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Parenting with a side order of guilt

‘Congratulations, here’s your baby…and by the way, here’s your side order of guilt.’

Why are we not told that this is the reality of becoming a parent?

We are huge fans of science, especially the ground breaking neuroscience that has shown us that babies’ brains adapt and change depending on experiences and their environment.

How then, do we protect ourselves from the seemingly endless torment of guilt?

Guilt that we are not doing enough! Not playing with our children enough, or taking them to enough baby groups, or that we must have ‘damaged’ them by putting the telly on in order to have 5 minutes headspace, clearly the reason they later had that meltdown in the supermarket!

We, as parents, must be kind to ourselves.

So does this mean it’s okay to sit and chat to your friend and let your children play?

YES. It certainly does. And in fact, it’s beneficial!

Autonomy – giving children or anyone for that matter the time and space to think.

Encarta Dictionary Definition - Autonomy: personal independence and the capacity to make moral decisions and act on them.

We all need time and space to think, including our children. This autonomy, once you come to accept it and realise it’s nothing to feel guilty about, is liberating.

Take the pressure off – you’re doing a great job! There will always be someone who looks like they do it better, but do you know what, it really doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters are the moments we miss because we are trying to do the best thing for everyone.

Children need to solve problems and to wait sometimes. In fact, we are going to take this idea a little further. Don’t feel you need to sit at the play table in the café and try to have an adult conversation whilst pouring a pretend cup of tea, wiping noses, reading a book to the children and wolfing down a chocolate cake! Instead, just try sitting nearby. Let your children explore the toys and have their interactions, whilst you and a friend have a chat. Look up, take notice and smile at your child, but give them some autonomy over their play. We love quality interactions, but for your child, this doesn’t always have to be managed by you!

If you’re with your child on your own, have a chat, interact, read a book and let them read their book or colour in (even if they colour outside the lines or miss a page – what harm can it do?). Children need to feel like they are trusted to be independent learners and all of this helps them, plus you get a well-earned five minutes of letting off steam with another big person, or just a moment to quieten your mind – invaluable!

The top tip here is: it is okay to ‘just be.’ In fact, as professionals in Early Years we would say this is when we observe and notice the most about the children we care for!

Play is children’s work; it is how they learn about the world! They are meant to make mistakes and then learn from them. If you want to find out more, we love the work of Dr Sam Goldstein on the different ways children build resilience.

Understanding that other people (even mums and dads) have needs, ideas and thoughts is a very valuable life lesson – learning to wait a little while is good and is a key element of managing feelings and behaviours between 30 -50 months (take a look at the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum which covers 0 – 60 months development).

We are definitely not advocating leaving restless, crying children to it, but for engaged children who are directing their own play, this is a healthy step towards building a society which develops empathy for others.

So…sit back and take five, then reap the rewards of a job well done!

Thanks to for publishing our blog on their brilliant website!!!

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