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​ 5 LIFE HACKS FOR SMARTER, HAPPIER, MORE RESILIENT KIDS

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smarter, happier, more resilient kids the easy way

OR: THE LAZY MUMS GUIDE TO RAISING AWESOME HUMANS

Pour yourself a wine, grab a snack and settle in. I’m going to share some life-changing secrets to raising awesome humans…the lazy way. Happy, resilient and successful kids- it's what we all want isn't it?

First though, there’s a super important idea you need to understand.

KIDS ARE NOT VENDING MACHINES 

Raising Resilient Kids the easy way

You can shove as much money, time, printables and enrichment activities into them as you like and still end up with an unemployed serial killer. 

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get started on how you can raise awesome humans that have a pretty good chance at succeeding in life AND keep your sanity.


1 STOP SAYING ‘BE CAREFUL’

Seriously, stop. There’s a lot of reasons why ‘Be careful’ needs to be deleted from your auto-response.

  • Kids stop listening to it when there’s no visible sign of danger. It becomes meaningless white noise and they’ll start to disregard your warnings.
  • You’re saying ‘Be careful’ but kids are hearing ‘I don’t think you can do it.’
  • By being the one that always warns them of danger, you prevent kids from looking for it themselves.

Be careful is the most useless phrase in the English language. My mum says it as automatically as breathing and after 33 years of hearing it, it means nada. (sorry mum!)

What do I do with my boys?

I let them get hurt. Yep, see that kid rocking back on his chair and probably going to fall off it any minute now? He’s mine, and I’m not going to tell him to be careful. Right now, as his chair legs teeter on the brink, I have two choices. 

How to teach kids resilience

So, I’m going to quietly scan for actual dangers like a pit of crocodiles or a pile of broken glass in his fall zone and then I’m going to do nothing. Sweet bugger all. Cause repeating myself 99,999,999 times for no earthly reason ranks about as highly as filing my nails with cooked pasta.

Whoops… that toddler trying to climb the enormous tree? Mine again.

Here’s a test: Pick from these two options.

Option A- Yell out ‘Be careful!’ or remove said toddler from tree.

Option B- Say “That looks fun, take off your shoes and socks to help grip better, and practise on this little tree first. You got this.’

If you answered B… welcome to the Lazy Mum Club. Membership includes bottle of wine, zero stress and some slightly bruised but happy, resilient and confident kids.


2 LISTEN- DON’T FIX

Big emotions bring out the worst in us mums. We switch straight into let me make it better mode and in doing so we cripple our kids’ natural problem solving skills.

I don’t know about you but when my boys are grown I want to be on a yacht drinking mimosas and hitting on cabin boys, not still doing their washing. Teaching kids to problem solve is about the greatest gift you can give them. The world they are growing up in is increasingly complex, requiring logical thinking and persistence. Start as you mean to go on and avoid intervening whenever they get frustrated.

Here’s a few ways I deal with problems, lazy mum style.

  • Ask questions and make statements, don’t offer solutions. E.g.: Little Boris is getting majorly frustrated over a puzzle. DON’T offer to help or tell him where the pieces go. DO ask how to tell edge pieces from middle pieces, wonder out loud why you’ve seen some puzzlers separate their pieces, comment on the progress he’s made so far.
  • Empathise openly. ‘Sheesh that does look overwhelming.’ Or ‘I’d be frustrated too.’ Share a time you had the same problem and how you figured it out, then ask if they have any ideas how they can figure this one out.
  • Practise problem solving daily. Ask them for ideas as often as possible. E.g.: ‘Aaaargh I can’t carry both washing baskets at once. Kids! Help me figure this out.’ Seems silly yeah? Except it’s not. It’s developing the habit of solution seeking, and that takes practise.
  • Wait a beat before rushing in, and if you absolutely HAVE to intervene, ask for ideas about how the situation could have been avoided and listen. They may not be perfect, but it empowers them to own their mistake.
  • Encourage. Send the message that it’s fine to stuff things up, you know they got this and will figure it out eventually.

Realising it’s not your job to solve every problem perfectly is shockingly liberating. Being upset when you can’t quite get your toy to work or tie a bow is normal…and totally valid. Kids are human, they get upset. Support them in figuring it out, and let them own the achievement when they succeed.

Adults don’t fix each other’s problems. We listen while our mates vent/cry/moan, we empathise, we offer support and suggestions. Try doing that.


3 LET THEM GET BORED

I love this… let it soak in as you think back to your childhood.

Building children's creativity and confidence

Adults have forgotten what being bored is. Because Facebook.

I do vaguely remember being so bored as a kid I hoped someone would kidnap me so I could go on an adventure, but never quite bored enough to clean my room.

Bored kids = whining, iPad requests and tantrums. Pretty sure this is a universal rule. But what’s on the other side of boredom?

Creativity and self-sufficiency. You know, that stuff we had before Netflix.

So, picture boredom as a dark tunnel with Indiana Jones style boobytraps and maybe a giant spider. Yes, you could turn back. It’s scary and unknown.

But what if you kept going and emerged in a land of endless possibilities? That’s the world beyond boredom. Go ahead and shove the kids in the tunnel. Then lock the door.

(Hypothetically lock the door- locking kids in dark spaces is generally a no no.) Eventually they’ll navigate their way through and find something to do. The trick is to empathise with their boredom while not fixing it.

WARNING: You are going to have to back right off, disengage and prepare for linen cupboards emptied, epic forts and mess. Set a couple of basic ground rules that aren’t negotiable. We came up with ours together:

  • You pull it out- you pack it away.
  • Paint, food colour and other messy stuff is an outside game.

