11 Things We Learnt From Our Podcast With Parenting Expert & Author Michael Grose - The Grace Tales

11 Things We Learnt From Our Podcast With Parenting Expert & Author Michael Grose



Parenting isn’t easy, but parenting in a pandemic takes this job to a whole new level. Which is why right now, we’re bringing you advice from the world’s best parenting experts...

Last week’s guest on The Grace Tales Podcast was Michael Grose, who is one of Australia’s leading parenting and educational writers and speakers. He is the author of seemingly countless books for parents, including the best-selling Why First Borns Rule the World, which has sold more than 23,000 copies. He’s also written Anxious Kids How children can turn their anxiety into resilience and Spoonfed Generation: How to Raise Independent Children. On the show, he dived deep into why parents in western countries such as Australia currently do too much for their kids (albeit with good intentions); why terms such as ‘helicopter parents’, ‘bubble-wrapping kids’ and ‘over-parenting’ are now commonplace and the importance of children’s independence and the vital stages to letting go. He also gives a new perspective on children’s anxiety, encouraging them to view each episode as an opportunity to empower their kids with the skills to manage anxiety, and thrive.  

Here, we share 11 things we learned. Listen to the episode here. 

To find out more about Michael Grose or to purchase his books or courses, go to www.parentingideas.com.au


The one thing that kids need is safety…

They need to feel safe, and they look to us for that feeling of safety and security. It’s pretty much in-built. Babies pick up their parents’ moods. They’re mood detectives. They pick up tension etc. As adults, we’ve got to be really careful about what we share with kids, largely because they’re poor processors of information. So, they often only see one part of an issue.  If life falls apart, and it can in these current situations, we need to provide a space for ourselves where we fall apart to our partner or fall apart to someone else. But with our kids, we need to put on a face that shows them that we are in control. 

 


Kids want us to be fallible…

They actually want that human side from us. It a great thing to model, as well. We show kids how to restore relationships. Even when we discipline or manage our kids and we feel guilty, it’s good to go back later on and go, “Are we okay? Is everything okay?” It’s ok to admit to kids that we all mess up, even adults. We try our best, but we can always get better. 


If you can read, you can pick things up…

Reading is so important. It’s the key. It’s a foundation skill. I think the key is it’s not so much if kids like reading, it’s can they read? So, boys are often less known to engage less in reading than girls do. There’s a whole bunch of reasons around that. A lot of parents find that the girls will happily read books in primary school while boys are tougher to engage in books. One of the reasons is it’s often harder for boys to sit down and to engage in the actual behaviour of sitting. Often, they’ll be a bit more active. The issue is not ‘do they enjoy it’, it’s ‘can they read?’ That’s the bottom line. So, it is really important to read with kids at an early age.


Anxiety is a physiological response…

We know that there’s a genetic predisposition and that about 40% of anxiety comes through genetics. So, if you’ve got someone in your family who was anxious, there’s a reasonable chance that you’ll be anxious or one of your kids will be anxious. I look back and I see my mother was a very anxious person, but we didn’t know that at the time. She was socially anxious. She hated going into any new social situation. She would make excuses and before we would go into a new social situation or go out, she would always be sweeping. We’d go, “Mum? Where’s Mum?” “Oh, she’s sweeping the floor.” That’s what anxious people will do. They will revert back to a familiar behaviour, and it’s often a repetitive behaviour that will enable them to cope. 

Anxiety is not a good emotion or a bad emotion. It feels unpleasant. So, we need to build up our kids’ vocabulary around emotions, so away from the good or bad, more the pleasant or unpleasant. I think it’s okay actually for kids to understand that “I get anxious sometimes, and this makes me feel anxious.” 


I believe that our job is to raise kids to be independent of us…

If we go back 1,000 years or 2,000 years, your job as a parent was to make yourself redundant. You would do a whole lot of things to fill your kids up, whether they be boys or girls, to live in a world without you because there was a reasonable chance you were going to die roundabout the age of 35 or so. So everything about raising kids back in the day was about you stepping back and allowing kids to do things themselves. Of course, you probably had large families, as well. So not only were you not doing everything for your child, but there might have been a sibling doing something for someone. But largely, you’re stepping back. 

