How does it work in your home? Do you set the example for your kids, making sure you follow the guidelines you put in place? Or is it a case of one rule for them and another for you? For most of us, the reality is somewhere in the middle. There are many things grownups expect kids to do but don’t do themselves. Like these…
Go to bed at a reasonable time
Bodies need a decent amount of sleep. They need to rest and recuperate. Our brains need downtime if they’re to function properly. Sometimes, there’s a special reason why we think they need more sleep – such as exams or a busy day ahead.
Getting kids to go to bed at a time we think appropriate is notoriously difficult. We explain patiently why they need an early night, and if we’re lucky they’ll listen.
And what do we do, once we’ve packed them off to bed? We stay up late ourselves. Yes, we know there’s that important meeting in the morning. But we’ve just noticed there’s a new season of Black Mirror up on Netflix. Surely another couple of hours won’t make a difference?
Don’t eat too much fatty or sugary food
The lure of chocolate, crisps and fizzy drinks is undeniable, but our kids need to learn moderation. I’ve never met another parent who didn’t have rules in place when it comes to sweets and snacks. And I do too – at least when it comes to my kids. I’m a bit more laid-back about my own consumption.
I’ve been known to polish off an entire packet of McVitie’s milk chocolate digestive biscuits in one go. Sour cream & onion Pringles are irresistible – fact. And I don’t care how close it is to mealtimes – if I find a packet of fizzy cola bottles in the cupboard, they’re history. I refuse to believe I’m the only parent who behaves like this.
Be sensible with your money
It’s important to teach kids the value of money. To make sure they understand about budgeting, saving and putting some aside for emergencies. Last weekend, my daughter splashed out on a new coat, a jumper and a pair of boots – none of which she needed. She then lamented her penniless state, in the hope her allowance would be handed over early.
Her father delivered a brief lecture on managing her finances. About how ‘big’ purchases should be planned for. Then he turned to me and, in the next breath, said: “It’s raining and I’m bored and I think we should get a new television. Something bigger, with ultra HD and ‘smart’ technology. I’m going into town to get one. Coming?” True story.
Limit your screen time (especially before bed)
Kids and their phones. Or tablets, laptops and games consoles. Anything with a screen. It feels like they’re surgically attached to them. And we parents spend a lot of time trying to persuade our children to put them down occasionally.
We can talk about our eyes needing rest and how the blue light can affect our sleep. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a grunt in reply while they update Instagram. We’ll try and enforce a one-hour-phone-free rule before bedtime. And then we’ll happily ignore it ourselves.
I know a mum who’s ruined the family’s evening meal a time or two when she’s got too engrossed in Candy Crush. And I’ll hold my hands up and admit the last thing I do before turning out the bedside light is check my Facebook notifications. I know, I know.
Whether it’s something you don’t want to do or you just can’t be bothered, putting things off makes them worse – more difficult, more boring. “I’ll do it in a minute,” is a common refrain, especially among teenagers. And the parent’s natural response is: “No, do it now. Then you can forget about it.”
The truth is we’re all experts at finding other things to do. Need to sit down and write that report? No problem. Just as soon as you’ve got yourself a coffee, checked your email and called a colleague to talk about next year’s figures. Or perhaps it’s time to take the dog for a walk and it’s raining. Oh well, better get on. I’ll just empty the dishwasher, plan tomorrow’s supper and make sure there’s nothing important hiding among the junk mail first. I could win prizes for procrastinating – if I ever got round to entering the competition.