The clothes on the kids go round and round – the art of second-hand parenting!

I was sitting on the floor with my mum, surrounded by bags, boxes and towering piles of childrens’ clothing – boy and girl – when I had to jump up and take a photo. Ever since I first got pregnant with my first child I have been playing this game, where friends give you all the cast-off clothing from their kids and you go through them and get to decide what to keep (most of it) and what to bin (anything very stained) and what to charity shop (colours that don’t suit your kid, weird psychotic rabbit cartoon designs you can’t face looking at etc) and then, when the time comes, you bundle up all your kid’s things and pass them on to a friend with an appropriately aged child. Never, though, has this game seemed quite so absurdly funny as it has these last couple of months.

I have multiple streams of incoming clothing – two friends with boy and girl combos just slightly older than my two, two friends with girls the same age as my boy and boys just slightly younger than my girl, and it’s these last two who have me laughing the hardest. Let me paint you a picture.

One friend, let’s call her Lucy, shows up on my doorstep with four enormous bags. One full of girls’ clothes (age 2-4), one full of girls’ shoes and wellies, two full of baby boy clothes (2 – 4 months). She has a 3 year old girl and my girl has been getting all her old clothes. In return I pass her all The Boy’s old clothes for her baby boy born in May this year.  When he’s finished with those she brings them back to be passed on to my other friend, let’s call her Kate, who has a baby boy born in September.

That’s not the end of it though. Kate has a three year old girl also, so we get all her daughter’s old things for the Girl, too. We also all shared round our maternity clothes as our pregnancies were staggered. Are you following this?  I’m amazed if you are, because it makes my head spin and I’m living it.

So I turned up at Kate’s house triumphantly waving two large bags full of baby boy clothes, full of relief at getting them out of my (tiny) house. She smirks at me and produces a similar sized bag of yet more returned maternity clothes, plus two BOXES of girls’ clothes age 18mo – 3.

So a couple of days ago I decide to go through all these clothes, sorting out what I have, what I’ll keep of The Boy’s for The Girl, what I’ll pass on, what I’ll keep of the new batch of incoming clothes. Here’s a photo of the resultant chaos:

sorting childrens' clothes

You know the really scary thing? That’s not even all the stuff. That’s just what I could fit in the frame! I am not complaining, because in the last 4 years I have had to spend almost no money on children’s clothes, yet both my two are always beautifully dressed, but oh my word – the logistical nightmare of keeping on top of what fits, when, and storing the too-large stuff in a very small house. Well.

If you’re interested I have three super large clothes storage bags and keep everything in those, separated into age groups. These live in top of the wardrobe in The Boys’ room.  I periodically sort through these to make sure I’m only keeping things we will use – if there’re too many things to fit in just those three bags, some of it has to go. It’s the only way to stay on top of things.

I have now identified a boxful of childrens’ clothes, mostly girls’ (as the boys’ stuff is being passed along to friends) that needs a home. I will either give it away, sell it or charity shop it. Part of me hurts at having to let go of the things my babies have worn (I even did a post on the subject) but mostly I am relieved to have the space, both physical and emotional/mental – I‘m done having babies, after all – plus I need to keep paying the clothing karma forward.

Shame my sister isn’t close to having babies yet, I could offload on her! I doubt there’ll be anything left by the time she gets started. Oh well.

What do you do with your old baby things? Is it harder to pass them on if you bought them all new?

NaNoWriMo rides again

So, November is fast approaching, which for some of the foolhardy amongst us (well, it is foolhardy when you have two children and no childcare) means NaNoWriMo is almost upon us. Despite not having taken part in National Novel Writing Month for several years I have participated – and ‘won’ (ie- reached 50k words in a month) before, so I know it’s possible. That was long before children, though, and during a bout of unemployment, so the challenges will be that much greater this time.

I may not complete the challenge. I may only manage a few thousand words. I may be entirely silent on my blog whilst I struggle once more with the fictional word. I will never know until I try.

