Ten Parenting Tips
Parenting isn't always easy
I don't care if you came from a large family or if you have 24 kids yourself, parenting ain't easy! Even parents who do almost everything right, still have parenting problems that can seem overwhelming at times.
Though even with problems, parenting doesn't have to be as complicated as brain surgery. Some simple tips can help keep you and the kids on track. They aren't miracle solutions, but they can certainly make life easier and give you more time for the good times.
1. LISTEN to your kids
This is probably the hardest thing for a parent to do. Even if you think you're listening to your kids, you're probably not. You might hear them, but truly listening requires actually taking into account what they are telling you, validating how they feel (even if their feelings seem illogical) and then taking steps to help them understand how they can get what they want or why they cannot have what they want.
Remember also: Parents who listen to their children, have children who listen to their parents.
2. Don't Argue In Front of Your Kids
Mom and Dad should nearly always appear to be on the same team. Which means that any disagreements or arguments that concern the kids, should be dealt with away from the kids. This is good parenting for a few reasons:
1. It shows that both mom and dad respect each other, which shows the children they should respsect mom and dad as well.
2. It tells the kids that mom and dad are together and that they can't manipulate one parent over the other to get what they want.
3. It gives the kids a good example of how to act responsibly when you disagree with someone.
Many issues of disobedience from your kids, are often caused because the parents constantly bicker over how the kids should be handled. You need to back each other up when a direction is issued from either parent, and take any disagreements into another room to be discussed if you're unhappy with how things went.
3. Don't Argue With Your Kids
I can tell you from both the experience of being a VERY argumentative child and from being the parent of argumentative kids, that arguing with your kids always leads to trouble. And believe it or not, it's because YOU let yourself get drawn into the argument, not because the kid started the argument.
Any time your kids start to argue with you, your next response should always be the end of any argument. Any further attempts from your kids to continue the argument after that, should be ignored unless it results in a good or bad behavior. If your child gives up arguing and walks away or does what you ask, then praise them. If they start to throw a fit or continue to be defiant, then it's off to time out and away from your attention. To give you an example or two..
My oldest son likes to stay as his grandma's from time to time and always seems to be stressing her out, which means less and less time for him over there. A recent issue came up, where my son wanted some orange creamcicle ice cream.. here's how the scene played out.
"You finished your dinner. Would you like some ice cream?" Grandma asks.
"I want the orange and white ice cream." My son says
"We don't have that kind right now." Grandma says, "We have chocolate, strawberry or vanilla. Which one of those would you like?"
"I don't want those kinds, I want the orange and white ice cream." My son says.
"We don't have that kind. You can have strawberry, chocolate or vanilla." Grandma says again.
(Now crying and stomping his feet) My son says, "I want the orange and white kind!"
"You only have these three choices." Grandma says while clearly frustrated, "It's almost time for bed, please choose from one of these three kinds."
"Go get me some orange and white ice cream." My son demands
"It's time for bed then." Grandma says, "Go up and get your pj's on."
"But I want ice cream!" My son says, crying louder.
Have you ever been in this position? Can you see where the problem started? Let me give you an example of how this exact scene plays out when my son is at home with me.
"You did a good job eating all your dinner!" I say, "When you take your plate to the kitchen, please remember to rinse it off before you put it in the sink."
"Okay mom, I will." My son says, "Mom, can I have some ice cream tonight?"
"Sure. We have chocolate or strawberry in the freezer." I say, "Which one would you like?"
"I don't like those kinds." My son says, "I want some orange ice cream."
"That's to bad that you don't like chocolate or strawberry." I say, "Your new choice is to pick from the ice cream we have, or go to bed with nothing."
"I'll have chocolate." My son replies.
I wait for a minute while looking at him. "Please, can I have chocolate ice cream mom?" He says.
"Yes you may." I say with a smile, "Lets go get some."
Can you see any difference in the way things went from the beginning of the scene? I didn't offer dessert/sweets as a reward, but I did offer praise as a reward for him eating all of his dinner. He asked nicely for dessert, instead of me offering. I offered him only two choices, instead of three. When he decided he didn't like his first choice, his new choice was something or nothing at all. I can guarantee you I always get a sour face from the something or nothing choice, but it effectively ends the argument every time. Especially because I remove the obvious option - to continue arguing about it.
With grandma, she is oblivious to the fact that she started the situation, and then continued to add fuel to the fire by continuing to argue with my son. To her, she's just being nice and being a good grandma and that my son is the source of all the problems. Yet, how could he be the only culprit if he doesn't act like that in every situation and with every adult? I've tried pointing this out in both subtle and obvious ways, but since it's not grandma's job to be one of my son's parents and I can only do so much about things that happen when I'm not there, the continuation of these problems just leads to less time for grandma and my son to spend together.
