COMMENT: It's the school holidays again. Which means your kids are about to selfishly encroach on your working week. Much as we love them, having our own children at home all day is an admin nightmare. Why do they have more holidays than us? Chances are you work a lot harder than they do.
To help you at this annoying time I'd like to share some lessons I have learnt over five years of school break parenting. It's by no means a complete list. More like suggestions to throw in the mix.
1. Bored is good
Being bored is an important part of life. It motivates you to find and create interests. Children of the 70s, 80s, 90s and even early 2000s spent most of their lives bored senseless. There was nothing to do. Great times.
These days there's a lot of pressure on parents to entertain. Boredom is something we are expected to fix. But why? Mums and Dads provide food, love, clothing, security and a roof. We do not owe our kids games, phones, tablets, activities or tropical holidays. They're not little emperors. They don't get to demand entertainment every second of the day.
You are not a hired clown, You are not their entertainment co-ordinator or tour guide. You are not an on-call IT expert charged with running their devices. Don't spend the holidays working for your kids.
Do not pack electronics, toys and exciting items of food when you leave the house. That's extra admin you don't need. Take nothing. The best holiday educational course you can put your kids on is two weeks of nothing. Bore the crap out of them. Ambition and invention are born of boredom (resentment too but you'll get that no matter what). Don't feel guilty if your kids get bored this holiday. Enjoy their boredom. Relish it. It's good for them.
2. Random rewards
When they least expect it when they haven't asked for it, when it seems like it's never going to happen that's when you let them jump on the console. Get them an ice-cream or hand them your phone. Random rewards keep them guessing. They have no idea when it's going to happen so they can't expect it. They can't wait for it. They can't demand it.
If you let them play video games and eat junk food all day, they will go mental and try and kill you. However, if you give them a gaming hour or two here, a pack of chips there, they will thank you from the bottom of their hearts. Starve them of rewards.
Sell it like this: "If you're good you might get to play Fortnite at a time of my choosing. Ask to play even once and it's completely off the table. No grief and maybe, just maybe, I'll allow you an hour here and there."
Some parents set tasks and chores and reward the offspring for doing them. It makes sense. Get some things done around the house. Develop a work ethic. But in the end, that's just getting you into staff management. You've already got your paid job to do. No need to take on extra administrative responsibilities. Instead take the power back with surprise random treats. Nothing guaranteed.
3. Get rid of them
This is the most important of all. It makes the other rules redundant. Whenever and where ever you can, dump your kids on someone else.
Push for the maximum duration. If your kids get invited to a play date, suggest they upgrade it to a sleepover. If the family want to spend time with them do what hotels do in peak seasons. Set minimum durations. "You can't just have them for lunch grandma, it's a three-day minimum booking."
If you can get other people to look after your kids for free you have won the holiday lottery. It's win-win. The kids are happy and so are you. That's even easier than the regular school term.
Holidays are a tough time for working parents. The system is against us. But with an open heart and these three simple rules, you can get through unscathed.
Remember. 1. Bore them senseless 2. Keep the power by rewarding them randomly and 3. Dump them on others for as long as you can.
Simple. Have a great two weeks.