Things to my benefit – I have far greater life experience now. Nothing like having babies and a run-in with a life or death situation to broaden your horizon. I also have almost no free time, which ought to focus the mind. What is it they say? If you want something done then give it to a busy person? Well I’m busy alright.

Anybody else thinking of taking part?

5 top tips to marriage – advice for a life together

This weekend just gone The Man, The Girl and I were at a wedding. The guest book was a lovely departure from the norm of intimidatingly blank pages and provided a series of ‘prompts’ to answer, with glue dots to attach them and stickers to decorate. I am not very happy with the prompt I chose and the answer I gave. I was tired and distracted with an over-stimulated baby wailing on my back and have been kicking myself ever since. The one I should have answered was “What 3 pieces of advice would you give us for a happy future together”. Well, after 11 years together, seven of them trapped joined in marriage, I’d like to think I have a little bit to say on this topic, so R & K, this blog post is for you…

1 – Always be quick to apologise. Even if you don’t think it was your fault. Even if you were both in the wrong. Take the first step to saying sorry, and you’ll be able to have a real conversation from there and, hopefully, resolve whatever required an apology in the first place. If you’ve married the right person then they’ll apologise too if they were in the wrong.
If you really really weren’t in the wrong then you can still find something to apologise for. Example: “I’m really sorry I started crying and walked away. I just needed some time to calm down. Can we talk now?”

2 – Don’t make unilateral decisions. You were hopefully a team before you got married, but you’re legally committed to each other now and are responsible for each others’ decisions, so make sure you talk about them. I mean, you know, not about whether you wear the blue dress or the red dress to his mother’s party (unless there’s a ‘thing’ with his mum, obvs) but the big stuff like having children, buying a new car or stringing the Christmas tree with white or coloured lights (that’s a big cultural preference y’know. The Man and I still agree to disagree on this).

3 – Have faith in each other.  This is bigger than just trusting each other – that’s only about monogamy. No, having faith in each other is trusting that the other has your best interests at heart and has your back. Having faith in each other means trusting that your spouse is doing their very best, trying their very hardest, even if you feel they’re not entirely doing their fair share.  In return you need to be deserving of that same faith: have your spouse’s best interests at heart and have their back at all times.  Always try your very hardest.

4 – Look after each other. This is a reciprocal arrangement, a little like number 3. If you always go that extra mile to look after them, and they always do the same in return, then both of you will always feel – and be – cared for. Make them that cup of tea, buy them that unexpected present, let them have a lie-in when the kids get you up at 4am.

5 – Have fun together. Life is serious and no-one gets out alive. Take time to be silly together. Have in-jokes, act childish, splash each other in the sea, goose each other, play kiss chase, hold hands. Don’t let the daily grind grind your spirit to dust before your body gets there. Enjoy the life you have together.

marriagetipsThese are the five tips I would give anybody embarking on a life together.  I wish I had written them in that book. On the way home from the wedding I confessed as much to The Man who turned to me with a smile and told me that he had gone back later and written something for a change and which one had he chosen? The three tips: have fun together, be quick to apologise, have faith in each other…

I don’t know if that explains the strong marriage, or is the result of 11 years mind-meld 😉

What’s on in Oxford & Oxfordshire, Autumn 2015 half-term?

I know many of you, like me, are faintly dreading the coming week and wonder “what can I do with the kids?” Well, Oxfordshire is a veritable smorgasbord of free, cheap and low cost entertainments, both indoors and outdoors. What with The C word (yes, I went there – Christmas) on the horizon, Halloween at the end of the week and fireworks night shortly thereafter there are all sorts of themed activities to do across the county. I’ve outlined a small selection for you below, a gateway if you would, with something to do each day, but most of the venues listed are holding more than one event and it would be worth looking through their sites. Google is also your friend if you’re looking for something in a specific town.

24th October – 1st November – Halloween at Blenheim Palace
A (in their words) “delightfully spooky itinerary of events and activities to entertain your little ghouls during October Half Term”. From ghost trains to pumpkin trails there’s a mix of activities for all ages.