Now... I want to make it clear, that things weren't always this way. I had to be consistent about not arguing with my son, because I am a naturally argumentative person myself. I had to learn how to get through this process as much as my son did. It was hard getting to a point where I didn't have to argue, scream or yell to get my son to behave appropriately.
Now we have a steady rhythm that works well. If he doesn't like the choices available to him, then he chooses to not have a choice, which means I make the choice for him, and usually the choice I make is no fun. Any whining, tantrums, continued arguing or disrespectful behavior are dealt with by taking away any form of attention. Usually that involves him sitting in time out, going to his room for a break or me going on to an activity away from him. The main idea, is that I won't argue with him. He is always in control of the consequences he gets, whether they are good consequences or bad consequences. After just a few weeks of not arguing with my boy when he tried, the arguments stopped all together. He became happier, threw less tantrums and I didn't have to yell or get upset over little things like this.
4. Encourage Independence
Whether your child is 6 months old or 16 years old, there is always an opportunity to encourage them to be independent. It's great parenting from you and your children will be very happy to have every chance to grow, be challenged and learn to do things for themselves.
This isn't a complete list (obviously), but here are some ideas for encouraging independence per age groups:
6-18 months old:
-Reaching for or getting their own toys
-Spending some time entertaining themselves
-Proving more time for them to roll over, crawl or walk
18 months to 3 years old:
-Picking out and putting on their own clothes
-Putting away their toys
3-6 years old:
-Making their bed
-Helping with the laundry
-Looking at books by themselves
-Helping with the grocery shopping
-Cleaning themselves in the shower or tub (supervised)
-Helping to make decisions about daily activities (going to parks, whats for dinner, what games to play, etc...)
6-10 years old:
-Washing the car
-Doing their own laundry
-Brushing their hair and teeth
-Fully cleaning their own room
-Helping with the responsibilities of pets
10-14 years old:
-Having weekly chores
-Helping with gardening
-Opening a savings account
-Helping with younger siblings
-Deciding how they will get to and from school
-Planning, shopping for and cooking some meals
14-17 year olds:
-More regular chores
-Starting a summer business
-Opening a checking account
-Getting themselves to and from extra-curricular activities
-Picking a car out, setting a goal and saving the money to buy it
-Helping to pay the house bills ((writing checks out (but not signing them), putting bills in the envelopes and putting them in the mail, etc...))
5. Make Time to Play Everyday
Many parents are absolutely great at discipline and encouraging independence, but they forget to actually play with their kids.
Its about more than just spending time with your kids. Anyone can sit and watch a movie or tv with the kids. Anyone can be 'in the room' with their kids. It's not the same as getting down to their level and enjoying the same activities they enjoy. Run, jump, hop, skip, play board games, get messy! Have fun and play with your kids. It will help show them that growing up isn't all bad, that mom and dad aren't all work and no play, and it will give them a chance to gain positive attention from you - thus lessening the need for them to be defiant to get your attention.
6. Be The Alpha
In your family pack, someone is always the alpha. It's your choice as the parent, whether that alpha leader is going to be you or one of your kids. If you don't take charge, are not assertive, are not respected by your kids or you don't provide structure for your kids, they will take charge and do it their way. Which often is a chaotic and crazy way to do things for both kids and parents.
7. Be Positively Consistent
Everybody is consistent. The question is: are you consistently allowing bad behavior? Or are you consistently encouraging good behavior?
The best way to be positively consistent, you want to regularly provide situations for your children to earn your praise and rewards. They can easily create their own situations where they need to be disciplined, and often simply need some help in finding activities that encourage good behaviors. Try to reward them more often then you discipline them, but remember not to reward bad behaviors. This includes having them go play a game or watch tv when they aren't behaving, that's rewarding them for their bad behavior. Instead, you should offer them the chance to watch a movie or play a game if they do their chores or finish their dinner.
8. Never Underestimate Your Kids
I don't care whether your kids are 1 or 11 years old, there is never a time when you should underestimate them. Never assume they won't or can't understand. Don't put it in your mind that they aren't up the challenge.
It's almost always the kids that are babied or underestimated, that end up running amok throughout the family. They get away with bad behaviors because we don't believe they can understand or physically do what they need to do. I've seen it happen often and I can tell you that it's much better if you assume your kids are always capable, then incapable. Then you only run into a rare problem of when the truly aren't capable, and that opens the opportunity to work on it so that they are capable.
