Listen to Episode 8 here

In this episode we discuss two important principles for helping children develop independence – allowing them to solve problems for themselves and giving them enough time as to not rush or hurry the children through the process.

About our hosts:

Sophia Giblin

https://www.linkedin.com/in/sophiagiblin/

A creative entrepreneur who focuses on ways to tackle the root of children’s mental health through play and secure relationships. Due to her own challenging experiences in childhood, Sophia went on to establish a thriving Play & Creative Arts Therapy charity to support other children who have experienced trauma. Her focus is on helping therapists, businesses and charities have more of an impact for children and families that they work with through coaching, strategy, fundraising and mentoring.

Nicole McDonnell

https://www.linkedin.com/in/mcdonnellnicole/

Nicole is a mum to two young boys, who also has over 20 years of brand marketing experience. She is a previous Chair Trustee at Clear Sky Charity and has past experience on the Ella’s Kitchen board.  Her roles have included Marketing Director, Head of Ella’s-ness, Global Brand Director with responsibility of creating and building one brand inside and out – including the wellbeing and culture of the team.  Nicole was instrumental in growing Ella’s into a multi-million pound international business, driven by the mission of creating healthy children.

About Treasure Time

Our vision is to drive connected, happy parent-child relationships, for the benefit of the whole family. Our mission and passion is to educate parents in how to become happy, mindful and confident in connecting with their own children through play.

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Value bombs and tweetables:

– If I’m being really honest, I didn’t really create enough space and time for them to properly experiment at their own pace and, and the boys absolutely love experimenting, you know all children do – Nicole

– Sometimes we think it’s just easier and quicker for us to do it. But actually, children need the opportunity to problem solve and to be creative – Sophia

– If you think you respect your children’s ability to solve problems, try the challenge of sitting on your hands while they find the end of the Sellotape roll and wrap a present without coming to the rescue and helping them do it! – Nicole

– It goes back to feeling uncomfortable with sitting with our children’s difficult feelings. It makes us feel like quite squirmy and a bit weird! See how long you can last not jumping to the rescue – Sophia

– We can be like David Attenborough, on a nature show, observing the children and just being curious about what is their pace? How do they operate? How much time do they need to get things done when you allow them to distance themselves? – Sophia

– Once I discovered basically how long each my boys needed for certain tasks in the morning, (like shoes and coats are an incredible 15 minute activity at our front door!) and letting them take the lead and adjust all the little things.. made a huge difference to the happy calm flow of the day – Nicole

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Shownotes

Sophia 

Hey, it’s Sophia, and it’s Nicole. Welcome to the Treasure Time Podcast, Growing Up Happy. Today’s podcast is all about the fourth and fifth principles of Treasure Time, which are respecting our children’s ability to solve problems, and not rushing or hurrying the child. They’re really intertwined because it is all around just giving children the space to work things out for themselves, which is really, really important. It can be so tempting for us as adults to take away the pain of seeing a child struggling with a problem, whatever that problem might be, whether it’s that they can’t unzip their coat, or they can’t get the lid off the playdough. Sometimes we can feel it’s quicker and easier and less painful for us just to do ourselves. This is a really good test for our patience when we can start thinking about how to allow children to solve their own problems and also giving them the time and space to do it. Nicole, how do you find this, do you find it easy or hard to do?