24th October 2015 – Nick Cope’s Songbook
The Story Museum is hosting the lovely Nick Cope again as he regales his audience with songs about Pirates, Poo and Another cup of tea. Do not miss it. (If I wasn’t at a wedding I’d take my own advice)

26th October 2015 – 28th October – Egyptastic at the Pitt Rivers Museum
Come and meet the Pitt Rivers’ Ancient Egyptian mummy and discover more about Ancient Egypt. Make a spectacular amulet.

27th October 2015 – Lino cut relief printing in the woods
Work with  professional printmaker & Oxford University Artist in Residence at Wytham Woods. Sketch from the Museum’s collection to create your print composition. Learn about and try preparing the block, image transfer and carving technique and printing the block. For older children/teens.

27th October 2015 – Owls for October at the Harcourt Arboretum
For younger children – find out about the resident barn owl and get creative with some owl related and Autumnal crafts to make and take home. 

28th October 2015 – Woodland Adventure
An expedition for 5-8 year olds. Use your detective skills to discover our secret destination where we will explore, build and play!

28th October 2015 – Advent at the Arboretum
Forget Halloween – it’s all about Christmas here. Get ready for advent with some seasonal crafts.  Collect natural materials to make a wreath and tree decorations.

30th October – 1st November 2015 – Trick or Treat at the Oxford Castle
A ghoulish line-up of inmates will be locked up in the old cells of Oxford’s former prison this Halloween to put the fun and frights into trick or treating at Oxford Castle Unlocked.


10 things you really need to do once you’re on maternity leave, but before giving birth

Congratulations mum-to-be! You look great, really. Are you enjoying maternity leave? Not long until the baby arrives now, right? Well, maybe. He might come early, you might be hanging around for three weeks more than you thought. Whichever it is would you allow me to offer a little advice? These are things I want to say to every first-time mum when she announces she’s off on mat leave or approaching her due date, but often can’t because, you know, people don’t like being given advice out of the blue. But you’re looking for suggestions, aren’t you? Looking for what to do while you wait? That’s why you’re here. That makes you a captive audience so allow me to get this off my chest! Hurrah!maternityleave2

1 – line up breastfeeding support
Ok, maybe you’re not planning on breastfeeding, or there are medical contraindications in which case skip this one and go right to number 2. The majority of mums, however, are probably planning to breastfeed so do yourself a favour – get the information lined up now. Read up on it  for a start – ‘The Food of Love‘ is a fab book – lighthearted, funny, very very informative.

Research some support groups you can go to – the last thing you want to do is try to find out about these at three in the morning when you’ve been struggling all night and want to go talk to somebody. Try the La Leche League, Baby Cafe, your local maternity unit. Whatever is available. You can even go before you have the baby, that way it’s already a familiar environment that you’ve experienced before you’re sleep deprived, hormone-riddled and lugging a new baby and all their crap around with you.

And make a note of this: The national breastfeeding support helpline. Open between 9.30am and 9.30pm it is a fabulous resource.

2 – read up on the fourth trimester 
This is the period of time right after a baby is born when, in all other mammals, they should still really be in your womb, but have had to be evicted before their head got so big they wouldn;t fit through your pelvis. If you know all about it then you’ll be more inclined to accept some of the newbrn behaviour and just roll with the punches, rather than trying to get a totally dependent newborn to fit to a ‘routine’ just because your mother has been guilting you about what they did ‘when you were a baby’.

Here’s one as a start, and another, but just google ‘fourth trimester’ and you’ll be able to read up to your heart’s content.
3 – read up on ‘going overdue’
There’s a lot of pressure put on women to seek medical assistance when they go ‘overdue’ – but do you know when that is (42 weeks, by the way. NOT simply after your due date), what the risks and benefits are of doing something versus doing nothing, or how you’d feel about undergoing some of those procedures? I highly recommend making sure you’re fully informed of all the ins and outs so that whatever decision you make is an educated one and not a reaction to undue pressure being put on you by someone in a position of authority.
this article is quite helpful

