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House rules

I suddenly remembered tonight that we're supposed to be writing lists of our house rules to bring to the Webster-Stratton parenting group for discussion next week.  (By the way, this may be a good moment to mention that I've done absolutely none of the rest of the chart-keeping and recording we're meant to be doing – I didn't know about it for the first session because of leaving early, and by the second session it was obvious nobody was going to check up on whether we were doing it or not.  So, if you're on one of those courses and feeling daunted by the amount of written homework that seems to be required, just let it go.  Your worth as a parent is not dependent on your tolerance for writing.)  Since I also had a ridiculous number of results to look at for work (I have remote access login to the work computers, so I can do this stuff in the evenings) and a pile of stuff on the spare room bed to tidy away before my in-laws arrive tomorrow, plus I was late getting the kids to bed again, guess what you guys are getting for my NaBloPoMo post today?  Why, this scintillating list of our house rules.  Aren't you just so thrilled you read this blog?

This, by the way, has not previously appeared as a formal list and probably never will again (well, apart from at the meeting tomorrow…) it's just a list of rules that one or other of us has, at one time or another, needed to clarify.

  1. No hitting/kicking/biting/otherwise hurting other people.

  2. No saying nasty things to each other.

  3. No under-10s in the living room after dinner starts.

  4. All under-10s stay upstairs after dinner finishes.

  5. No computer in the morning on school and/or Christine days.

  6. Stay quiet after bedtime.

  7. Bathwater stays in the bath.


I've probably missed one or two, but those were the ones I could think of.  What about my readers?  Anyone want to share their house rules?



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Webster-Stratton Parenting Course, Part 3

Three sessions in, keeping this brief while trying not to get sidetracked by 'Supernatural' on the DVD:

The topic for last week was how to promote our children's thinking skills via descriptive commentary.  Or, in plainer English, the technique of describing everything they do as they do it ("You've got a red block!  And a green one!  And that one's curvy… Look what a tall tower you're building!"), thereby simultaneously showing them you're interested in their doings and helping them pick up all sorts of useful vocabulary.

The instructor started out with a 'how not to do it' illustration, getting one of the group to pretend to be a child playing with some toys while she constantly pestered her with supposedly educational questions ("What are you doing?  What colour is that?  Where is that going to go?"), explained the descriptive commentary technique, and showed us some more what-not-to-do DVDs.  Then we tried it out with another role-play, with me as the mother and another group member as the child; I do not wish to boast but it appears I have excellent descriptive commentary techniques, with bonus points for acknowledging that a particular activity was difficult, which is a good way of helping children feel more confident when they find something hard. 

Hmmm… we must have done more than that but that's all I can remember (which is probably just as well – why did I think it would be such an interesting idea to record every session?).  The homework is, once again, to do some kind of learning-type play for ten minutes daily, and to read Chapter 2 in the book, which is on praise, our topic for next week.  (We still don't have the books, but there's a copy at the meetings so I speed-read the chapter before I left – it isn't very long.)  There's also an extra activity for any time in the next three weeks, for which we have a choice of either going to the library with our children (no thanks – trips out with both children are not so much learning and bonding activities as 'Pray God I make it home with the same number of children I started the day with'), or playing with our children in the classroom. 

Finally, we're now supposed to be forming a buddy system whereby we have another person from the group whom we phone every week to talk to about how it's going and share hot tips; this sounds like a good idea but we put it on hold due to being two people short that week.  I'm not sure how we're going to do it given that there are an odd number in the group, but we can sort that out next week. That's about it.  Meanwhile, I am also pleased to be able to relate that Sam and Dean have defeated the encroaching forces of evil for yet another episode.  Good night.

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Webster-Stratton Parenting Course, Part 2

Things I managed to find out about what happened after I left last week:

The group were given handouts – an information sheet on the benefits of play, a sheet of 'refrigerator notes' giving tips on how to play with your child (follow your child's lead, pace at your child's level, praise and encourage your child's ideas, etc.), a questionnaire about our current parenting situation, and the homework for the week (which was meant to be not just playing with our children every day, but also recording this on the Record Sheet and reading the handouts and Chapter One from the Incredible Years book).  They weren't, alas, given the Incredible Years book, which rather scuppered that last.

They watched three of the promised six vignettes, which turned out to be DVDs of different parenting scenarios.

They spent half an hour trying to figure out how to open the DVD section on the centre's TV, before realising someone had taped it shut.


That's about it.  The group leader had to go to a meeting, so we had a different group leader for this session, so she couldn't fill me in on all that much.  Oh, and we have a fifth group member (make that a sixth group member – I thought the other staff member who was there was there as a deputy leader, but in fact I think she's actually there under her parent hat, so to speak).

