What better time of the year to share pearls of wisdom that I’ve gleaned through the journey of childrearing thus far? Um, actually there are tonnes of better times than the last day of the old year, and these are less wise words than me feeling smug about having inadvertently got something right, but play along okay? Okay.

New-agey parenting tip that worked – 1

You know how we are flooded with advice about the best way to respond to kids during a tantrum and you may have come across a precious little suggestion on the lines of “acknowledge the child’s feelings with words such as ‘I know you’re feeling…’”. Phooey, right? Well, to my surprise, once when Benji was mid-meltdown over not getting a toy that he had grabbed from Mimi and that she had then grabbed back, those words just slipped out of my mouth, testimony to the fact that what you read a lot becomes you (if indeed that is a fact, which I’m not quite sure about come to think of it). Anyway lo and behold Benji paused, and while he didn’t stop making a fuss, he did tone it down, and allow himself to be hugged (yes, we hug instead of banishing or ignoring our kids while they tantrum because we just don’t have the strength to banish except in rare cases), he whimpered and got over the fact (which is a fact) that sometimes things don’t go his way. I’ve tried it since and twee as it sounds even to my own ears, it really does seem to help Benji to deal with the injustice that is life itself. Heh. I’m pretty sure Mimi would have none of such empty comfort phrases, but if your kid is a gentler soul who has meltdowns because his or her feelings are hurt, you could try this.

New-agey parenting tip that worked – 2

Yoga for kids. One evening they were running around madly and I wanted to calm them down for bedtime. So I said – let’s do yoga. Although I’m hardly the expert myself, I dredged up some memories from school and the odd session here and there and made them sit and breathe deeply. Then V had a brainwave and found some kids yoga videos on Youtube. Some of them involve quite a bit of action, but the kids seem to like those, and Benji can even follow them himself, which is nice because then I can practice my own form of yoga which is sitting on the couch and spacing out. Win-win for mother and child.

Trick learnt from trial playgroup session that worked

Although I am too kanjoos to actually enrol my kids in expensive playgroups, I am not above availing of the free trial sessions (mostly because I sometimes review them; I am too lazy to go even to free events if they are way across town which most of the fancy ones are). Anyway, at one such, the teacher started singing a very simple song “Tidy Up, Tidy Up Put the Toys Away” when she wanted the kids to … well, what the song said. So, the next time Benji upended his entire basket of toys, which he gets pure joy out of doing, and I decided to instil the hitherto foreign idea that he has some responsibility for his own clearing up, I started singing this song. It’s like magic. Even Mimi who is almost immune to the power of suggestion is in its thrall, as much as Mimi can be in anything’s thrall.  They get this glazed look in their eyes, and start mechanically doing the needful. It’s a little creepy really. But whatever works, right? Right.

Cheap and lazy toy idea

A piggy bank and coins. This was a natural development from when I decided that it was better the kids didn’t play with the money in my wallet, which I did let them do when they were kids because I was tired and they loved it. All you need to keep a kid entertained for a good 15 minutes (which in parenting time is a lot) is to supply a handful of coins and a piggy bank and then they will fill it up, open, redo, occasionally drop the whole thing on the floor, scramble etc. Obviously, parents who believe in cultivating respect for money (remember “money doesn’t grow on trees”, the mantra of our childhoods?) and who are particular about hygiene (money is probably the dirtiest thing around, and I mean literally, because of the hundreds who have handled it) will want to skip this one. The piggy bank I bought was so overused it broke into two and now V has come up with an even cheaper, though far noisier, solution which is to slot a hole in the lid of an empty formula tin.

Not so cheap and lazy idea

Get a sibling. The kids are now finally at the age when they sometimes play with each other, together. It works best when they are in a space where it’s just them, like a tent (i.e. blanket over some pillows on the bed, or their playmat rolled up). The bliss of ignoring them without guilt because they are doing important sibling bonding which even quality time with parent must defer to, obviously.

Seamless potty training

For number two. Pun intended. Potty training Benji wasn’t a big deal probably because we waited till quite late. Peeing he took to in a couple of days. For pooping, we just had to figure out what arrangement he preferred. Turned out he preferred to sit on the small insert on the big toilet, with a stool for his legs, and no one else in the loo. Complete privacy. Which meant we had to leave him alone in the loo at his tender age, and hover outside calling out to him every now and then, but it worked. He’d inform us when he was done.

The good side effect though was that the excitement over potty training affected Mimi and before 20 months she was calling out “peepee toilet!”, sometimes just for attention, which does make it awfully tempting to ignore her (and sometimes we cruelly did) but mostly we dragged her ass to the loo and the satisfaction one feels when the child lets go in the pot, especially if it’s a poopy, is not something one ever envisaged one would be in raptures over. But there you have it. The untold pleasures of parenting.