4 – line up a load of DVD boxsets (I’ve made some recommendations in the past)
You spend a lot of time curled up on the sofa when you have your first baby (not so much with subsequent kids but oh well). Do yourself a favour and buy in some boxsets, subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Fire or NowTV. You’ll thank me later.
5 – join an online ante-natal group
Go to Mumsnet, Netmums, wherever. Find other mums due the same month. Talk anonymously, migrate to Facebook. Whatever you do you will be so grateful to have all these other women to go through it with you – the late pregnancy insomnia, the birth, the feeding issues, the late night/midnight/early morning feeds, the weaning, the walking, the potty training…
I’m still in my group from The Boy, it’s been more than four years now and we’ve seen each other through so much. Second and third babies, divorces, mental health issues, cancer, fertility issues, terrible twos, threenagers – I can’t tell you.  This is solid gold, diamond encrusted advice. Take it.
6 – book lots of exciting activities to do
Nothing worse than waiting around for that baby to arrive. Book things to do every day so you’re not just twiddling your thumbs and waiting. Far better to have to cancel stuff.
7 – get a massage or some chiropractor/osteo treatments.
This is not just in the name of self-indulgence, although this might be your last chance for a while. No. A good osteo-type treatment will help open up your sacroiliac joints helping prepare your body for labour and improving the likelihood of a straightforward birth.
8 – take some photos of yourself
I was inspired to take some photos of my mega bump one morning, not knowing I’d go into labour that night. I love being able to put the photos of my bump and my baby together knowing there was only 24 hours between them.
9 – find/go to baby groups
As with the online groups – friends in similar situations are what will get you through those early days and, as with the breastfeeding support groups, it’s much easier to go into those situations as a sleep-deprived, vulnerable new mum if you’ve been before and sussed out the parking, the location, the cost, the tea/coffee etiquette etc
10 – learn how to use all the stuff!
Do you know how to fold and unfold the buggy? Fix the car seat into the car? Run the steriliser? Swaddle a baby? Change a nappy? Do NOT let your first try at these complicated skills be when you have a newborn SCREAMING at you. I speak from bitter experience.
Also – find places for all the stuff to live, otherwise you’ll suddenly have to frind home for baby bouncers, moses baskets and god knows what else all in one hit.

Bonus tip! – read all the stuff! Here are some of my suggestions/recommendations for really useful reading while you still have the time and brainspace to do so – enjoy! I may do a whole post on this if my list gets any longer, but for now…

The thinking womans’ guide to a better birth,

Gentle birth, gentle mothering,

Bump: How to make, grow and birth a baby

Home schooling – only for the very brave…

A friend of mine recently took her five year old son, about to go into year 1, out of school because he was being pushed so hard he was beginning to hate learning.  Encouraged by her own Scandinavian upbringing (which doesn’t put children into formal education until they’re 7) she was more than happy to remove him from his school and try her hand at home schooling him – an idea that I fully endorse, but honestly couldn’t do myself. I swear to God, I don’t know how she does it, especially since she also has a three year old at home to care for.

As I mentioned a while back we have ditched TV almost entirely (we sometimes watch a family film together at the weekend and, very very occasionally, I put a TV programme on when I am about to completely lose my sanity, but that’s less than once a week now <smug>) so on the days The Boy is not at preschool I try to embrace the philosophy of home schooling and do some enriching activities with him.

gingerbread dough

2 batches of scrummy gingerbread biscuits ready to freeze

Today we did yoga together (Cosmic Kids yoga on Youtube, review coming soon) moved on to stage 2 of our papier mache dragon head for Halloween, made the dough for some gingerbread biscuits to go in the freezer (yes, I am thinking ahead to Christmas already. So shoot me) and had a snack. I looked at the clock. Not even 11am yet and the house is a total bombsite. Holy crap – we hadn’t even got to lunchtime, I’d run out of enthusiasm for enriching activities and, oh yes, the baby has just woken up so now I have two of them to entertain. It’s a dreary grey mizzle outside, so hardly enticing for a walk or outdoor activity, especially when we have to walk to Sir’s martial arts lesson later anyway.

papier mache dragon head halloween costume

Amazing what you can do with egg boxes – The dragon head progresses

Seriously P – how the hell are you doing it? I’ve had to sit The Boy down with the CBeebies reading app on my phone so I can write this blog before I lose my mind. I guess feeding the baby, having lunch and making dinner will take up some time, too, but I won’t be engaging with the children whilst I cook and clear up. How do you get any housework done when you don’t have any child-free time during the week? I am in awe. The Girl’s nap times on preschool days are the only reason we can actually see the floor in this house. Not to mention bearing the full burden of your childrens’ education on your own shoulders.

