Guest post: The collapse of parenting

Collapse of parentingOne week away from the big move I’m afraid I’m pretty far from being the best parent at the moment (iPads, Ben & Holly and chocolate bribes have all featured quite a bit over the last few weeks as we pick our way through boxes). However, my Dad shared his thoughts on a parenting book he read which struck a chord with him and I thought it would make a good post. I like the sound of the book, so I’ll definitely seek it out (once we’ve unpacked).

I always like having my opinions confirmed by someone else, particularly if they are an expert on the subject. That’s just happened to me and so I thought I’d let you know that someone out there appears to agree with me on the vexed subject of child-rearing. He’s Dr Leonard Sax the author of a book ‘The Collapse of Parenting‘ in which, in my simple terms, he suggests that the pendulum has swung too far in one direction as parents seek to give their children a more relaxed upbringing than their own.

We’ve talked before about how bringing children up has become increasingly difficult, indeed your mother and I marvel at the skills of many modern parents. The pressure on parents to get things right in an increasingly complex world has increased massively. The world is faster-paced and with the rise of social media allows less time for direct social interaction. Peer pressure has always been a problem but is now one that is in danger of spiralling out of control as naming and shaming and peer rejection are no longer circumscribed by time and place.

As you know from first hand I can claim no special child-rearing abilities. I believe that a parent’s prime responsibility is to the next generation; that’s not to say I don’t want to be treated kindly by you as I age! A parent’s first duty must be to those who follow by giving them the skills and confidence they need to take their place in this increasingly complex world and ‘to teach them the rules of the culture they live in’.

Dr Sax suggests that this is best done by adults giving children a well-defined framework and set of rules: and by treating them as children rather than equals and mini-adults or even ‘friends’. I know from experience that this requires determination and no doubt risks unpopularity.

How is this relevant to the very young and what does it mean in practical terms? Setting a consistent set of rules and expectations from the start establishes the framework for the future. Children grow knowing their parents’ expectations. This may make their acceptance of rules at a later stage easier but it won’t make the parent’s decisions popular!

What are these unpopular decisions? Well basically they centre around parents determining what is appropriate for their children not just when they are very young but crucially as they grow older. This will often no doubt be against the wishes of the child.

One of the most important tasks in the early years is developing a child’s self control and conscientiousness. It may be easier to let children be waited on and not require that they take on tasks, but making sure at from an early age that they have responsibilities and that they discharge them to the best of their abilities provides a valuable grounding.

Inculcating self-esteem is important but it needs to be balanced by a sense of humility and a willingness to listen to others. It is crucial in my opinion for children to realise that they can fail at some things and to accept this whilst being willing to ‘give it another go’. Telling children constantly how clever they are or how beautiful is no doubt done from the best intentions but can build unrealistic expectations and lead to heartache later.

Children need to be guided by their parents; good parents really do know best, for example about bedtimes and limiting the use of TV and social media, and are right in requiring respect from their children both for themselves and others.

I know that you do try already to do all of the above. As the children get older it will be more tempting to treat them as your “friends” as they increase the pressure with the mantra ‘but everyone else….’ and you will question whether by acting as a ‘parent’ you are helping or hindering their development, Dr Sax (and I) would say ‘stick with it’, they will be much better friends when they’re really grown up.

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Fitness Friday: my Farfetch workout outfit

Farfetch workout outfit

As marathon trainees rocket past me in the park I’m usually the dawdly one balancing a flat white on the pushchair handle. Actually, I am thinking much more about fitness this year – maybe because it’s hard-wired into our DNA every time January comes around, but also the nicer weather has meant we’re spending a lot more time outdoors.

I try and walk wherever I can and I still do a lot of baby carrying, so I have noticed that running up and down stairs doesn’t leave me breathless at the moment. The next step is a class or even the gym to shift the final, stubborn baby weight.

When Farfetch gave me the chance to create my perfect workout outfit it was a pleasure to browse their site (and I may just have strayed onto the designer dress, bags and shoes pages as well). My three year old even had a go at choosing her favourite fitness items – the gym bag is inspired by her.

For the uninitiated, Farfetch features clothes from 300 boutiques in just one easy-to-navigate site. It’s for women and men and you’ll find clothes from the likes of Stella McCartney and Moschino plus other designers. It wasn’t easy picking just one outfit but I tried to go for things I could realistically see myself in, and that might motivate me to get active. The sports bra is stylish and could double up as a top (once I’ve toned my tummy), the graffiti top is so full of energy and I just love the Good Vibes vest.

It’s almost enough to make me get up and go for a run (after I’ve finished my coffee).