Littlies need a bit more help dealing with boredom, but think of yourself as more of a facilitator than an entertainer. A friend of mine was explaining how she keeps her toddlers busy during the day and halfway through her detailed account involving printables, star charts and an educational app, I tuned out. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a great mum. She spends her days diligently preventing boredom but in doing so dooms herself to an endlessly repeating cycle of dependence.

It looks bloody exhausting to me. The funny thing is we’ve discussed pushing through the boredom phase and to her, THAT’S too hard. The sound of her kids whining or getting upset just stresses her out.

Is this you?

The best advice I can give is think long-term solution and breathe. You may not be solving their problem right now but you’re doing something even better. You’re allowing them to learn how to solve it in the future, develop their creativity and self-sufficiency and giving them a glimpse of that world through the tunnel. It’s fun there.


4 MORE PLAY LESS JAIL TIME

Hands up if you know the #1 indicator of a child’s future success?

Here’s a clue… it’s not phonics. It’s free. You don’t even need an app. And it’s the easiest thing in the world to teach because you don’t need to teach it .

It’s good old fashioned play and it’s CRUCIAL for developing something called executive functioning skills . When kids engage in unstructured, imaginative play, something really cool happens. Some smarty pants discovered that pretend play helps develop the part of the brain that enables executive functioning skills. By triggering BDNF, the substance needed for the growth of brain cells, the control centre of the brain can more efficiently process and regulate emotions, information and stress.

The function of play is to build pro-social brains, social brains that know how to interact with others in positive ways ,” says Jaak Panksepp, a researcher at Washington State University.

Okay… so imagine a tree, with thick branches. Now picture those branches sprouting new shoots, and spreading out in every direction. This is what is happening to a child’s brain engaged in free play .

It is actually changing and building the circuitry of the brain!

Raising happy, smart, resilient kids.

As children play pretend with others, they start to negotiate, predict outcomes, develop empathy and act out scenarios. Researchers have discovered this type of play is the strongest indicator we have for developing high level executive functioning skills, and a child’s future success. One study conducted by researchers in New Zealand followed 1000 children for 30 years, mapping their ability to self-regulate and the effects this had on their life. What did they find?

The level of executive functioning was a more reliable predictor of adult outcomes than IQ or background.

“We observed a self-control gradient in which boys and girls with less self-control had worse health, less wealth, and more crime as adults than those with more self-control at every level of the distribution of self-control. To document further that self-control relates to outcomes all along its gradient, we removed 61 study members who were diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (a childhood psychiatric disorder of impaired impulse control) and repeated this analysis. The gradient associations remained unaltered” 

Fun fact: Kids who can regulate their impulses and attention are four times less likely to have a criminal record, three times less likely to be addicted to drugs, and half as likely to become single parents.

No joke.

Lazy mums, skip the enrichment activities, get your girls together with their kids for a playdate more often and get out of their way. More play for them- more coffee for you. Oh, and they might not end up in jail.


5 EMPATHY BUILDING

Empathy. Small word, massive concept. We can all agree most humans are lacking in it so let’s start producing little people who actually give a shit.

We can shout about it all day and it’ll just go in one ear and out the other unless you do these two little things.

Demonstrate.

  • This one is easy. Let the tykes see you talking and acting in a way that shows your empathy. See a chubby mummy jogging? Give her a shout out instead of a snicker. Seriously, wtf is with these bitches lately snapping fat-shaming pics in the gym and posting them. They’re in the gym, what more do you want!!!
  • Offer to unload groceries for someone, compliment strangers, cook a meal for a stressed-out friend and here’s the crucial bit…INCLUDE the kids in it. Let them see how good it feels to make others happy. Trust me, it’s infectious.

Exercise Imagination.

  • Remember that magic substance I mentioned earlier? Course you do, it’s BDNF, that brain building wizardry that keeps your precious angels from teen pregnancy and prison. Imagination is a trigger, and here’s where we can get as silly as we want. Here’s a few ways we flex our imagination daily.
  • Dinner time ‘How on earth did we get…’ game. This gets super ridiculous in our house but the crazier the story the better! Start by asking someone, ‘How on earth did we get this chicken?’ (for example,) then invent a tale ending in you somehow getting chicken. Repeat with different foods until you’re in hysterics or the food is gone.
  • ‘Anything Mash-up’ is a hit with my 4yr old. We play it in the car on the way to the bus and a few of his ideas…sheesh. Pick two unrelated objects/animals/machines and mash them together then explain why it’s awesome. Nuff said.
  • ‘Create your own bedtime story’ gives kids the chance to be in the spotlight and my boys take full advantage.
  • I give that night’s storyteller a few mins to set up their props then we all file in to snuggle on cushions and listen. Warning: high risk of repetitive ninja battles.

Nature play and creative storytelling for kids

All these games build logical thinking, creativity, reasoning and empathy.

There’s no rules.

They require minimal effort on our part, the kids will soon take over and that’s just fine.

Is it lazy? Kinda, if you need it to be. On my wretchedly exhausted days, just the suggestion of a mash-up or a story lets me hit auto-pilot and tune out. Guilt free. (They’re learning…)

What sort of humans do you want to raise?

I recently surveyed 100 mums and here are the top 10 qualities they hoped their kids would have, in order of how important they ranked.

Does your wishlist for your kids look similar, or is there something you would add?

graph qualities parents hope for in their children 

Tell me the top qualities YOU hope for in your mini minions, and why!

Xx Karissa

(A proud lazy mum)

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