Hat off, missus. You’re a better woman than me.

Would you consider home-schooling? What would persuade you to give it a try? Or perhaps you already are – how do you find it? How do you keep them occupied in meaningful ways? Where do you find your ideas? Please comment and let me know

Winter is here – fab fairisle photoshoot

I don’t think I’m alone in frequently dressing myself and my children in matchy matchy clothes. One hardly ever means to, unless you’re slightly freakish, but you just wake up in the mood for turquoise, or navy blue and white stripes with red, or jeans and a white Tee. If you’re choosing everyone’s clothes it’s no wonder you all co-ordinate. Well The Boy was recently bought a new jumper from Sainsburys which he insisted on wearing today and it was only after he came downstairs that I realised both he and The Girl were in Fairisle and looked like they’d stepped out of a knitwear catalogue.

They looked so damn cute I had to take some photos – well please remind me next time that no matter how stressful it is to try and get a decent photo of one small child, trying to get two of them to co-operate is one of the most stressful undertakings you can volunteer yourself for – kudos to professional photographers! We had blurring, funny faces, crying, disappearing children, half-in-half-out of frame and multiple photobombings of each other’s photos, but I got a few real corkers and I thought you might like seeing them. Please excuse the watermarking – I don’t want them being used without my permission.fairisleshoot1



5 fab gift ideas for subsequent children

5 fab gift ideas for subsequent children

5 fab gift ideas for subsequent childrenYou may have seen my posts on gender neutral gifts to buy a three year old (and more gender neutral gifts to buy a three year old).  I had a lot of positive feedback on those, but one comment asked me to please please write a list of gifts to buy subsequent children and I’ve been mulling the topic over since. What do you get for a younger sibling when their brother or sister has already been given the standard ‘new baby’ gifts?

It’s a tricky issue because once you have one child you have pretty much everything you need for the following children.  You might get a few easy gifts if the child is a different sex to its predecessor, but even then the majority of items required will already be taking up space in the house.  So I put together a few ideas but, as my friends continue to procreate, I would appreciate any suggestions of things I haven’t thought of, so do add comments! Luckily, as the kids get older they will hopefully develop individual interests and hobbies you can cater to, but for the early stages here are some ideas…

1 – Dribble bibs/bandanas – yes, they may (probably do) have some of these already, but it’s one of those items where you can never have too many. Plus it’s nice to have different colours to match to different outfits. The Girl can saturate as many as four or five in a day (eww). Especially useful to have new ones as, once smalls start to wean, they will inevitably get unpleasant food stains on them. I really love the ones I have from Tu at Sainsburys, especially for the price, but the design of the ones from Dribble Ons are the absolute best for getting right under their chin and catching the drool. There is a great choice of colours etc too.  ‘Normal’ bibs are good too – some shops sell them with sleeves which are fabulous!

2 – Books – you can never have too many books in a house and they handily take up very little storage space.  Choose a book you enjoy or, for that personal touch, one you used to enjoy when you were a child. If the mother is anything like me she will ‘encourage’ (ie – insist) that you read the book to the little recipient of the gift so make sure it’s something you can manage (we recently got give one about a ‘Dinosaurarumpus‘ which is great fun to read except for the very long and complex dinosaur names which are impossible for me to pronounce).

