As a parent, I know I will forever have questions about whether I’m doing the right thing when looking after, nurturing and teaching my two girls about everyday life. It was fab seeing Livvy Gormally from Let’s Ask Livvy talk about all things parenting at the Mothers Meeting at Shoreditch House in London. From sleep routines, weaning and navigating tantrums, we all hit some critical parenting topics. We also talked a lot about how to encourage our babies and children to follow routines or adapt to changes in everyday plans. The Mothers Meeting crowd in the house also had the chance to ask Livvy lots of questions.
Livvy’s background as a children’s behaviour expert, applied behaviour analysis (ABA) consultant and parenting coach means she’s quite an expert when answering random questions on parenting challenges. Livvy set up her own business Let’s Ask Livvy as she wanted to show parents how family life could be intertwined with everyday life. Her sister kept asking her questions about how to deal with her own children so that’s how the name Let’s Ask Livvy came up.
Livvy also felt that it’s about increasing awareness of what makes children tick. She has three children of her own, two sons and a daughter (aged nine, seven and five). Here’s seven gems we picked up from her talk…
1. As well as the joyful and funny moments, parenting life is about managing the really challenging times. No one tells you how to do it. As I often tell my friends who are about to become parents, your particular baby doesn’t come with a guide book and no baby manual will be written with your child in mind. Livvy acknowledges that some days are really tricky. Some weeks and some months are really tricky too. Livvy reminded us that at times we need to “park the guilt” as we’re all great parents and can’t be too hard on ourselves when we’re trying to encourage different behaviours.
2. If you want to change a behaviour then find a strategy that also fits in with you and your child. I liked that Livvy wasn’t trying to market any particular technique or approach. She stressed how it all depends on the child and we also need to think about what works for us as parents. Livvy encouraged us to have an open mind. She talked about how important it is to try to work out why behaviours may be happening. You may need to try something you didn’t think you’d want to try before. She also talked about figuring out who we are as parents. What other parents are doing may not be the right thing for your family or child.
3. Think about praising the positives…When your little one’s behaviour suddenly switches into tantrum mode, try to think about why? Are they hungry, tired, frustrated, are they trying to get our attention?Have you started to focus on something or someone else? Have you started to look at your phone or started to do the dishwasher. Livvy talked about her own experience where things at dinnertime can start to go downhill when she stops praising the positives.
4. Rewarding your baby or child…This was a hot topic at the talk. Livvy mentioned how some parents are cool with reward charts. We also discussed whether bribery is essential for effective parenting. Livvy flagged that positive praise and positive encouragement is not bribery. Livvy reassured us rewarding positive behaviours is an excellent way to encourage that behaviour again in the future. We all need positive praise and kids are no different. She said that it was important to reward the behaviour you wanted to see more of.
5. Positive messages…I loved Livvy’s point about celebrating the good things that babies and kids are doing. It’s easy to focus on what children aren’t doing instead of what they’re doing. Livvy gave a good example where your kids may have not finished one part of their meal when they’ve happily munched through the rest of it. Livvy also reminded us that babies love positive acknowledgement too. Yes, we may not be thinking about rewarding them at this stage for positive behaviours but a big smile or extra cuddle is something that babies will recognise as something good. Livvy flagged that it’s not a fluke that babies’ first words are mama or dadda as they see the amazing reaction from their parents, so they will enjoy saying these words.
6. Behaviours may get worse before they get better…Sorry folks but Livvy’s point made sense. When we’re trying to change a routine or habit, kids will test the boundaries before working out the new ‘rules’. So bad behaviours can creep back in. This is why Livvy also reminded us that we need to be consistent in trying to introduce new patterns or behaviours.
7. Livvy’s golden rules…Livvy talked through her six golden rules some of which I’ve touched on above. To round these up, they are
1. Establishing the function – take time to think about why the behaviour is happening?
2. Praise the positives – praise the behaviours you want to see more of instead of talking about the things your child isn’t doing.
3. Rewards – Work out the right ‘currency’ for your child. What can they relate to in order to encourage the behaviours you’d like them to adapt to?
4. Consistency – try not to give mixed messages a clear rule is easier to understand.
5. Setting boundaries – These should be family specific and they should be realistic.
6. Teaching appropriate alternatives – Explain to you child what they need to do instead to get what they want!
7. Choosing your strategy – Work out a strategy that suits your child and your family values.
As well as answering a range of questions about babies, toddlers and older children, Livvy stuck around for ages chatting to mums about their challenges. We loved her relaxed style and the fact she didn’t judge our parenting goals, views or preferences. So thanks Livvy, you’re a gem.
Livvy runs workshops in London as well as providing one to one support for parents and their children. She also runs workshops for groups of friends who might want support on similar parenting missions. Head over to the below to find out more about her amazing work…
So over to you. What are some of the behaviours you’d like to change in your children? What positive messages do you try to relay to your little ones? Are you trying to get into a routine or manoeuvre out of a routine? Leave a comment below, tag @letsasklivvy and see if she can give you some tips to help with your #everydayparentingchallenges, sharing is good for the soul…