Category Archives: Kids

Dad First, Coach Second

We’ve finally reached that stage where all four of our kids attending after-school (or nursery) activities.  Doodle started a karate class just before Christmas, with his sister already going to cheerleading and gymnastics and the twins at weekly football sessions.

I haven’t been to see MM at any of her classes – she insists it’s mum only and I’m not offended in the least…honest.

However, I do normally take the boys to their clubs and I really enjoy doing so.  It’s great watching them get fit, learn new skills and interacting with their peers. That’s not so say though, that there aren’t problems along the way.

Taking up a martial art was Doodle’s idea.  We had been looking for a while for some kind of hobby that he would not only enjoy, but perhaps help with his aggression and his discipline and behaviour at school.  Overall, it’s been a success – he’s learned a few of the basic moves and at the start of each week the first question he asks is when can he go back.

Our two youngest kids are enjoying their football.  They attend coaching for kids of their own age group and have a great time.  The coaches are very imaginative and deliver enjoyable, well planned out drills and exercises each week.

Of course, the boys are very much of the stage of learning their new activities.  It’s perfectly natural then that they will make mistakes or take time to learn new skills.  Thankfully, their coaches are not only experts in their respective fields, but they are also experienced in working with young children – they therefore know how to motivate them and get the best out of them.

Sitting on the sidelines, I watch with great interest as my three boys are put through their paces.  While I’m proud of all them (and my daughter when she attends her classes) and I try to encourage them as much as possible, there are times when I become a bit frustrated.  This is usually as a result of one of the boys not listening or paying attention to their coach or instructor.  At such times, I will try to catch their eye with a wave or, if they are close enough, I will call out their name in the hope that they will come out of their daydream.  Sometimes it works, but on other occasions, you just have to let them get on with it.

Not all parents have the same attitude.  At the football class in particular, one or two parents – ok, fathers – are just a bit over the top.  I’ve seen a couple cheer loudly when their little ones do something well, yet seen the same people berate their kids when things don’t go to plan.  Such extreme reactions don’t sit comfortably with me at all.

I do offer bits of advice post-training, though with the karate I can only really repeat what the instructor has said as I have no experience of martial arts.  I also encourage all of my kids to practice their skills, as I think understanding the importance of regular exercise, hard work and trying your best are vital not only for extra-curricular activities, but for everyday life.  However, unless an individual is qualified to do both, then the roles of parent and coach should remain separate.

I can, up to a point, understand why parents become so wrapped up in their children’s sporting ‘careers’.  Every parent wants their kids to do well, particularly when up against their peers.  However, putting too much emphasis on victory and success at an early age, could lead to youngsters being put off and missing out on the most important element of all – enjoyment.





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A Growing Boy

Doodle turned six last week.  Despite having to go to school on his birthday, he managed to make the most of his big day, enjoying his presents and a small gathering of family in the evening.

I haven’t written about our oldest boy for a while and in that time, much has changed – for the better.  Don’t get me wrong, he can still be grumpy when he wants to be and he still has a temper, but his behaviour has improved a hell of a lot over the past twelve months.

One of the biggest causes for concern was school.  His first year regularly saw him in trouble for hitting, disruptive and even refusing to do his work.  Thankfully a very patient – and talented – teacher managed to build a relationship with him.

At home he wasn’t much better:  Angry, aggressive, fighting with his brothers and often overreacting when things didn’t go his way, Doodle could be a nightmare when he wanted to be.

Thankfully, there has been notable difference in recent times.  At school, he is more settled – not only is he coming on academically (his number work and reading are impressive), but he seems to be getting on better with his classmates.  His class is small with only three boys, which sometimes limits his opportunities to play at being a superhero.  Unsurprisingly, he can’t wait for his brothers to start school in August.

Away from the classroom things are better too.  I’m not saying he’s not still a challenge – he still fights with his siblings (he’s just turned six after all), he refuses to look for toys or anything else that he can’t find and as for bath-time….well that’s a whole other post.

However, he’s less, aggressive, pays more attention to what he’s told for the most part, is a lot more pleasant to be around. He’s also found himself a hobby that doesn’t involve toys or games consoles – he attends a local karate club every week, but more about that next time.

Whether Doodle’s improved behaviour is a sign that he’s maturing or the words of ‘wisdom’ from parents and teachers are having an impact, isn’t clear.  Either way, long way it continue.