3 – Personalised items – no matter how huge the collection of things child no.1 possesses there is one thing you can guarantee they won’t have: anything with Child no.2’s name on! So here is a list of things you can get personalised and a couple of suggestions of places to do it. If cost is an issue and the child has a long, complicated name, then initials can work too in most cases!
– A doorplate or letters for their bedroom door
– A personalised book where your child becomes the character. I haven’t ordered one of these so have no recommendation to make, just Google for it.
– A framed print of their initial. Lots of local artists will do this to order so have a look in your area.
– A travel bag for their things with their initials embroidered on
– Hairbrush
– Ex Libris bookplates “This book belongs to….”
– Crockery or a cup
– Placemat
– Pendant/cufflinks (yes this is thinking a little far in advance, but it’s less likely they’ll already have one…)
– Egg cup

4 – Vouchers. As mums we rarely get a chance to buy new things for our little ones, especially subsequent babies – they just get hand-me-downs. A voucher for Next, H&M, Jojo Maman et Bebe, John Lewis or Mothercare (other shops also available) will make a lovely present for mum and baby alike as they get to have fun shopping and buy something the baby really needs or will wear a lot.

5 – A set of crockery and/or cutlery is a perfect gift, even un-personalised.  With an additional person to feed comes the need for additional child-proof tableware, especially as the little buggers bring friends round, too! I like melamine sets like this lovely 7-piece dinosaur one.

So there you go – a few suggestions that might help you buy something that won’t end up being re-gifted three weeks later!

Dear new first time mum, an open letter

dearnewmumDear new first-time mum, or not so new mum… Dear mum who’s finding it tough right now.
I know.
It’s fucking hard. It is. It’s not just you. Let me tell you something from the vantage point of a second time mum – this too shall pass. The only reason I can even vaguely cope this time is because I’ve done it before and I am confident it will come to an end.  Of course then a new and different really annoying thing will start, but hey, a change is as good as a rest.

That first time it is just so fucking hard and you must do whatever you can to get through. Eat chocolate, go on Facebook, watch crappy, Hallmark made-for-TV movies that have you somewhere between weeping and laughing because they’re so schmaltzy, but so bad.

I’m currently typing to you from the darkness of my bedroom, sitting up in bed because if I move The Girl to the baby jail (aka, her cot) after I feed her to sleep she wakes up again and I really really need to just get on with writing or I will lose my mind and my sense of self. Do whatever it takes to hang onto that sense of self, even if it means you end up dancing with the baby strapped to you in a sling, or reading your book bundled up against the cold as you one-handedly push the buggy containing your sleeping toddler round and round the park. I type blog posts in the dark while I eat cake and fantasise about having enough spare time that I don’t have to choose between a clean house and clean hair.

If you’re feeling low, I mean really low, then please go see your Health visitor or GP, because they do put extra resources into post natal mental health and you are not wasting anybody’s time, but please don’t feel bad or ‘less than’ because you’re struggling.

Everyone can see that you’re doing an ace job, but you’ll just discount it, thinking that they don’t know what you’re really like when you’re on your own with the baby, crying into your cold tea, still wearing a vomit-stained dressing gown whilst your baby cries for you to pick her up 30 seconds after you put her down and you’re ignoring her for just 30 seconds more because you’re so touched out it feels like your skin is about to peel off. Oh no, they’re just seeing the bits that you want them to see, the ones that portray you in a flattering light and blah blah blah – but she smiles, right?  However bloody infuriating it is, she just wants you, yes? – that’s good! She’s happy. She’s attached to you. That means you’re doing a really. Good. Job.

Doesn’t mean it’s not fucking hard to be you right now. It is so. Fucking. Hard. Grit your teeth and hang on. We’re all doing the same thing. It’s what mothers have done for years, decades, centuries. Generation after generation has gone through this. Thirty years from now you’ll be accosting snot-encrusted, hollow-eyed young women being mauled by a baby and telling them to enjoy every minute, that it goes so fast, that time is precious… Or perhaps you won’t, but you’ll probably be thinking it, because these days will fly by before you know it. But right now it’s just hard, and it’s OK to feel that way.

