I don't think that I'm a strict parent. In fact, in our parenting partnership, Matt is far more stricter than I am and is much better at holding in any laughter when the kids do something naughty, but hilarious.
But I'm not a permissive parent either. I like rules. I like rules to be followed. I like boundaries. I like routine.
I've taken a few of those 'what type of parent are you?' quizzes and almost always end up in middle ground.
I like being in the middle.
There are some things, however, that I won't budge on. For the moment anyway. They're the expectations, rules and boundaries that I use to teach, nurture and, if necessary, discipline, my kids. There isn't many, because a long list would be awkward but they are easier to keep to than the grand yet arbitary statements I made in early motherhood about how my child would never watch Peppa Pig or eat in Macdonalds.
We don't hit. Ever.
This extends to pushing, kicking, biting and any other form of violence. It's an instant timeout offence, no matter what the reason. I know there is an argument for teaching kids to fight back but I don't think toddlers need to be taught this. When they're older I will definitely be teaching my kids how to defend themselves, but I don't think they realise at this age when it is appropriate to hit back and when to walk away. And so we have this blanket rule.
It goes for Matt and I too. We choose not to smack the kids, not because we are against smacking necessarily, but because it would be hypocritical (and futile) to teach the kids not to hit and then go ahead and do it ourselves.
Manners are everything:
I believe that kids should be taught to say please and thank you. They should be taught how to wait patiently in a queue and not to push people out of the way. They must learn how to apologise properly after hurting somebody, even if by accident. It's all about treating other people with respect.
I also think it's nice to say hello and goodbye although Lily does often get a bit shy. I don't force her but I do try to encourage her to greet friends and family.
We're working on table manners and other general etiquette. Ollie obviously throws his food around everywhere but Lily is generally very polite and well behaved at the dinner table and in restaurants. There is still room for improvement.
You don't have to like it, you just have to try it
This is our main rule for mealtimes. I never want to force my children to eat something they genuinely don't like but at the same time, it winds me up if I cook something (especially something they have happily eaten before) and they then refuse to try it. How will they know if they like it if they don't even give it a go?
On the whole, my children are both very good eaters. Lily prefers vegetables most of the time and Ollie will eat almost anything (except peas, he just spits those out). They both enjoy eating fruit and get a decent variety of cuisines. Even so, mealtimes can often be stressful, especially if Matt isn't home and I find this one rule helps me keep it together.
We won't covet more than we need:
I don't want to spoil my kids. And, as lovely as it is to see their faces light up with excitement when they're given a gift, I don't want other people to spoil my kids either! Who wants to put up with a horrid, spoilt brat? This isn't about being ungrateful, or stingy, I just want my children to value people over property and be able to find joy in simple things.
They do get given an awful lot of presents for birthdays and Christmas. They're often treated by family and friends. That's fine. But I do attempt to balance it out. They're encouraged to sort through their toys and give them to charity. Or to help sell items at a bootsale before buying new things. I want to teach them to live within their means rather than encourage bad habits now which could lead to debt and financial difficulty later in life.
Bath, Books and Bed
This is the cornerstone of our night routine. We'll have some quiet, winding down time after tea and then go upstairs for bath time. Bath time is not relaxing. It is not quiet. But we get through the teeth brushing, hair washing and screams of dissatisfaction when it is time to get out of the bath. We then have to chase down Ollie who likes to run (well, crawl) around in the nude. At this point, we may sing some nursery rhymes and 'Sunday school songs'. Then we all squash onto the chair in Ollie's room and read some stories before Lily and Daddy go to her room and I give Ollie a last feed.
Sometimes I get to the end of the day and facing bath and bed time is just too much. But I'm lucky that Matt can do most of it on his own - I just come in for stories and cuddles! But this is the one part of our day which hardly ever changes and I rely on it staying that way.
And really, that is it. Obviously, there are other small rules like not too much TV, no drawing on the walls, help pick up your toys etc. yet they all seem to stem from these non-negotiable parenting roots. I often worry that I'll get 10 years down the line and realise that having these foundations will mean nothing, or that they're just crap but I like to think that at least I'm starting with good intentions!
What are your parenting cornerstones? Do you have lots of rules in your house?