Sunday 31st March is Mothering Sunday, a chance to remember dearly missed mums, to celebrate the mums or mothering figures we are lucky to have in our lives and perhaps to reflect on our own time as a mum. We all have different experiences (and my heart reaches out to those for whom Mothering Sunday isn’t a happy occasion for various reasons) but for most of us we have a reason to be truly grateful. Our mums gave us life, loved, nourished and protected us. Growing up there were things that I thought only my mum could do, such as make my grazed knee better with a hug, clean my face with a bit of spit and polish and decide on the correct coat to wear for the weather that day (for years I’d ask my mum what coat I should wear!).
Then as I grew older I realised that in fact she did a lot more for me and had made many sacrifices for me over the years, just like I now do for my own kids. As a child you often feel that your parent has always been “Mum” or “Dad” and don’t picture them as a child or a first time clueless parent but they were learning on the job just as new parents do today.
After a good few years attempting being a mum here are ten things that I think all good mums should try to do (I don’t always manage them all but I give them my best shot):
Give Good Hugs
Positive touch is important to children’s development and emotional well being. This comes naturally when they are babies and constantly being picked up and cuddled for feeding and settling. But always take time to give your older child a long cuddle and reassuring hug too. If teens have “grown out” of cuddles a positive pat on the back, ruffle or squeeze of an arm can have the same positive reassurance. This phase is temporary and they’ll be back for mum hugs when they’re older.
2. Criticise the Behaviour NOT The Child
I think this is one that mums get better at as time goes on. When kids “misbehave” explain that the behaviour is not acceptable. Say “I don’t like (that behaviour)” rather than making your child feel that you don’t like them (which is a common mistake new mums make so don’t beat yourself up about it, just vow to do better). Show with your words and actions that you always love them. Remember what you tell them they are, they become, so use your words wisely.
3. Catch Kids Being Good- Give Them Praise
It seems we often forget how new kids really are to this world. They are always learning and aim to please. So often we take their good behaviour for granted while criticising the negative. This leads to a culture of children displaying more of the unwanted behaviour which they have learnt warrants them the attention they crave. If you find yourself in a negative cycle of your child displaying negative attention and you criticising them, STOP, you can break this. LOOK for positive behaviour and praise it. Eventually the positive behaviour will be displayed more frequently and praise will come naturally to you, creating a positive parent and child relationship again. LISTEN to your child, give them the attention they deserve.
4. Discuss and Model Good Behaviour
Some mums make the mistake of always punishing kids for their behaviour but not actually telling kids what behaviour they expect of them (see point 3). It’s important to discuss the behaviour you want to see in your household and model it yourself. This is another one I have to work on as a mum. I’ve had moments of embarrassing clarity when I realise that I’m shouting at my kids not to shout at each other. Instead I need to harness my inner teacher, lower my voice and model how to talk calmly and kindly to each other.
One bug bear in modern parenting is the amount of screen time kids have. I think it’s important to not just say”Get off those screens!” but to model what you want to see your kids doing instead- go for a walk, have a game of football, play a board game, read a book, do some craft? Talk to them and model the desired behaviour.
5. Allow Natural Consequences
Natural consequences are so much more powerful than pointless punishments. Of course we have to say no where there is a safety risk but when kids are being stubborn in a way that isn’t harmful, just unpleasant, let them experience the natural consequence. For example, if they won’t wear a coat, let them feel cold and wet, until they realise why they should have listened to mum and wore a coat. Learning when to pick their battles is also a useful skill mums have!
6. Tell Your Kids to Have a Go
It’s tempting to tell your kids that they “can do anything” in order to build up their confidence. Actually this can lead to frustration and failure. Instead tell your kids that they can have a go at anything. Remind them that practice, patience and perseverance will help them along the way. I think it’s also important to remind kids to enjoy the things they do. I’d much prefer to have a child who came last in every sports race but did their best and enjoyed it than a kids who won’t take part because they may not win or is a bad sport when they lose. Of course one child is going to win the race happily and that’s great but we can’t all be winners and happiness should not be defined by that.
7. Lets Kids Feel Their Feelings and Choose Their Actions
Mums do an amazing job of teaching kids about their feelings as they grow up. Remind kids that it’s okay to feel whatever they’re feeling, we can’t help what we feel, even if it is a negative feeling such as anger or jealousy. Teach kids that they do have the power to decide how to channel these feelings into actions. It’s not okay to follow up with shouting, hitting or revenge etc.
8. Give them Space to Become Independent
Every mum (and parent) has an aspect that they find most difficult. For me it’s letting them go and giving them space to become independent. Sometimes I give them a little bit too much help along the way- like when I notice they’ve left their PE kit behind I’m on my way to the school to drop it off for them. Actually, it’s a lot more beneficial to let them experience “failure” occasionally and to develop the coping skills that they are going to need as you won’t always be by their side.
9. Remind Kids That They Have the Power to Be Happy
A powerful lesson that mums can pass on to their kids is that they have the power to be happy. It’s one that I only fully understood later on in my life. My life isn’t perfect. We have the usual house, money, work, relationship and health worries. It could really get us down. But actually, I’m resilient and can still choose to be happy- to see the joy in each morning sunrise, to feel grateful I’m still drawing air, to appreciate the important things I do have- shelter, fresh water, food, warmth, family and friendship. Kids will always have fall outs and unhappy times in school. I’ve taught my kids that when they’re being called names, when they’re being left out, they are still loved wholly and whole- heartedly by me and the rest of the family. They still have that all important gift deep inside of them that means they can still choose to be happy.
10. Say Sorry
One of the most important gifts that they have given to my children is I am not too proud to say sorry to them. I think it’s a wise lesson for them to see that I’m not perfect, I’m a flawed and still learning human being like the rest of them. I don’t want my kids to ever feel like they can’t live up to my high expectations. I just want them to be kind, happy and do their best and if they make mistakes, as we all do, to own up and say sorry too. With that comes the natural consequence that we then try and do better and that’s the best we can do.
Mother’s are amazing and teach us so much (as do Dad’s buy they get their special day to be appreciated too!). Remember to show your mum you appreciate her this Mother’s Day. Card Factory have a great range of Mother’s Day cards to choose from. Pick some flowers or buy a thoughtful gift too. Most of all remember to give your mum a hug, mums love hugs.