Here’s what I chose:

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Why I’m sentimental about the smallest things

SentimentalI cry at adverts all the time. I’ve always been a bit of a weepy wimp about certain moments on screen (Tiny Tim’s empty stool in the Muppet’s Christmas Carol, Quinn’s demise in Homeland, any scene in Watership Down) but since becoming a mother my eyes water involuntarily at the smallest things.

I’ve also noticed that I’ve become increasingly attached to random things that I don’t need and really don’t have space for (particularly with an impending house move) but can’t seem to release. Most of these are to do with Scrip and Baby D.

So in his room, nestling alongside the cotton wool and Sudocrem, I still have the yellow elastic that went around my tummy when they monitored him in hospital one weekend. Why on earth did I take that away and why am I still keeping it?!

Alongside Scrip’s first curls and hospital bracelets I have not only all of her cards from the last three years but also most of the gift tags from her presents (Christmas and birthday).

I have a growing stack of her drawings – even the ones she’s scribbled all over afterwards – that I can’t part with. And I can’t bring myself to lend my friends, who are newer parents, certain items of clothing that I associate with special times. These aren’t gorgeous party dresses or smart outfits – mostly just regular sleepsuits or vests. I have a pile of them.

I forced myself to open a foreign shower gel that I’d bought and saved because it has Scrip’s real first and second names on the other day. I’d been saving it for over three years so I hope it’s still OK! Where was I realistically going to put it?

And when the time comes to recycle her baby toys I’m not sure quite how I’ll be able to say farewell to Miss Polly, Dylan Dog and Attic the pink bear. At least I have Baby D as the reason to keep them at the moment. But unless I have another one I won’t have that excuse for much longer.

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Little entrepreneurs: Enterprising Child book review

Enterprising Child Book ReviewI can probably count the number of books I read last year on the fingers of one hand (not including Tommy Thumb). I’m not one for resolutions but I am looking forward to reading more this year, and I’ve just finished my first book. I was asked to read and review Enterprising Child by Lorraine Allman with Mary Cummings.

It’s a dip-in, dip-out book – perfect for snatched moments here and there – and it’s been an eye-opener as it’s not necessarily the kind of book I would usually reach for. As I was discussing with a mum friend yesterday, if you start trying to being a better parent by reading you could easily end up spending all your time trying out different approaches.

But, truth be told, I liked the hard-hatted little girl on the front and as I’m starting my own business this year I thought it was relevant to try and engage Scrip in a realistic, achievable way. We play and learn a lot together but I hadn’t thought about play making her enterprising or entrepreneurial so I wanted to see what the authors suggested.

Rather than aiming to create the next generation of Richard Bransons, as the book says, ‘Enterprise is all about creativity and the courage to create something of value’. I must admit I usually think of people as being potential entrepreneurs or not – I hadn’t thought that everyone could benefit from entrepreneurial thinking. But I’ve reconsidered.

The book’s clearly laid out and easily digestible, with good forewords, intros and further information about the benefits of being enterprising. The main content is divided into different chapters to cover activities for different age groups. I focused on 4 – 6 year olds as, *sniff*, my oldest is soon to be four. The book closes with interviews with adult entrepreneurs and a collection of younger ones.

I liked the activities. Whereas some were very much what I’d expect them to be – like playing shop and helping out at car boot sales – there were other activities that particularly appealed, centring around encouraging children to think of solutions themselves. When you’re queuing, for example, rather than sighing and moaning, how about asking your child why he/she thinks there’s a queue and what could be done to speed things up? Or resolving conflict – rather than giving children a solution when they both want the same toy, how about involving them in the compromise?

Obviously not everything will work for every child, but all of the activities made me think. I do often rush in with the answer to Scrip’s many questions and I have now started asking her what she thinks is the answer. And sometimes she’s right, and often she has some funny suggestions but she seems to enjoy being asked.

As well as the book there are also a supporting Enterprising Child website, apps and an enterprising toy guide, although I haven’t yet looked at these in great detail. All in all Enterprising Child was an interesting and informative book which may just get you thinking in a different way.

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Wow 2015 and hello 2016

Hello 2016Judging by my Instagram feed, it looks like I’m not the only one seeing in the New Year with a glass of Shloer and a boxset. Last year I was pregnant and tired, this year I’m the parent of a baby and a pre-schooler and still tired!

Even if I don’t make it to the full 12 bongs of Big Ben, it’s been a pretty amazing year this year and we have a lot to be thankful for. There’s also been a lot of change and there’s a lot more to come. My top five moments from 2015? Probably these:

  1. The birth of baby D on 15th April. Simply amazing (if a little fast!) and Scrip becoming a fantastic big sister
  2. Our family holiday to France in August. Fun, family and more than a dash of good red wine
  3. Handing in my notice from my job this November. Liberating and terrifying in equal measure
  4. My husband getting a new job in Bristol after what seemed like endless interviews this December. The start of a new era
  5. Our first Christmas as a family of four. Truly magical

And what I’m most looking forward to in 2016?