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It’s the Winning That Counts

Celtic and Rangers.  Federer and Nadal.  The Celtics and the Lakers.  Ali and Frazier.  All great rivalries which are hugely competitive and where defeat is unthinkable.  It’s hard to believe that, in our house, we have an event which is every bit as intense as these great sporting duels.

Snap is normally such a fun and easy game to play – a friendly card game, ideal for a rainy day when the kids are bored.  However, we are reaching the stage where it might be time to call in a referee.  It’s not just that each of our kids is desperate to outdo their siblings, it’s the lengths that they are prepared to go to in order to be victorious.

Take MM, our intelligent, sensible, caring daughter.  When the cards come out, she’s a very different character and employs her own tactics.  Her favourite is to let her hand linger after she has played her card – only when she confirms that the top two cards don’t match does she then lift her little fingers away from the pile.

Doodle meanwhile, likes to have a quick glance at the card he is about to play, just before it reaches the pile.  Defeat is not an option for our second oldest, he’s even been reduced to tears when things haven’t gone his way.

Then there are our charming little twins.  So sweet and angelic, it’s enough for them simply to have the chance to play with their older sister and brother….not.  Both little ones sneak a quick peek at their next card, or even one or two after.  It’s not unheard of for them to then produce a card from halfway down their pile, if it’s going to give them a winning hand.

When it comes to full on snap aggression however, nobody can come close to Thing 1.  It’s not just when he is defeated over the course of a game, as even a losing hand can bring out an extreme reaction.  He often gets to his feet and jumps over the cards of anyone who has just beaten him.  Possible anger management issues there I think.

Thankfully card games are not played every day in our home, I don’t think I could handle the stress of that.  I suppose we should take the positives in that all four seem to be reasonably competitive – that will stand them in good stead as they grow older and have to deal with different situations in their lives.

As for the overreacting when they lose?  Well, I suppose they’ll ‘snap’ out of it.  Get it?


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Fancy Dress To Fireworks

So Halloween is over with and our clown, ninja warrior and two super heroes have reverted to their everyday selves.

Of course tomorrow (or more likely today by the time you read this) is bonfire night.  While the kids build up to dressing up for a couple of weeks beforehand, they don’t share the same enthusiasm for fireworks and all things Guy Fawkes-related.

Despite their being a couple of large public displays in our area, we won’t be attending.  Our lot are happy to view some fireworks from the window at home, the noise that goes being a bit much for them.

I think they take that from me.  I’ve never had any interest in fireworks and neither does my wife.  Even as a kid the whole 5th November thing didn’t do much for me.  When I was aged about four or five and on holiday in north-west England, we were taken to a public display which I didn’t enjoy.  I got a bit teary and was taken back to our accommodation.

Whether that’s led me, and in turn my kids, to dislike fireworks, I don’t know.  We do usually try to encourage our kids in interests and activities, even if it’s something we don’t know or like.  However, when it comes to fireworks, I’ll be honest and say that I’m happy to make an exception.

I have no problem with the large, well organised public displays, where the crowd in attendance are kept well away from anything dangerous.  If the kids want to go and see something like that in years to come, then fine by me.

My issues are more with dangers in people trying to set off fireworks in their gardens at home, particularly when they are not experienced in what they are doing.  Couple that with the cheap imported fireworks sold to anyone by unscrupulous sellers and it’s a recipe for accident and injury.

So when the time comes, we will be watching any fireworks in our local area from the comfort of our own home.

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Our Backyard Friends

I’m not one of those parents who are completely opposed to my kids watching television.  Like most things, in moderation, TV viewing can be a positive influence, particularly when it educates or fuels the imagination of a child.

Since becoming parents we’ve seen our fair share of kids shows – occasionally excellent, some very good and many which are awful.  Our opinions as parents often differ from those of our little ones, but I will perhaps post about the best and worst in the near future.

There is one programme though, which has been a hit with all four of our kids.

The Backyardigans, for those of you who are not aware, is an animated show which centres around five child-like creatures who live on the same street.  Each episode starts off with some or all of the characters playing well, in their backyard.  As they become more involved in whatever they are playing, they are transported to a real location, anywhere from a beach to a castle, from ancient Egypt to Mars.

There is usually some kind of task or mission involved with some setbacks along the way.  The characters Tasha, Uniqua, Tyrone, Austin and Pablo regularly burst into song, the lyrics of which are often humourous, with the genre anything from hip-hop to bollywood.

As well as being entertaining, there are educational benefits.  I wouldn’t have expected my kids to have any knowledge of Robin Hood, samurai warriors or musketeers by this stage of their young lives.  They have also learned about various geographic locations and different eras in history.