Nicole 

I think the whole topic is really, really interesting it’s sort of children’s ability to solve problems. It’s all part of creativity isn’t it. So this whole, letting them experiment, take risks, make some mistakes, and basically giving something a go and figuring it out for themselves. So, you know, creativity for us is a big part of who we are as a family. And I really believe that all individuals are creative, they just have to let it bubble to the surface. So, you know, if you kind of asked me do respects, you know, children’s ability to solve problems and, and I’d say absolutely I do, do I find it easy to do or hard, I find it really hard, actually hard or harder than I thought. So it turns out when I think about a question, I’d say I didn’t actually do it as often as I thought I did, maybe so I’d like to think that we’re very creative and I’d give all those opportunities but what tends to happen with me Is that my kind of nurturing motherly instinct to take care of them you know, that head of household rule of nurturing kicks in and overrides it. So I’d watch them struggle with whatever it was, you know, you’d examples of great you know, pouring out milk into their cereal, things that would be great for them to learn and are all little parts of becoming independent and growing up and I’d be really fairly quick to offer help to them. So you know, rescuing them for from like struggling or sometimes rescuing them from making a mess so that’s just you know, my own not wanting to have to take you do up half the milk carton all over the kitchen table type thing, but not realising, I suppose that they didn’t really need this help a lot of the time, and maybe even most of the time. So probably, if I’m being really really honest, I didn’t really create enough space and time for them to properly experiment at their own pace and, and the boys absolutely love experimenting, you know all children do, it’s so much fun to discover, you know, if I do x, this y happens wow, you know, and I’ve made that happen. So it’s kind of robbing them a little bit of that sense of achievement.

Sophia 

Yeah, I think the examples that you gave are really good. And I suppose there is like a time and a space for allowing them to experiment and play is a brilliant time and space for allowing them to do that. But maybe in the morning, when you’re trying to get ready for school and they’re pouring milk all over the kitchen table and the floor, maybe that’s not the best time

Nicole 

Exactly

Sophia 

Right? Just to save everybody the stress but if they’re in a place scenario, and they’re playing that with water and a bowl, then and they’re outside then absolutely, they’ve got the opportunity to learn how to do that. And but it is so it’s really easy for us to jump to help, we can to default into our habits and our adult timekeeping as well, without asking ourselves, is it really important that things are done perfectly? And can we let children learn for now? So there’s some good questions that you can ask yourself. And sometimes we think it’s just easier and quicker for us to do it. But actually, children need the opportunity to problem solve and to be creative.

Nicole 

Yeah, I’ve definitely seen this with my boys. And it sort of worked for me that they think, for example, I suppose, is that you know, if you think you respect your children’s ability to solve problems, try the challenge of sitting on your hands while they find the end of the Sellotape roll and wrap a present without coming to the rescue and helping them do it. So for me, the whole sellotape gate moment was when Callum literally disappeared almost in a sticky old mess. And that for me was the turning point, the moment I realised how Much I jump in and fix it for him, and the moment really that I realised how much I didn’t let them solve their own problems.

Sophia 

it can be really frustrating to watch and it goes back to feeling uncomfortable with sitting with our children’s difficult feelings. It makes us feel like quite squirmy and a bit weird. And that’s something that I recommend to parents is just to notice, when you would automatically do it and see how long you can last not jumping to the rescue. How long can you sit on your hands and watch your child work out for themselves?

Nicole 

Oh in Treasure Time I’ve definitely managed to extend that for myself sitting on hands. It’s getting longer and longer. And that’s the beauty of practicing something. So Sophia, how do you think we as parents strike the balance of see helping our children and letting them solve their own problems?

Sophia 

And I think you gave a really good example earlier, when you’re Talking about, let’s say the breakfast bowl at breakfast time and they want to pour the milk, there is really a boundary that you could put there, you can help the child do it so that they’re learning but not allowing them to do it all for themselves so that they’re going to make a big mess, which ultimately is going to cause more stress for you and for them, because it’s not really setting them up for success, either. You know, if they’re going to make a lot of mess. For example, I think ask yourself a couple of questions. If a child wants to solve a problem for themselves, first of all, is it time sensitive? If the answer is yes, so let’s say we’re getting ready to go to school, then definitely help them out. But the second question is if you have time to let the child work out for themselves, and it’s not going to cause you extra stress, then I think you allow them the space to do it for themselves because they do need to learn. As we said it is all about them, developing them sense of independence. We might feel a little bit mean not jumping to a rescue immediately but what we’ve got to recognize is that we’re helping them to work out how to do it for themselves when we aren’t there.

Nicole 

Yeah, it can be hard not to jump in and help solve totally, totally get that. For our listeners, what does what does respecting the children’s ability to solve problems look like in practice?