9. Don't Overreact to Everything
While you obviously want to help your children avoid unsafe and undesirable situations, you can't protect them from life. Sometimes they will fall, get hurt or become emotionally upset. It happens.
The same goes for behavior. Sometimes they won't listen, sometimes they'll throw fits. There will be times they when they act out or be defiant just to push your buttons, other times it will have an underlying reason. While I'll never suggest you don't do anything about these behaviors or that you shouldn't do your best to protect your kids, sometimes you just need to step back and let life happen.
To help explain what I mean, I want to show you a couple of examples....
When my son was about three and a half, I decided it was time that he start doing his own laundry. He was going through several phases that were driving me and dad nuts. The first was that he liked to change his clothes at least 4 or 5 times a day. The second big one was that he was going through potty training and refused to use the toilet, which resulted in plenty of clothes changing on its own. I was spending so much time working on potty training and trying to catch a break for myself that I was frustrated. Dad was also working heavily on potty training, but was much more upset about the huge pile of laundry that we had to do all the time. We had a lot of private arguments over the clothes issue. Dad wanted him to stop going through so many clothes, but he didn't seem to like the alternatives. Even if we managed to put a halt on his joy for changing clothes all the time, there was still a need for him to have clean clothes on after having an accident. Which meant that the only options were to have him run around naked, or to teach him to do his own laundry. This resulted in dad backing away from most of the process and leaving me to try and deal with the solution.
So the laundry adventure began. Now, the choice was right. My son was old enough to put his clothes in the washer then the dryer, to fold his clothes and put them away. He was more capable, however, he'd never been asked to do such things, which meant he needed to be shown how. I was already frustrated with him over so many other things and frustrated with myself for being so frustrated, that doing the laundry became an all day affair that was no fun for either of us. I kept getting upset when my boy couldn't fold the clothes right, or put them in the wrong drawers or that it took him so long to learn the needed skills. So instead of this being a fun lesson in building independence, it became just one more time mom was yelling over something so silly.
The bad example here, was my insistent that he do everything right the first time or shortly there after. I knew he was capable of doing what was needed, but I got way to upset about his lack of perfection. It was actually dad who came in and sat with him and gently showed him how to fold his clothes without it taking forever. He was amazed to see that our boy wanted to do the chore and liked the independence, but he was upset to see me so upset and making our son upset because of all my overreaction. After he jumped in and helped our son learn the simple parts in a gentle manner, it was amazing how quickly the laundry became a much smaller problem for everyone.
It took me until then to realize that the problem in the whole situation was me overreacting, but it was a needed lesson that helped me to calm down over such silly issues.
The amazing part, if you can believe it, is that I'm normally the relaxed liberal of the family. Which leads me into one more example of not overreacting.
The issue was with wearing shoes outside. I am of the belief that shoes are very restrictive and that we don't need to wear them constantly. My other half is the exact opposite. He wears his shoes right up until he gets in bed. There is rarely a time when you'll catch him out of his shoes and he feels that we should always be wearing shoes. My son gets mixed messages from this. I feel that he's fine without shoes outside as long as he's not playing near the shop, where dad feels that he should always have shoes on outside no matter what. So when both the boy and I came outside with no shoes on, dad freaked out and yelled at our son to go get shoes on right away. He was completely overreacting over the situation.
When we talked about it, we both had our words over how we felt and I told him that I would support him with our son wearing shoes outside but that I felt it was a lot to ask, especially since I was not going to wear shoes outside every time. He explained to me that he was just so worried that our son would get a sliver or stub his toe on something, to which point I asked him if we should also tie him up with pillows and knee pads to protect him from any potential injuries he might get in his life. This made dad laugh and realize just how much he was overreacting. This has made things easier, as now when our son comes outside without shoes, dad can gently remind him to go put on shoes to protect his feet. He doesn't force him or yell at him and our son now recognizes a need for shoes, while not feeling chastised for forgetting to wear them.
You can't expect your kids to do everything the way you want them to. You can't expect them to listen every time you ask and you can't overreact every time something doesn't go your way. Not only because it doesn't do you any good, but because overreacting teaches your kids to overreact.
10. You Are What You Feed Them
With the organic food movement, many parents are already catching on to the fact that what you feed your kids effects their behavior. Processed foods, junk food and sugary snacks can turn a perfect little angel into the biggest devil in no time flat.
It may seem more like a chore to cook for your kids and have fresh foods available to them, but it's much more beneficial for everyone. Basically, your choice is to have crazy kids due to malnutrition and sugar highs, or you do the work cooking and shopping right.