  1. Moving into a proper house with a garden and bigger rooms for Scrip and baby D
  2. Scrip’s first day at her new nursery and then, *sniff*, new school next September
  3. Going it alone with work. Eek
  4. Family and friends visiting us when we move (please come soon!)

I hope you have a truly lovely night tonight and an even better 2016. Cheers.

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New home, new (affordable) decor

   

 So, as of last week, the big move out of London is on…

With any house move comes organisation, paperwork and expense, but also the fun stuff like planning new bedrooms for Scrip and D and of course, us. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to our airy loft room (although it does reach extremes of heat in the summer and cold in the winter), but my Pinterest account has also been buzzing with new home decor pins.

I love neutral shades that can be accessorised, so we’re going for alternate walls in light green and yellow for D and light peach and yellow for Scrip. We’re recreating our calm light grey walls in our bedroom whilst most of the house will be off-white.

As for bedding, I’ve recently discovered Yorkshire Linen, a British, family-run company who offer luxury bed lines online or via one of their stores. I like the range and the site is easy to navigate. I also love The White Company for stylish inspiration.

For the children’s rooms I usually head to Ikea for cheaper styles, Vertbaudet for reasonable bed linen (look out for sales) or the Great Little Trading Company which has some great fun designs.

I’ll try and post as we get into the decorating and accessorising but in the meantime, my dream (affordable) home will mostly be emerging via Pinterest.

This is a collaborative home furnishings post.

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Introducing Sargasso & Grey and win a pair of beautiful heels (worth £165)

Sargasso & Grey competition

***********And the winner is…..T Sinclair from Scarborough! Many congratulations on your new Georgia Court Shoes***********

One of the best things about blogging and writing for sites like West London Mum is meeting interesting, inspirational people who have done what I dream of and set up their own businesses. One of these is Katie Owen, founder of luxury shoe company Sargasso & Grey, who produce beautiful made-to-measure and ready-to-wear shoes for wider feet.

The stilettos and kitten heels are gorgeous and she’s also expanded her range to include wedges and sandals this year. She also does a great line in bespoke wedding shoes. A mum of two little ones, Katie first started her business on maternity leave.

Here’s my interview with Katie on West London Mum to tell you all about setting up Sargasso & Grey, her highs and lows and tips for budding businesswomen.

She’s very kindly offered to give away a pair of her beautiful shoes – perfect for New Year’s… If you’d like to win a pair of Sargasso & Grey Ready to Wear shoes (worth £165) simply enter below (I had to think long and hard before making these into a competition as they’re so beautiful and I just so happen to have wider feet!)

The whole range is here. Good luck!

To be in with a chance, simply enter via Rafflecopter below.

Terms & Conditions

  • Entrants must be 18 or over and UK residents.
  • The prize includes a pair of Ready to Wear shoes from the Sargasso range, sizes 36 to 43.
  • Competition closes at 12.00am on 25th December 2015. Any entries submitted after this date will not be included.
  • The winner will be selected randomly from a prize draw and announced on newmumblings.com. 
  • There is no cash prize alternative.
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Baby’s first Christmas: the perfect Christmas stocking

Christmas stockingAlthough he won’t understand as much as his older (and very excited) sister, this is still baby D’s first Christmas. He’s already intrigued about the tree, the twinkly lights and lots of sparkly decorations hanging tantilisingly close to where he rolls.

He’s not lacking in baby toys or hand-me-down clothes (even though there tends to be a pink bias) but we’re making sure he’ll have his fair share of things to tear open and bite on come Christmas day. And one thing he already has is his own brand new stocking, courtesy of The White Company.

Baby D has the Dotty Stocking. It’s a chunky, stretchy knit in a stylish Scando-style. It looks homemade, is unisex and is pretty big – on the verge of a sack, actually. And the very good news is it’s currently on sale with 30% off, so it’s £24.50 (as at 12th December 2015).

We’re stocking up on chewable, rattle-able toys to fit inside and I’m hoping he’ll love pulling them out. We’ll just have to make sure he doesn’t wriggle inside the stocking himself on Christmas day!

Thanks to The White Company for the Dotty Stocking.

 

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Win a pre-Christmas essentials pack

Win pre-Christmas Essentials

********And the winner is…. KP Borowy from Bolton. Congratulations and enjoy! Thank you to everyone who entered********** 

I was asked in Clarks this week if I’ve finished my Christmas shopping. Finished? It’s barely December… I’ve hardly started. I’m obviously still a rookie parent but I’m actually pleased that I’ve at least bought one or two presents and have a growing iPhone notes page of ideas.