Sophia 

Well, it looks like us literally sitting on our hands, not literally, you can literally sit on your hands. And it really, really difficult sitting on our hands, and just reflecting back the child’s feelings. So you can say things like,” it’s really tricky,” or “you’re trying so hard to work this out”. And what we just have to do is be very mindful, to keep our own difficult emotions in check and not let them override the child’s opportunity to learn. And now this leads us on really nicely actually to giving the child enough space and time to do things for themselves. So sometimes it can be frustrating for us to see the child struggle, as we’ve already said, or that it’s taking a long time to get something done. And sometimes what we can do is end up rushing children when they are trying to learn something new, Nicole, what’s your take on this one?

Nicole 

Yeah, don’t rush your child just sounds so simple and incredibly obvious, and yet surprisingly difficult to actually do in practice. So when I think back to when my boys were babies and being on maternity leave, I recall very vividly it taking till almost like 11am to get ready, you know, and out the house some days. And I think Whoa, what did we manage to do today except absolute basics, eat, play, nap, get ready, repeat. It was actually a mission to do all of these basic things. And we moved at the pace of the baby. You know, Callum and Harrison dictated the pace especially Callum, you know, being firstborn, you move at the baby’s pace and that is very slow and relaxed and not relaxed for the parents obviously, but it’s a slow pace, then life and other commitments start to creep back into this little haven you’ve got during that same mat leave period and as they’re growing up, and they go through all the stages, and then I’d say that’s kind of it feels like there’s this massive tug of war going on massive big game a tug of war between what need, could or should get done say, all those things, versus the piece of your curious little adventure you know, as they explore the world from the toddler stage right the way through to teenagers and as they get, you know, experimental in different ways in different settings. Ultimately, it really feels like it’s their own timetable more often than not versus ours as a parent. That seems to me to be the cause of the main tensions that arise.

Sophia 

Yeah, so it’s not surprising, really, you can’t rush a baby to do things as they can’t do anything for themselves.

Nicole 

Yeah.

Sophia

So you, as you say, you have to take it as the pace at the pace of the baby. But it’s like, as soon as they start to be able to do things for themselves, we can rush them through whilst they’re still learning without taking the opportunity to acknowledge that their own timetable is actually about them, learning things and playing and developing. And sometimes it can feel like our time timetable is more important because we’ve got more pressures, I guess, time pressures, lots of things to do and get done.

Nicole 

Yeah, yeah, totally. I mean, how many times have we as parents heard older relatives or friends with children who are much older than ever, say things tell us like all “you enjoy these days slow down, soak it all up. don’t worry about keeping the house in order” or whatever you know just enjoy your little one. And it is totally spend advice and on one hand it’s not surprised then as you say that there was you know fondest happiest memories are those lazy days you can can’t see me but I’m doing the lazy and those inverted commas as, those days are just aren’t a thing one should appear Don’t be lazy anymore. Or relaxing sitting down but you get my drift. It’s those rare days Should I see and like you know, romanticizing the dewy spring, warm summer, colorful autumn or that crisp winter, where there just is no agenda except family time with your children. And these often bring up such lovely lovely emotions for this as well. Not trying to be lots to many. We’re just really present and focused and enjoy in the moment. We’re not rushing to get a list of activities longer than my arm done. And we’re just often that been together and it feels really, really good.

Sophia 

I think this is kind of magical time when we can just be together in which we can learn the pace of our children. We can be like David Attenborough, on a nature show, observing the children and just being curious about what is their pace? How do they operate? How much time do they need to get things done when you allow them to distance themselves? And then you can factor that time in once you know the way your child operates, you can give them a little bit more time and space. So our job as parents is to create these containers of time that children have to get things done. by managing the schedule as boring as that sounds. If we can just set up the correct amount of time and space for our children, then we give them a real opportunity to learn and develop.