This week was the second on three planned sessions about play.  We discussed ways in which play helps our children to learn, and watched the DVD vignettes that the group didn't watch last week (on not rushing children during play and not being too directive) and then some more for this week, on giving children attention. Then we did a role-play in which the mother (me) was meant to be focusing on giving attention only to the well-behaved child (another group member) while ignoring the child who was misbehaving (a third group member).  The idea, apparently, was to get us thinking about how it felt to be the child who was being ignored.  I don't know that this was hugely useful (except to the mother playing the role of the misbehaving child, who said she found it delightfully therapeutic to get to be the naughty one for once), but it did feel quite restful to be dealing with a 'child' whose idea of misbehaving was to bang some toys together rather than to launch full tilt with flying fists into the other child, screaming "NOOOOOO!  YOU ARE BEING VERY SILLY!  NOW YOU ARE NEVER ALLOWED TO PLAY WITH THE BLOCKS AGAIN!"

The homework was almost the same as for the first week, except that this time the daily play periods were meant to be specifically on some type of learning activity (painting, Playdoh, dressing up, building with blocks, etc.), and we were given the option of listening to Chapter One of Incredible Years on audiotape instead of reading it (just as much a non-starter, since we don't have audiotapes either – however Helen is, apparently, trying to get hold of some copies of the books, so we might have them by next session).  Stay tuned.

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Webster-Stratton, Part 1

I have started a parenting course: the Webster-Stratton Incredible Years Parenting Course, to be precise.  As with the NCT classes four years ago, this is not so much because I feel any great need to learn about the subject matter (reading parenting books and discussing parenting issues on Internet lists qualify, by this point in my life, as my hobbies), but because I think it sounds like a fun way of meeting people.  After all these years of discussing parenting on the 'Net, I figured it would be good to get to do it with face-to-face, with people with whom I could potentially get together for a coffee later.  I was a bit dubious about the appropriateness of taking a place on a parenting course on that basis – what if I thereby deprived a woman who really did want to learn more about parenting skills of a place? – but, although I wasn't quite that blunt about my reasons when I spoke to the person running the course about starting, I did say I'd become interested because I thought it would be good to meet other parents and talk about parenting, and she didn't seem to think it would be any sort of an issue.  As it turned out, there are only four of us in the group anyway, so I think it fair to say that my presence there is not preventing anyone else who wants to from squeezing in.

Anyway, when I googled the course to find out more about it, I found a lot of links advertising courses in different parts of the world, but none from anyone giving the inside scoop on what it was like to attend (other than the obligatory glowing quotes about how helpful it had been).  I thought it might therefore be interesting to report back on what we learned each week, for the benefit of anyone else who's googling it.  One problem with that which I hadn't anticipated is that there turned out to be a confidentiality rule about what gets discussed in the meetings – this seems perfectly reasonable to me, so I will refrain from giving any details about the women there or any specifics of any problems anyone else discusses.

I also ran into some practical hassles – I had to go to the butcher after dropping Katie off at nursery and before going to the first meeting, meaning I arrived ten minutes late, and then I had to leave an hour early to let the plumber in to fix our boiler at home.  So, unfortunately, what I can tell you about the first session is rather limited.  Here's what I did manage to get:

The class started with an outline of what we would cover that week (this is the first bit I missed, but I saw it when the class leader turned the page of the flipchart back over) and then went on to detailed introductions, in which we each in turn gave our names, our children's names and ages, a brief summary of the kinds of problems we had with them, and what we hoped to get out of the course.  As well as the four of us and Helen, the person leading the group, there was another staff member there; I haven't found out whether she's officially there as a second group leader or whether she's sitting in to learn more about the course for herself.  We then brainstormed ground rules for the group – confidentiality, respect for others, and so forth.  The leader then showed us a picture of a pyramid divided into levels to illustrate the ways in which the course would build up our knowledge, starting at the most fundamental level, which was 'Play'.  On that foundation, we will build up in subsequent weeks to discussing such issues as emotional coaching, communication, rewards, limit setting, and finally discipline (though blessed if I can figure out what would be left under that final heading that won't already have been covered under all the others – oh, well, we shall see).

Our task for this first week, Helen explained (we will, it appears, have one each week on which we report back the following week), will be to focus on playing with each child for ten minutes.  We start on this before addressing any specific behaviours we want to change, because giving children that chance for our undivided positive attention provides the foundation we need for changing anything.  Connection with our children is one of the most powerful tools we have in working constructively with them.

We had a bit of a discussion about the practicalities of this task (how to manage it when we have more than one child, or when the child wants to play with someone else instead of us), which wandered off a bit into some discussion of some of the problems another mother was having, and then we went on to brainstorming about the benefits of play, such as connection with the child and fostering imagination.  And then, I had to leave to let the plumber in.  From what I saw on the flipchart, the rest of the group then went on to discussing barriers to play, followed by six vignettes.  Oh, well – maybe I'll get updated on that when I go back this Friday.  Meanwhile, the boiler is now working perfectly well after having the filters cleaned, and the butcher is now back to working on Saturday mornings as well after his holiday, so I should be able to make the full sessions for subsequent weeks.  Here's hoping.

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