How to deal with tantrums part 2, the 5 techniques for coping with tantrums

tantrums 2Thanks once again to the marvellous Rachel Fitz-Desorgher, all-round parenting guru, who has kindly written for Live Oxfordshire this two-part guide to dealing with tantrums. Last week she looked at the 5 principles to keep in mind during the tantrum years and, if you didn’t see it, then it is definitely worth reading before you look at these techniques. This week she will cover, in detail, 5 specific strategies to try once a tantrum is in full swing to minimise the distress to you and your child and, hopefully, prevent them from becoming a frequent weapon in your child’s armoury.

1. Ignore: This approach can give the quickest result but can also be the trickiest to implement. Your child will learn very quickly that her tantrum gets her some degree of attention, good or bad. Completely withdrawing ANY attention allows an individual tantrum to dissipate in its own natural time rather than causing it to become an attention-seeking device. However, ignoring completely means just that. Here are some ways that parents who are trying to ignore a child inadvertently give attention and reinforce the behaviour:
  • “I’m not listening!”
  • “I’m counting … 1 … 2 …”
  • “Stop the tantrum and then I’ll listen.”
  • “Don’t start or I’ll be cross!”
  • Silent glare
  • Fingers in ears and singing
  • Giving the “Speak to the hand …” sign
If you have decided to ignore a tantrum then you really have to ignore it, calmly, confidently and completely. Carry on doing whatever you need to do: read a book, make a cup of tea, hoover the stairs. Just don’t get drawn in. Your child will try and try to get your attention but do not waver. Think of a drinks machine. You put in £1 and press the button … nothing. You press the button again … nothing. You will keep on pressing until you are satisfied that no drink is coming and then you will give up. If you kick the machine and you get a drink, next time, you will try the kick again. Why wouldn’t you?
As soon as the tantrum is really over, invite your child to join you and then give praise for something as soon as you possibly can, “OK, Poppet, all done! Come and give me a hand with the laundry. There, you found your two blue socks – well done you!” Don’t harp on about the tantrum or discuss it in any way. It’s gone. Don’t rub her nose in it!
2. Remove and Ignore: If you find it hard to ignore your child during a tantrum, or if he grabs you or tries to throw things around, remove him to somewhere completely safe and free from valuables and then ignore him. All you need to do is calmly warn him that that is what you are going to do, “I can’t let you stay in with me to shout and throw things. You will be safe in here until you feel better and can come back to join me.” Then do not say any more at all. If he comes out mid-tantrum, calmly and silently pick him up, pop him back in the safe area and shut the door if you need to (you may choose to leave it open if you are sure you won’t want to keep checking up on him and engaging.
When all is quiet, leave him for a minute to be sure and then calmly ask, “Are you feeling better now? Ok, come on out and let’s get back to making that train track.” Remember not to revisit the topic, “but you are still not having your brother’s red train!” unless he does and then stick to your guns, “I know how much you want the red train and you can have the blue or yellow one, you choose.” If the tantrum starts up again, go straight to putting him in the safe area without a warning this time. Hard to do over and over again but your child will need dozens of opportunities like this before he learns adequate emotional control.
3. Natural consequences: Older children may respond better to consequences. It is also a good approach if you just cannot ignore the tantrum. However, you WILL have to carry out the consequence if pushed so make jolly sure you can before you say anything. Most tantrums (or, if the child is older, most rows) take up time. So the most natural consequences are time-related ones. A pre-bed tantrum may mean no time for a book.
If this is a regular occurrence, pick a good time to make a bedtime ritual chart with your child and then she can tick off each ritual in turn each night. If she has a tantrum, she will have to lose one, then two, then three rituals. However, when the tantrum is over, cheerfully say “Ok. Now, choose 2 things from your chart.” If she says she wants three things then stand firm but don’t harp on about the tantrum, “No, you haven’t got time for three, choose two quickly.”
With an older child, you may feel that you do not want to spend the afternoon shopping with someone who is yelling rudely at you. This is just the way of the world. If people are horrid to us, we don’t want to spend time with them. But deliver the news firmly and congruently. No apologetic voice signaling your uncertainty and guilt! Try “I suggest you stop speaking rudely to me double quick or I’ll be in no mood to go shopping with you!”