Nicole 

Yeah, I absolutely love the David Attenborough because sometimes I think mine are wild, but it’s really good advice listening to that because some of those moments I would say are the good that’s coming out of this awful situation we’re all in together with lockdown you know, as some people aren’t able to enjoy more family time they’re not doing you know, to our commutes and the road for things like eating meals together you know, breakfast lunch and dinner whereas they maybe only managed to do that at the weekends or they may be only managed to do one of those things during the week and bedtime stories where both parents or mum or dad is there to be to be really focused and not having to have done 100 other things in a commute. So it’s it does through up the situation we’re going through now where it feels like you know, the whole world has been paused literally throws up a big contrast to the lives we lead these days that you know, it’s very, very busy over scheduled and full on. Living like this well, it’s simply hard not to rush or hurry your children in that situation. And it happens as little would get done otherwise, right and if you’re trying to have a very, very busy overpacked schedule so I think your point of actually allocating the right amount of time and container of time for the child for your child is actually an incredibly obvious statement but something sometimes is a basic that certainly our thing difficult to do sometimes. So it may be just doesn’t get on the list. So it’s really good to bring it up and think about that. It’s probably less relevant right now as we’re homeschooling but I don’t know where parents have it. Doesn’t get you know struggled to get everyone up fed dressed teeth brushed out the door in time without a little fluster here or there. Everybody can some days let’s face it complete chaos you know and I’ll be really honest with you listening completely fessing up here. I used to resort to shouting and yelling pretty much every morning in a bid to get out the door and get to school on time. Like I honestly didn’t think there was another way to get a host and I tried to be patient. You know, I tried that really hard, but I didn’t manage it. And in fact, I think this was the point that got you and me talking Sophia right back when we first met about there being another way a couple of years ago. You literally sat right in my kitchen table and we were having a meeting for the clear sky charity. And me thinking Sophia is telling me there’s another way really, pretty much unlikely I don’t think so. She hasn’t seen my two in the morning! But I was desperately wishing and wanting to believe Sophia, and thinking yeah, maybe there is, maybe there is, I’m going to get curious with Sophia and let’s see where this takes us and you were right Sophia and I’m so I’m so glad that we experimented and you know started thinking more like a child basically in our approach and I think everything you’ve helped me with and we’ve wrapped into treasure time, you know all the tips and advice that’s been rolled into the treasure time course it has made all the difference to us. And our mornings are very, very, very rarely anything like that used to be and it’s a pleasure, you know, it’s a really nice thing. So once I discovered basically how long each my boys needed for certain tasks in the morning, like shoes and coats an incredible 15 minute activity or front door, you know, and that’s the moment I used to think, well, we’re ready, just walk out the door, slap on your shoes and walk out the door, but no, takes 15 minutes at that point, and letting them take the lead and adjust all the little things. Well, it just made a huge difference to the happy calm flow in our day, and it set out for a nicer day not starting with, you know, stress and anger and frustration at each other, which is no fun for anyone let’s face it.

Sophia 

I think if we think about our jobs as parents as just setting up those little containers of time, in which we can allow the child to lead, give them time to solve their own problems, we can set ourselves up for success just by thinking about what they need beforehand and acting accordingly and giving them enough time. But if we never have enough time to reflect and be mindful about what our children need as little individuals and what their pace is, it’s likely that life will be really stressful for them, and for us, this is kind of like, as we said, being mindful and curious, learning what your child needs and then acting accordingly.

Nicole 

Yeah, great. So Sophia, how do you think we as parents can still get done what we need to do, you know, cook to do, the day job, the life admin chores, and manage not to rush or hurry or children? You know, what, what’s the solution to this kind of mind boggling equation? How do we balance it? I know I am still working on lots of different levels

Sophia 

The example that you gave earlier was absolutely brilliant that you just need to factor in a bit of time for the tasks that you assume will take a minute, but the things that will take you one or five minutes might take your children 10 or 15 minutes, so just giving them a bit more time. So being kind to yourself and giving yourself lots of wiggle room to get things done and setting yourself up to be successful as well. But also secondly, I think that it’s really important that we give our children opportunities just to do free play. And when they’re playing, they’re working things out for themselves anyway, they’re getting curious. They’re using their hands, they’re using their problem solving skills. So if we can give them the opportunity to play just for 30 minutes a week, it’s actually going to be building all those skills anyway, as well. So we can play together with them. And that’s, that’s the ideal. And that’s really what closure time is all about.