The songs from the show stick in their minds too, with the memorable ‘Where Oh Where Has My Dinosaur Gone?’, a  particular favourite.

I have, on numerous occasions, found myself watching voluntarily, to the point where I could identify if an episode is from season one or later.  I know my ‘Race to the Tower of Power’ from my ‘Blazing Paddles’.

While our two oldest kids still remember season’s one and two, our twins have become fans of later episodes.  It seems that the Backyardigans is one show that captures all of their – or perhaps that should be our – imaginations.



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If Your Name’s Not Down…

My oldest child has just turned seven years old.  It seems like just a matter of minutes since I was a new dad, clueless and scared out of my wits, yet MM is well on the way to double figures.

As was the case in previous years, our daughter wanted a party this time round.  We booked a local soft play area suitable for slightly older kids – think less ball pools but more trampolines and other bouncy stuff – and those in attendance weren’t disappointed.

Our one issue was numbers.  With a limit at the venue of 25 kids, we had our work cut out.  As well as our three other children, we had to consider their cousins, our friends’ little ones, and of course, MM’s classmates from school.

This last group posed a dilemma.  When we asked MM if she was inviting the whole class, she wasn’t keen on the idea.  Instead, she wanted to handpick who was coming and who wasn’t.

On one hand we understood where she was coming from – after all, who wants to invite someone they don’t like to a party.  Then our opinions, rightly or wrongly, come into play.  If there are any parents or kids who we don’t like, we’re hardly going to go out of our way to include them in our daughter’s big day.

However it’s not that simple.  When the invitations are handed out at school, it’s normally done by the teacher.  Imagine the excitement in a class of 25 pupils, where most of those present have been asked to a party – at our kids’ school they often come running out at home time, with the pieces of paper still in their hands.  Contrast that image with the feelings of a handful of kids if they are left out, excluded while most of their peers are included.  No child deserves that.

Therefore, everyone in MM’s class was invited.  As it turned out, one or two couldn’t make it and others just didn’t come.  However, the friends she did want there all showed up and a good time was had by all.  We’re glad MM made what we believe, is the right decision – she ensured nobody felt left out.

We only wish that was all of the kids birthday’s over with for the year, but alas, no – in just a few weeks the twins turn four.

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Cheering Her Way Back

I’ve written before about my only daughter, our oldest kid.  For this blog I’ve called her Mini-Mummy, with good reason.

MM can be a shy little thing around adults and other kids.  While that was something she had previously been able to overcome, we had become concerned over the past twelve months.

MM stopped going to the gymnastics and dance classes she had previously attended.  She had gone to both for quite some time and really enjoyed being there.  However, through time her enthusiasm seemed to ebb away.

Though we believed this was partly down her having had enough of both, it also seemed she had lost a bit of confidence.

As well as not going to any after-school activities, she was also becoming increasingly ‘clingy’ to her mum.  There were even times when MM would be reluctant to go out with me and her brothers.  My wife began to read up more on separation anxiety, and considered making an appointment for MM with our GP.

This behaviour seemed to be in contrast with the rest of her personality.  At home she is bright, happy and outgoing, at school she performs well and seems to be fairly popular with plenty of friends.  There hadn’t been any one incident, or situation, which had caused this issue.

Thankfully, things have improved.  While her mum is (and always will be) her best friend, she is prepared to, every now and then, let go of the apron strings.  No, my other half doesn’t wear an apron but you know what I mean.

MM will now go out without her mum, and her confidence appears to be growing as a result.  She has also started attending a cheerleading class once a week.  Though she was a bit hesitant at first (there were a few tears) she has been brave enough to overcome her worries and now looks forward to Tuesday nights.

We aren’t out of the woods yet.  MM won’t go on sleepovers, not even to her grandparents or aunts and uncles.  She isn’t keen on her parents going out at night either, regardless of who the babysitter is.  While we hope she can overcome such anxieties, we aren’t going to push it – she’s trying and we need to remember that.

It’s amazing how much more grown up she has become recently – she is confident using the internet, sings along to songs she recognises on the radio and has started going walking with her mum.  We need to remind MM that she’s six, not sixteen.

Hopefully she will continue to enjoy attending cheerleading – it’s good for her to be out of the house and mixing with other kids.  There are also the other obvious benefits of regular exercise and increased confidence.

It can be frustrating, and a bit upsetting, to see a kid with so much to offer hampered by her own insecurities, but hopefully the problem will lessen as she matures.




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