MY WORK­ING LIFE

An­da­lene Salvesen is the ‘su­per-granny’ you call in when the kids are driv­ing you up the wall. The founder of Munchkins be­lieves most fam­ily prob­lems are caused by not enough lis­ten­ing

Friday - - Contents -

Par­ent­ing coach and mum-of-four An­da­lene Salvesen of­fers tips on how to bring up your young ones.

How did you be­come a par­ent­ing coach? I was in­ter­ested to watch how par­ents raised their chil­dren, even from a young age. When I had my four chil­dren, I ended up run­ning a mums-and-tots group for 12 years. Did that lead to coach­ing? I had about 100 mums a week through my home and there were al­ways the same ques­tions that came up, so I de­cided to de­velop a pro­gramme to teach the par­ents what I’d learned. I started writ­ing that with my brother, who is a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist, and I de­vel­oped it and be­gan that full time about 20 years ago. It started with par­ent­ing sem­i­nars; 11 years ago I started home vis­its. Who’s a typ­i­cal client? The con­ver­sa­tion usu­ally starts like this: ‘Hi, you helped my sis­ter, I’m des­per­ate!’ The main prob­lem is that chil­dren are not lis­ten­ing, although it presents as ‘my child won’t sleep through the night’ or ‘he won’t eat his veg­eta­bles’. It al­ways comes down to kids not lis­ten­ing. I deal with lis­ten­ing skills. How do you go about it? When chil­dren are un­der six I will go to their home and I teach the par­ents how to get the child to lis­ten – and that means the par­ent be­ing in charge, calm, as­sertive, speak­ing once, and then there’s a con­se­quence if the child doesn’t do what he or she has been asked. When chil­dren are over seven I typ­i­cally sit and talk to the chil­dren with the par­ents and we work out a sys­tem. There are of­ten no con­se­quences at home so we work out a sys­tem, which I have them buy into. It’s al­most like draw­ing up a ver­bal con­tract. It’s very easy to get buy-in. I get them eat­ing out of my hands in the first five min­utes, even teenagers. What’s nor­mally gone wrong? It’s not lis­ten­ing and it’s par­ents that have given up their author­ity. The me­dia is telling peo­ple to just be their kids’ friend, and that doesn’t work be­cause kids don’t re­spect that. I try and get the par­ents to think of a teacher they re­spected at school. That teacher was not your friend. They didn’t shout, but they were firm and as­sertive, and if par­ents can be in charge, then a child feels safe. If the per­son is floun­der­ing and ex­pects the child to be in charge, the child will lose re­spect for them and they don’t feel safe. I help par­ents fig­ure out age-ap­pro­pri­ate con­se­quences that are suit­able for their home. Like what? With older kids it would be to take away their ‘cur­rency’, and you’ll know what that is, typ­i­cally cell phones and iPads. But you start with bound­aries: ‘The iPad is only al­lowed x amount of time on the week­ends’, and then you have lever­age by adding 15 min­utes or tak­ing 15 min­utes away. iPads en­cour­age chil­dren not to so­cialise. Their so­cial skills are far more im­por­tant than their iPad skills. Any prob­lems that are UAE-spe­cific? There’s lots of cul­tural dif­fer­ences, but no. All over the world par­ents are floun­der­ing for good con­se­quences. Tak­ing away the iPad is just one ex­am­ple – I would also have chil­dren work to­wards a goal, some­thing they could look for­ward to, some­thing to do with a par­ent, not toys or sweets. What do many lov­ing par­ents do that is ac­tu­ally dam­ag­ing? They think that lov­ing their kids means giv­ing them things, in­stead of time. That’s what chil­dren need: They don’t need toys and a big house, they need time with their par­ents and they need bound­aries in place with their par­ents. I see it like a scale: you’ve got bound­aries and con­se­quences on one side and love and at­ten­tion on the other. If they don’t bal­ance you’re in for a dis­as­trous ride. You can’t give end­less love and have no bound­aries be­cause it causes con­fu­sion; bound­aries with­out love causes re­bel­lion. What’s mak­ing par­ent­ing more dif­fi­cult? Dig­i­tal de­vices are def­i­nitely a prob­lem be­cause they give par­ents a good ex­cuse to have a hands-off ap­proach and say, ‘go play with your iPad’. That ru­ins re­la­tion­ships. An­other dan­ger is par­ents work­ing longer hours to earn more money when love is re­ally about time to­gether. What kind of things do par­ents with older kids need help for? With teens it’s a lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, which leads to frus­tra­tion and it’s all be­cause they are not given bound­aries. I’ll ask the child what causes fights in the house and they’ll say, ‘bed­times.’ When I ask them what time bed­time is they’ll turn and ask their mum be­cause the child doesn’t even know! It’s not been de­fined, and no one knows what the con­se­quences are if you go over it. What do you of­ten say to par­ents that makes them see things dif­fer­ently? When I ex­plain that I be­lieve there are ac­tu­ally five par­ent­ing styles in­stead of just two. We al­ways talk about the good cop/bad cop but there’s more to it than that. First there’s a nur­turer who over-com­pen­sates, and that’s good for a baby; then you get the au­thor­i­tar­ian and that works for un­der 6-year-olds who need you to be strict. The third style is more like a teacher, some­one to guide a child be­tween 6-12. When they are 12-18, they need a coach, some­one who poses ques­tions; it’s more a form of work­ing things out to­gether. And then the fifth one is be­ing their friend, and that’s when they leave home. You need to be able to switch from one style to the next.

‘A lot of par­ents re­ally don’t know what it is their chil­dren want,’ says coach An­da­lene Salvesen

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