So as I fight my way through the crowds on Christmas Eve, I know I will appreciate a little extra help. If you’re at all like me, although I can’t provide a handy gift-wrapping elf, I can offer you the chance to win a few essentials to help your run up to Christmas go a little more smoothly.

Here’s what the prize includes:

The forgotten present: Mosaic Baylis & Harding Sweet Mandarin & Grapefruit Weekend Bag Gift Set
There’s always one… It’s nice to have a present in reserve (or even a little gift for you) stored away in your wardrobe. This gift bag is packed full of bath creme, shower gel, body wash, bath milk, body butter, hand & nail cream and body polisher. And the weekend bag it comes in with gold purse attached is stylish and useful.

For a silent-ish night: Lavender Essential Oil
If the stress of preparing for the big day means you can’t switch off, how about an essential oil to aid relaxation? Add a couple of drops to your pre-bedtime bath (well, you can dream). Lavender Pure Essential Oil £11.39 is also available from Holland & Barrett Stores and online.

For an energy boost: Emergen-C Vitamin C sachets
A cold before Christmas? Just what you don’t need. Emergen-C offers a double hit of energy release and immunity support in handy fast dissolving, wallet-sized sachets. Packing 1000mg of Vitamin C to support the immune system’s normal function and 6 B vitamins for energy release Emergenc-C costs £4.99 for a pack of 8 and is available from Boots stores nationwide.

For a health-conscious Father Christmas: Mince pies without the gluten
Available at Holland & Barrett for £2.89 for a pack of 4, Lovemore’s Gluten Free Mince Pies don’t sacrifice any of the flavour. Made with shortcrust pastry and deep-filled with mincemeat, they also contain no artificial colours or flavours.

For when the hard work is done: An Organic Midnight Mud Mask
You deserve a little me-time at Christmas. This Dr. Organic Dead Sea Mineral Bio-Plasma Mud Mask should help. Organic Dead Sea Mineral salt and Dead Sea Mud have a long history of skin purifying and health promoting properties and are combined with a blend of bioactive, natural and organic extracts, such as Kaolin, Plankton Extract and Algae Extract. £7.99 from Holland & Barrett.

Wishing you a peaceful December and good luck!

You can enter via the Rafflecopter widget below.

Terms & Conditions

  • Entrants must be 18 or over and UK residents.
  • The prize includes the products listed above.
  • Competition closes at 12.00am on 14th December 2015. Any entries submitted after this date will not be included.
  • The winner will be selected randomly from a prize draw and announced on 15th December 2015.
  • There is no cash prize alternative.
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The White Company: White Label preview

White Company white label previewI’m a big fan of The White Company (who isn’t?) for presents, treats and gorgeous clothes and toys for little ones. They also come into their own at Christmas. But aside from some PJs and dressing gowns, I don’t own any grown up White Company clothes.

That’s about to change with the launch of White Label, their new Spring/Summer 2016 range and the name for all future White Company clothes, which I was lucky enough to preview last week. The first thing that struck me was the colour. Still in tasteful White Company tones, there seemed to be a larger colour palate than before.

Also texture – pretty lace and delicate silks, thick denim and soft cottons. I spotted so many things that I’d love to have. I overheard a fashion editor talking about it being ‘perfect for the school run’. If I ever look that elegant for the school drop off, I’d be very pleased! I was thinking more smart casual weekend and evenings and some would be perfect for workwear. And the styles would flatter many figures.

As I browsed I sampled some Jing tea which is soon to be available at The White Company. The green tea had a delicate flavour and wasn’t at all bitter and the Jasmine was fragrant and delicious. Previously available at hotels and restaurants and via Jing’s website, this is the first time they’ve partnered with a retailer and I’m sure it will be a fruitful relationship.

Jing tea’s shortly to be stocked while the White Label clothes are available from end of January next year. Here are a few of my favourite items:

I love this denim dress. It could be worn with leggings or tanned legs (optimistic) and should skim the curves nicely.

White Company denim dress

A beautiful soft woollen/cashmere top in a creamy grey.

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The gorgeous lace back and shoulder detail makes this little black dress.

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This glam kimono-style dress is eye-catching.

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A simple, flattering cotton top – and I love the necklace.

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This mauve and silver bag stood out amongst a wide range of leather accessories.

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The first time the White Company have made the step up from flats to heels – and a very promising start!

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Easy to wear and pretty, I love this silky top.

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This dip dye pink/white sweater looks fresh and comfy.

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And finally a white top! A pretty knitted sweater which could be dressed up or down. Lovely.

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