As we’ve gotten smaller in our families, we tend to do a little bit more for our kids and we take opportunities away from kids. Never regularly do for a child the things a child can do for him or herself. So it’s the little things of life, and it starts young. Kids at the age of two or three, they want to help, and they annoy you. “I can do it,” is what they’ll constantly say and parents will reply with, “no, I’ll do up your shoes,” because it makes life easier if we do it.

You can’t always just take the time to allow kids to do things for themselves because we’ve got to get on with life. But sometimes, you can actually say, “Okay, sweetheart. I’ll give you the chance”.

There’s a million little ways where we sometimes jump in, where kids could do things themselves. What I often see is parents start developing independence in kids when they’re in adolescence, and it’s a little bit too late. 


Kids are born into a group, and they compete for position…

The first group they’re born into is the family. For the first-born child, everything goes their way. They’re born with pressure as we tend to practice on them as parents. A first-born child has got no one there. It’s great. You’ve got Mum and Dad 24/7. 

All of a sudden, in our culture, about two years later, someone else comes along. What comes along is a rival for attention and affection. What the first-born will often say is, “Look, Mum. She’s doing it again.” And the second one will often try hard to keep up with the first one. “We try harder” is tattooed across every second-born’s head to catch up.

First-borns are often responsible because we’ll give them responsibility. “Look after your younger brother.” And so, the second one, he’ll look at it and go, “I can’t be the responsible one, but I may be the pest. Or, I won’t be the academic one, he’s got academia taken. I’ll do well enough at school to keep Mum and Dad off my back, but I might be the sporty one.” So, it accounts for those subtle differences in kids. 

Then the second thing is parenting experience. As we become more experienced with our kids, we loosen up and we parent them differently. The first one, for example, we tend to be very strict with the first one and we loosen up on the second one and the third one.


Research tells us that girls are problematic to parents in adolescence…

And for boys, they’re more problematic for parents until they get to secondary school, so in primary school and below. Because it’s usually their behaviour, they tend to be a little bit more boisterous, have learning or confidence issues. It’s often girls who keep parents busy in adolescence, and a lot of it’s around relationship and mental health issues, as well. We know that girls are a little bit more prone to mental health issues. And largely it’s because of their higher interpersonal skills. They pick up a lot of things that boys don’t pick up on, and they’re worried about a lot of the social issues that boys don’t even bother about too much.


In many ways, girls have got to survive relationships and boys have got to survive risk…

For boys, often the pathway through their adulthood is often taking some risks, and that’s why they often do stupid things in adolescence. Girls, in some ways, have got to negotiate their relationships. How do we help girls? I think there’s a number of things. Firstly, girls need to be surrounded by women. Women who can assist girls through those difficult times, where often they’re not around. So, sisterhood is really important for girls, and I think girls need to see how women treat each other, and women can be fantastic friends for each other.


You can often know when boys aren't happy because they'll just act out…

Girls will internalize things more. That’s why diaries and journaling are really important for girls to help them sort through things and sort their thoughts through.


What have I learned about dads who have a good relationship with their child is that they’re playful…

They have supportive partners who give them the space to parent in their own way. Because men and women, in a biological sense, tend to parent and raise their kids quite differently, which can be annoying to mothers. The prime parenting mechanism for mothers is to nurture and be protective. That’s why it’s a very natural reaction when something happens to your child at school to actually wrap your arms around, is to go, “Sweetheart, this is awful.” But at some stage, you’ve got to take your arms away and go, “Now, how can we deal with this? How can we make sure this doesn’t happen next time?” Overprotective parenting means you keep your arms wrapped around them. You never take them away, and you make life too easy for them. The prime thing for men is they like to also protect their kids, but also, they like to push them. They like to teach them. It’s in their biology to push and teach their kids, particularly their sons so that they can deal with life when they’re not around. That’s why often dads are tough on their sons, and they’ll turn everything into a lesson. And can push their son or daughter away. Those dads who do well with their sons, in particular, will pull back, will enjoy their company, will spend time with them, will loosen up.


If you're a mother who loves to take a lot of responsibility for your kids, you need to give some little bits to your partner and let them take over completely...

We know that fathers’ confidence, and again, research has shown this, that dads are more likely to be involved if they feel confident that their contribution is valued. And the earlier that happens, the better. 

 


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