out a physical problem such as a water infection, we can be proactive by looking for any apparent patterns, such as, do they only bed wet on certain days such as school days and not at the weekend?
Does it happen early on in the night or toward the end near morning time, when mum is on night watch or dad, how often a night/a week/ a month does it occur?
Are there any causes that influence the episode, such as this current change in our lifestyles due to lockdown?
Our children’s fears and insecurities may seem so trivial and insignificant to us, but the smallest changes can have a huge impact. Looking at what is currently going on in other areas of their life is helpful. This is where the U URSELF Routine comes in handy, we can notice if another area such as their eating or exercising and play habits have changed too. (You can read more on this in my book The Confident Parent’s Guide to Raising a Happy, Healthy & Successful Child.)
This current situation can be stressful for a small child, especially if their normal daily routines have been disrupted.
What we want to do is focus on what we want them to achieve, not on what we don’t want. Highlight the positives, such as the dry nights, and ignore the wet ones as best we can in the presence of our children. We can encourage and motivate them by offering to buy them some nice new pjs or bedding with their favourite tv cartoon characters on them once they have successfully gone a whole week with a dry bed. How we phrase that reward is important, so keep it positive and focused on the dry bed. Instead of saying you can have a new pair of pjs if you don’t wet the bed. We want to motivate them for staying dry, not put pressure on them not to wet the bed. When they do succeed going one night dry, we want to make the biggest fuss possible by showering them with praise and exaggerating how happy we feel for them, this is a chance to give their esteem a boost!
GIVE THEM RESPONSIBILITY
What we don’t want our children to do is form a habit of bedwetting for either attention or feeling they have no control over their bedwetting. In no circumstances should we encourage this behaviour further and be tempted to bring back the pull up training pants for bed time. Once out of nappies and pull ups for several months, they are through with that baby phase of development.
What they need most now is responsibility over their progress, they can’t do this by going backward in how we treat them. They need to feel the wet cold discomfort to register they are wet, and this is something we want to motivate them to avoid in the future. A nice cosy, warm, dry, comfortable nappy or pull up, only motivates them to stay passive in their development. There’s no urgency to progress by controlling their bladder. I’ve potty trained many toddlers over the years, and I’ve always used pants and knickers over commercial pull ups, a cheap pack of pants are usually cheaper than pull ups, and we can throw the soiled ones away if needs be, the same way we would a disposable nappy. But children learn far quicker by having accidents that they can feel and see. A pull up still feels like they are wearing a nappy, so I’ve found when parents choose this as a toilet training option, progress is much slower. I know pull ups are safer, easier, and less messy, but long term, they just delay the process. A couple of weeks of accidents, patience, and practise in real pants is the quickest and best long-term, effective, solution.
And they will feel confident to try if they are given encouragement to do so. Our aim is for them to take conscious control over their issue, not be a passive allower. Fostering this self-reliance is what will help them to build self- confidence, making them feel they can handle situations themselves. They don’t feel guilty or as though we are punishing them if they feel they are helping in some way and having choices and responsibility. Children want to be independent, that is why there is often conflict and tantrums, because they want to be able to do things for themselves. Managing conflict and tantrums is covered extensively in my other book, The Powerful Proactive Parent’s Guide to Present Parenting.
Children only fail if they fail to try. Highlighting their successes should be our main focus. One wee on the potty is better than none at all, they haven’t failed because they had an accident while toilet training, they’ve succeeded at least once by trying.
They will learn their most memorable lessons through failure, and these will be the lessons they will tend to not want to repeat again. Allowing them to fail can be difficult, failure is deemed far from being successful, but they learn how to overcome obstacles and challenges firstly by observing us and seeing how we react to situations (so getting angry, frustrated or upset over some spilt wee on the floor won’t help) and secondly they learn more from doing than being told. I’m an advocate for what I call ‘Present Parenting’.
Present Parenting is consciously parenting by staying present in the moment and being aware of everything going on around us. It’s thinking before we respond, not just about what’s going on, but how and why? It’s understanding our children’s behaviour and how they are feeling and taking all of this into consideration. Although, we can only experience this when we learn to lighten up and see things how they really are instead of catastrophising and making mountains out of mole hills.
Have you ever heard the saying, ‘If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry?’
I know it can be hard at times. I had to fight back the tears when my two- year-old threw our brand new digital SLR Camera into a potty full of pee!
It would’ve been one of those perfect memory making moments to capture and look back on and laugh at years later now she’s a teen. But at that time, the camera stopped working!
Our children’s behaviour can be challenging, but is it really all that seriously bad?
And finally, don’t feel intimidated or compare you or your child to those so-called perfect parents who magically toilet trained their baby of 12 months over night. Every child is different and develop at different rates, its not a competition, so relax.
This can be a very rewarding time for both you and your child, they will feel pride and achievement once they master this new routine like a ‘big boy’ or ‘big girl’ which they will love immensely, but it can also be an emotional time, especially for you as a parent as its one of the first signs that your baby is growing up!
Stay Proactive, but most importantly Stay Present,