Being a celebrity doesn’t make you immune to the everyday stresses parents’ face. So how does Natalie Bassingthwaighte manage tantrums, time out, chaotic mornings and work stress while trying to find time to teach her kids to read?
As a mum of two young children, Harper, 6, and Hendrix, 3, Natalie is right in the thick of it when it comes to getting kids school ready, and juggling work with parenting. And she knows what it’s like to experience a toddler throwing a tantrum – in the middle of a shopping centre!
The popular Rogue Traders singer, former X Factor judge and Neighbours TV star, and founder of children’s fashion label Chi Khi wears many hats throughout her day. And she has just added another hat to the collection. One that she’s very proud of – as ambassador for ABC Reading Eggs, an educational program for kids aged 3 to 13 that makes learning to read fun.
“I’m so proud to be spreading the word about such a fantastic program,” Natalie says. “I want my children to not only be able to read but to absolutely LOVE books. Reading Eggs has made reading fun. They enjoy it so much and it has really enhanced their interest in books and their overall reading ability.”
Here, Natalie explains some of her parenting hurdles and the solutions she discovered the hard way…
Parenting Hurdle #1 Encouraging the kids to read
“Our kids are very different when it comes to reading. Harper is not necessarily more advanced than Hendrix, but she does have a natural love of reading.”
“My husband and I regularly read stories to Harper very early on. We have a video of my husband reading to her at four months old and she is totally engaged, smiling and interacting with him. And now, age six, she loves reading and learning. Whereas my son, well, we hardly gave him any of that. It’s terrible to say, but somehow we just got so busy and he got to age two and we were like, ‘oh no, we don’t read to him. How bad is this?’”
“About six months ago we started reading to him every night and introduced both kids to the ABC Reading Eggs program. Hendrix is just three so he can’t read, but the program helps him understand how letters are used to make a word and sound. He doesn’t see it as learning – he just thinks it’s a really fun thing to do on the computer! But it has helped encourage his engagement with books.”
“I don’t know if Harper loves reading because we read to her from an earlier age, or if it’s just the type of child she is. She already has a grounding and a love of learning and books, and ABC Reading Eggs has given her a chance to explore this even more.”
“The kids start from the beginning of the program and move through each level when they’ve mastered the words and sounds. Harper loves that engagement –watching herself improve and winning. She is very competitive! If she finishes a task she gets the eggs, and then with the eggs she can buy items to decorate her virtual house or dress her avatar character in little clothes!”
“Reading Eggs has made reading fun. Hendrix is learning language without even realising and although Harper is at a level where she can do Reading Eggs independently, I still like to sit with her – it’s an opportunity for me to help them learn. I always wanted to be a school teacher so I’m in my element!”
“As a parent, I feel like I have the responsibility to teach our kids the skills and to be the best they can be. That’s not just morals and values. It’s reading, writing, comprehension and other skills. Not everyone is good at everything, but all kids should be given equal opportunity.”
“We do Reading Eggs every day, if not, every second day at after dinner and shower or bath. It’s a good wind down activity. I feel like learning at night is almost meditative – it’s top of mind when you go to sleep so you can absorb that information.”
Parenting Hurdle #2 Managing children with different personalities
Just when you think you’ve worked the whole ‘parenting thing’ out, baby number two comes along – with a whole different personality that requires you to rewrite your parenting style.
“Harper and Hendrix are very different!” laughs Natalie. “Harper is very imaginative, happy to play on her own and really creative. Hendrix has tantrums, whereas Harper never did. I remember one time at a shopping centre I let Hendrix have a ride on a motorised car. When the ride stopped, he wanted it to go again. He kept asking me and I was like, ‘It’s finished! It’s broken! It doesn’t work! Then I tried the old, ‘mummy needs to leave now. Come on…’ That didn’t work either. I had to pick him up with one arm while he was kicking and screaming and push the stroller loaded up with shopping bags with the other!”
“I don’t yell and try not to give tantrums too much attention. Is it embarrassing? Not really. I just laugh. I’m sure other parents know what it’s like to have a little one throwing a tantrum.”
“Parenting different personalities is still a juggle, and I’m not sure if I know the ‘right way’ to do it, but we have adapted. We didn’t do time out with Harper, but we do with Hendrix. He needs it. I think the difference is that Harper spoke from a very young age, so her language and comprehension was better and we could reason with her. But Hendrix is three. It’s harder to reason with him! If he misbehaves, he has to go to his room, sit down and have a think about it. Raising our voices doesn’t work. After he’s had time out and calmed down, we ask him if he understands why he’s been put in his room and go through the motions. It seems to work!”
A photo posted by Chi Khi (@natbassingthwaighte) on
Parenting Hurdle #3 Managing work stress
Stress effects everybody, even celebrities, and it’s a sucker for interfering with the ‘quality’ time we spend with our kids. “My husband and I try to switch off from work when we’re with our children and be with them in an engaged way,” says Natalie. “I used to have my phone beside my bed and I’d look at it first thing every morning. Then, all of those work emails would play on my mind while I was trying to get the kids ready for school. All I could think about was responding to emails. I’d be like, ‘in a minute, in a minute’ to the kids. I wasn’t the parent that I wanted to be and I wasn’t giving them the quality time they deserved. What I should have been doing was focusing on my kids and not distracted by work during those early mornings. So now I have a new rule – I don’t look at my phone or any emails in the morning. And it’s much, much better.”
“After school and at nights, my husband and I try to switch off the phones until after 8pm too – when the kids are asleep. We can’t always do this but we try. We don’t want to be sitting at the dinner table with our phones there or cooking dinner and checking emails. There’s a time and a place for phones, and if I’m on mine constantly it sends the kids the message that it’s ok for them to be on devices all the time too.”
Parenting Hurdle #4 Rushing to get to ready for school
Morning chaos is an all too common scenario for many families trying to get to school before the bell goes. So how does Natalie manage it? “My brother-in-law has two children who are really well-rounded, good kids,” she explains. “He told me that he never put the TV on in the mornings and I thought, ‘wow, what a wonderful idea’. So six months ago we made some changes. We took the TV out of our living room and redecorated the room together with our kids, turning it into a play room. We went to the shops together as a family and chose a heap of educational toys, books and puzzles for the kids to play with in the mornings, rather than being hypnotised by the TV.”
“It was one of the best decisions we made. Now, the kids play – with trucks and cars, jumping around on the mini tramp, reading or singing to music! And now when we say, ‘ok it’s time to get ready for school,’ they listen, are responsive and get ready!”
“My husband and I make our mornings ‘family time’. We make a family event out of all walking to school together in the summer – or driving in winter. Hendrix loves trains so when we pass the train station he waves to the driver and we make an adventure out of it. It’s still crazy sometimes, but it’s certainly not as hectic as it once was…”
ABOUT: ABC Reading Eggs makes learning to read easy and fun for young kids using a progressive sequence of interactive lessons, games and activities. The comprehensive program is designed by expert Australian educators and has been used by over 3.4 million children worldwide.
ABC Reading Eggs includes hundreds of one-on-one reading lessons that teach children essential early literacy skills, including phonics and sight word recognition. Parents can access detailed assessment reports to track their child’s progress, and print out certificates and worksheets which complement the program.
Based on scientific research and the most up-to-date learning principles, ABC Reading Eggs uses a highly motivational reward system which keeps children engaged while they learn to read. It also includes an online library of over 2000 children’s books to suit all reading levels.
Parents can register online to start their five week extended free trial of ABC Reading Eggs before 30th August, 2016.