I Need Parenting Help!

Annie The Nanny

Annie The Nanny

Get your parenting advice questions answered at Annie´s Advice Column
Annie the Nanny is a professional parenting educator. She writes a weekly advice column for parents who need help with their children's behaviour. Her advice has also been featured on CTV, CBC and in all kinds of print media. For more information about Annie, please go to her 'about' page.

Hi Annie,

I live in Chicago, so I am not near you, but maybe you could point me in the direction I need. I have three children. 12, 4, and 16 months old, and I need parenting help!I am a stay-at-home mom that never seems to accomplish anything. My 12-year-old is in school. The four-year-old goes to daycare every day (which I hate) so she can interact with other children her age, and they do have some kind of preschool program. The 16-month-old goes to daycare as well (which I also hate). The daycare was brought into our lives because I could not find a way to keep the two of them entertained all day and take care of the house chores.

I do not like having the house a mess and have no place for the children to have a playroom. I also want to do all the errands I have to run without lugging them both in and out of every facility, not to mention trying to keep control over them while in a store or at an appointment. My husband doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t want to clean; he works and then has an agenda he needs to attend to.

I am overwhelmed with the kids. Speaking of mothers, I even have my mom come to my house every day to help pick up around the house, do dishes, and do laundry, and that’s because I have to try and do everything else. My husband thinks I should be able to get it all done without having to hire anyone or put the kids in daycare. Can you tell me maybe what it is that I am looking for—a housekeeper or a parenting coach? The baby is terrible already. He never listens to me, throws his food all over the table, and has tantrums, so I basically just keep him in the playpen while I am doing other things around the house, otherwise, he is in a heap of trouble. I can’t take my eyes off him or his four-year-old sister. Thanks, Debra

Hi Debra,

I need parenting help!There’s a lot to respond to in your letter. Given that I am only going on what you’ve told me, a number of things stand out, although I really think you could use some behavioural intervention here. Please understand that I have to be direct in order to be helpful. The first thing that stands out is that when your kids are home, your whole household sounds out of control. You are understandably unhappy because your kids are not home, and yet when they are, you still feel at a loss as to how to cope. I think there are a number of reasons for that. The first is your expectation.

I need parenting help: Kids need certain things to thrive.

Children need to explore their world. They are messy, noisy, and, from an adult’s point of view, constantly tiring. No matter what you do, none of that will change. Kids take enormous effort, and what you put in is what you get out. The bottom line is that you’re in quite a muddle here, and really, it’s my behaviour intervention service that would help you the fastest. Notwithstanding, if the children have no outlet for their play, they will be difficult as their fundamental needs are going unmet. Play is vital for their normal development, as is your interaction with them. Right now, both these areas are lacking. You restrict your interaction with your children because their behaviour is challenging, but they are being challenging for a reason. They want you. You are their mother, and you hold a special place. Right now, it’s probably hard for you to see their behaviour for what it is. They are behaving like this to get your attention, and the more you deprive it from them, the worse it will get.

I need parenting help:  It’s not too late.

Now take heart; you can turn this around. It’s not too late, but it will require enormous effort and won’t be easy. You have to really ask yourself what you want for your children. I’m sure, like most mothers, you want what’s best for them. I can also hear it in your letter. You hate being away from them, but right now you’re not sure how to cope. With the goal of taking the youngest out of daycare completely and having your four-year-old just go to play school (morning or afternoon), let’s look at the areas you need help with.

I need parenting help: Here’s the list to change things around.

1. Organization: This is an area you need help with before you take them out of day care. Get realistic about how tidy a house can be with kids. A housekeeper won’t help much because the change has to occur within you. If you need help to try and get over this need to have a super clean house, then I would encourage you to get it.

2. “I need parenting help” is a declaration that your kids are driving the ship instead of you. In other words, they run you rather than you running them. Make kids part of your routine but not the focus of it. Kids need to feel part of something larger than themselves—the community that is your family and the larger community too. Get them involved in doing things with you around your home, like emptying the dishwasher, sorting socks, wiping down counters, or walking the dog. If you offer a clear path forward by knowing what you are doing and letting them get involved with you, they will be happy because they will feel as if they are important rather than just being told they are.

3. Routine: Kids need one. At least they need a practical course of events. It doesn’t have to be by the clock; it just has to be predictable, and yes, it can be flexible. Start their bedtime routine at least one hour before bed. Restrict TV before bed and let your kids enjoy a fun bath and story time.

4. Pay attention to the kids at special moments and offer lots of cuddles. Not all the time, but when you do, really get down on their level and look at them when they talk to you. Hug and do so frequently. Use gentle touch when they are upset and let them do things along side you. Children need to watch, mimic, and follow you, and that makes them happy, so give them an opportunity to get involved with what you’re doing.

5. Find things that your kids are doing well. That might be tough to start with, but scoop them up and congratulate them even if they are standing around for a moment, taking stock of where they are. Find things to praise them for, but don’t make them up. Praise is the biggest and most effective motivator for change, but it has to be real. When they are kind to each other or an animal, notice.

6. Get Dad involved. Raising kids is not a one-person job unless you have no alternative. Get him to help you make out the routine and offer support. When he comes home at night, encourage him to get stuck in and help with the kids. You could make bath and story time his opportunity to give his kids that special attention.

7. Work together. Be on the same page with your expectations for your kids’ behaviour and how you’re going to get there, and be consistent.

8. Arrange for a regular time-off period. All the above will take a lot out of you in terms of energy. Make sure you have a night or two a week, an afternoon, or whatever to renew and look after yourself. Give yourself one day on the weekend to sleep in if you need it.

9. Enjoy the skills of your mother and the experience she comes with. She’s shown herself willing to help, and I’m sure she has much to offer beyond dishes.

10. Get involved in activities where there are other moms. They can offer a lot of support to you as well as playmates for your children.

11. Read as many of my other letters as you have time for. They will give you lots of practical suggestions for mealtimes, bedtimes, etc.

I need parenting help:  Consider additional support.

I would advise you to look for additional support either through me or some other professional.  I’d no doubt that you’d find additional parent coaching through either my behaviour intervention service or long term support through my parenting support service very helpful, depending on how things improve for you.  I hope this has helped you out.  Best of luck, Annie

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