Be quite clear that you will have to follow through on your consequences a number of times before your child realizes that you really DO mean what you say.
It is fine to put consequences in place that really will make it clear that there are limits. If an older child has lurched from one ‘scene’ to another all day, then it is not unreasonable to refuse to have supper with him, or to put him to bed half an hour earlier or to leave him at home for the day whilst you go out with the rest of the family as planned. Just don’t threaten anything you are not 100% sure you can go through with. And remember to remain congruent.
4. Choices: Using choices can help both to distract and manage a tantrum. If a tantrum is brewing in the supermarket then distract, “Shall we have fish fingers or jam sandwiches for tea? You get to choose.” But if you find yourself in the midst of the real thing, use a choice to cut it short, “I can’t allow that in here. You stop and walk with me or you can sit in the trolley. Quickly, choose.” If she chooses to sit in the trolley but continues to tantrum then YOU have a choice – ignore her and carry on shopping or push the trolley somewhere quiet and handle the tantrum in your chosen way.
Remember that any consequence for a toddler needs to make sense and be immediate, “You need to calm yourself down. I will count slowly to ten. If you are not calm by then, we won’t have time to buy the doughnuts we wanted for tea.” If you possibly can, avoid consequences that are too far away time-wise as you are likely to just precipitate another tantrum, “If you carry on, there won’t be time to feed the ducks this afternoon”. Your child will have forgotten about the tantrum by the time she has had lunch and will not want to be reminded of it when it comes to time for feeding the ducks.
In truth, with a toddler, a tantrum is so overwhelming that, unless it has barely got going, your child will be in no fit state to make a choice so only use this if you have got the timing right. With older children who are trying to make you do what they say against your better judgement then keep choices small and don’t be deflected, “I have said no to a sleepover. You can have a pizza evening with two friends or a breakfast picnic tomorrow with three friends. You choose”. Do not be talked into compromises “Why can’t I have a pizza evening with three friends?” “The choice is, pizza evening with two friends or breakfast picnic with three friends. You choose.”
The purpose is to get the child to make a choice and accept that she can’t always have what she wants. If she stomps off saying “Fine, I won’t have either!” That’s ok. Of course, she may reflect for a while and then choose the breakfast picnic. That’s ok, you were not wanting to punish her anyway. She still hasn’t got the sleepover and she HAS made a choice, “Great choice. What do you want to prepare for breakfast?”
5. Hold: This is the most loving way to manage your child during a tantrum. You provide the control, calm and loving reassurance that your young child desperately needs at this moment. However, make sure that you can do this calmly and lovingly. Often, you find that holding your child during a tantrum helps you to calm down yourself and feel your love for them return. But if your anger is too strong, put him safe away from you and ignore him. It may take a LOT of will power so maybe get a relaxing tape especially for such moment!
In order to hold your child, put him on your lap facing away (so he can’t bite or head-butt you), and talk gently to him, “you’re quite safe, I’ve got you, you’re ok, Mummy’s here, I love you …” and so on until the tantrum is over. Then stay still and just cuddle. When you both feel better, get on with whatever you had planned. Nothing should change because of a tantrum and never re-visit it.
If your child tries to hit or pinch you, gently say, “Pinching hurts, I’m going to hold your hands so you can’t hurt us” and then do it – sometimes it is even necessary to cuddle his arms right around his tummy to stop the violence. Likewise, kicking can be restrained with your legs crossed over his. Be sure not to get angry – he needs your reassurance that you are not as overwhelmed as he is.

Remember to go back over last week’s points and look at the principles. After you have dealt with the tantrum and it has gone (at least until the next one) remember to reassure & move on. And NEVER LET A TANTRUM CHANGE ANYTHING.

Rachel Fitz-Desorgher offers “Confident Parenting” courses comprising six

2½ hour workshops designed to equip parents with tried and trusted strategies that leave both children and parents feeling empowered and capable. For more information, or to contact Rachel, you can visit her website – Rachel Fitz-D