Nicole 

Fantastic. There is this real tug of war between, I guess what is actual GMT clock and the children’s internal clock, and what can it look like do you think in practice to feel like it’s more of a win-win situation?

Sophia 

Well, as I suggested, I do think factoring in sort of longest play times each week, 30 minutes, let’s say, with your child each week is a really good way to help them learn those skills, but when we’re doing it outside and just in normal life when we’re peppering into our day to day, I think the thing that we just have to remember and be mindful of the unspoken messages that we might be giving our children when we rush or hurry them or solve the problems for them. So an example might be when your child wants to put on their coat, they might desperately want to be able to do their coat up themselves. But if they never have enough time to work out, and you always do it for them, you might just be giving them an unspoken message that maybe is unhelpful and that message might be you can’t do or you’re too slow. And so I think if we can keep that in our mind, you know, what unspoken message is my behavior giving to my child, then we might assess what’s important, and what’s not right now. Is it really set time sensitive or is it really important that my child actually feels good about themselves and I can give them a little bit of extra time now.

Nicole 

That’s so lovely, just that that making, it’s not just about a container of time, it’s that if I give that to my child, If I’m giving them this opportunity to feel good about themselves, and I think when he starts, you know, put that second bit on to what you’re thinking it does. It’s just coming at it from a different angle isn’t it is so much more. Yeah. Focus on the child rather than an outcome rather than, you know, a list that you want to get done, for example.

Sophia 

Yeah, absolutely. And I think it is important that we just also be kind to ourselves and recognize that we’re all doing what we can, that without thinking about it and reflecting on it, hw are we supposed to do things differently? So that’s exactly what this podcast is all about. And so if we want to think about a playful activity that helps children to develop problem solving skills, I’d highly recommend junk modeling for this week. So get your recycling box out, give your children load of blank materials, sellotape cardboard, egg boxes, toilet, roll tubes, whatever you’ve got, and just sit on your hands either literally or metaphorically depending on what you need, and see how they use their problem solving skills to creatively make something, and they’ll make something that looks like it’s been made by a child, it will be far from perfect, but that is exactly what you want. And now give yourself a child a good chunk of time container. So 30 minutes to an hour, and just sit alongside them while they play and notice what’s going on for you. Can your child actually do more than you give them credit for maybe you’ll learn something. Take that David Attenborough role and see what you can learn about your child.

Nicole 

As usual I love listening to your really great advice to fear the easy bite size tests. Just perfect for us parents to try easily, you know, give them a go. So I hope people have lots of fun doing that.

Sophia 

Yeah, me too. So we look forward to seeing you on the next episode of treasure time where we’ll be giving you loads more brilliant content, we still got to look at on our next principles of treasure time which are all around and holding boundaries and flexing rules, but we’ll also be hearing from a parent who’s doing treasure time so you can hear somebody else’s experience of what it’s like

Nicole 

Brilliant, boundaries and rules they are not my favourite. That’s the one I still have the most work to do around. But it would be great to hear from a parent who’s just started their treasure time journey be fantastic. Can’t wait to have them on the show.

Sophia 

Thank you all so much for listening, make sure to tune in to the next episode, and we would love it if you could head over to iTunes to give us a five star review and leave some nice words to help us reach more parents.

Nicole 

We really hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast and you’ll post a picture of your playtime this week. Be great to see you what the children have made from your recycling boxes, fantastic junk models, please tag us at treasure team UK and don’t forget to hashtag treasure time. You’ll be entered into draw to win the treasure tome course and years worth of membership to our exclusive Facebook community where you can access lots and lots of advice and weekly live q&a with Sophia.

Sophia 

Thank you so much and bye from us. See you next time. Bye. See you next week.