Nayana Chakrabarti, Parenting and Education Editor
Well, it’s not even the middle of January and it’s already been a long year.
Parenting is fraught at the best of times but with a pandemic raging on in the background, many of us are finding that we are spinning even more plates than usual. Some of us are finding that we don’t really know what the word ‘usual’ means anymore but that’s another blog post, for another day…
This year, I have resolved to work smart, not hard. Yes yes yes, I know. Resolutions are all very well and good but they don’t really work, do they? For example, I’ve never – in all my thirty-five years of existence – managed to see my list of resolutions through for more than the first seven days of January . But bear with me, this resolution – work smart, not hard – seems to be working in my favour rather than against me. I don’t have to learn a new language, run a marathon, pass my driving test, write an essay, climb a mountain…By working smart, not hard, I can be efficient with my energy. I can also hope to be kinder to myself. Anything which makes me a kinder parent with a more positive outlook is in the best interests of my children. So really, if you think about it, hacks are not self-serving, they are a weensy bit altruistic too!
So here are some parenting hacks that will make your life just that little bit easier, a little less fraught, a little less taxing on your frayed nerves after a long day, a little more efficient so that you can take the weight of your feet and watch all the Netflix that your soul desires. Or train for that marathon. Or learn that language…After all, not everyone is 70% couch and 30% potato like me!
# Parenting Hack 1: Picture This
I’ll begin with my favourite.
Picture the scene: you are in a shop. Maybe it’s a supermarket. Maybe – horror of horrors – its a toy shop. You are with your child. Said child spots something and they decide that they MUST-ABSOLUTELY- DEFINITELY-HAVE the latest toy from Flibbertigibet Toys Inc RIGHT NOW. Preferably yesterday.
Now, here’s the rub. There is a small part of you that blames yourself for your child’s reaction. After all, your child’s materialistic bent, you tell yourself, didn’t happen overnight, did it. A good child, a well-disciplined child – the prim and proper voice from inside your conscience tells you – would never behave in such a way and just as you begin to berate yourself…A lighter, more pragmatic voice piped up and reminds you that real children don’t behave like textbook children. Real children are not automatons, they have wants and whims of their own, you’re not a bad parent because your child wants ALL. THE. THINGS. ALL. THE. TIME and neither is your child bad, or faulty. They are simply children with minds of their own living in a world where we are constantly bombarded by merchandise all of the time. And yet the truth remains: you have neither the time nor the inclination to buy them the big, shiny, sparkly toy from Flibbertigibbet Toys Inc. You need to get your groceries and you need to get out of the store.
To reduce the chances of an epic meltdown, try this: ask your child to stand next to the object of their heart’s desire and take a picture of them with it. Assure them that if they still want the toy on their next birthday, you will come back and get it. In the meantime, they can look at the picture. This hack ensures two things: you are not indulging in the instant gratification culture we currently live in but you are also not dismissing your child either. You are listening to them and making them feel heard and seen.
I’ve been doing this with my 4 year old and my 9 year old for a couple of years now and it’s worked every time. Sometimes we do go back to the store and get that toy. Most of the time, we don’t. In fact, I use the hack on myself. I have a predilection for books, you see. I take pictures of the books I would like but can’t yet allow myself to buy. It works!
#Parenting Hack 2: Talk to Me
Fair warning: this hack is not about saving time and nor is it particularly about efficiency. No, this hack is about empathy and opening channels of communication.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that if a parent asks ‘How was your day at school?’, the child shall furnish them with monosyllabic answers. This hack gets around the issue. Try asking these questions instead:
– What made you smile today?
– What kind of person were you today?
– Tell me something you know today that you didn’t know yesterday?
I tried this with my then kindergartener and now tween and it allowed for some very wacky conversations. Nowadays I don’t ask him these questions anymore because our post-school conversations are a part of our daily routine. I still don’t have a full picture of what happens in school but it’s alright. I’ve come to accept that if he really wants to talk, he knows where I am and he knows that I’m interested.
#Parenting Hack 3: (Ju)ice (Ju)ice Baby
The singlemost important thing that Instagram has taught me is to ensure that any time I give my child a carton of juice, I turn the corners up and out and show my child how to hold them like handles. This ensures that they don’t squeeze too hard which in turn avoids spillages. Isn’t it beautiful? Short, simple and sweet.
# Parenting Hack 4: Reading Between the Lines
This is a popular one on parenting forums and Facebook groups devoted to the raising of children. Most of us love Netflix and it’s ilk and let’s face it, our kids do too. Pandemic parenting, working from home, enforced-homeschooling have all meant that many of our children are getting more screen-time than we feel comfortable with.
The word of the year for many is ‘pivot’. How do we pivot this scenario around to our favour? Switch off the sound and turn on the subtitles. Bam! You have a reading lesson.
There are other hacks along this line which I appreciate very much. A friend of mine had her seven- year old convinced that she had to read to the TV in order for it to be able to turn on.
So, there you have it. These hacks above are the ones which are true, tried and tested at home by yours truly. The internet loves a good hack and if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got a Pinterest board somewhere, filled with hacks that will enable your life to be a little smoother. Some hacks you will have picked up from your own parenting village. Yet some more will be hacks that you invented yourself through one of those strokes of genius that strikes us all at one point or another. If you have a treasured hack, please share in the comments below or on one of our social media pages. You never know who you might be helping!
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