Sunday, February 7, 2016
Over the last year, I've made so many desperate calls to friends and family wiser than I in regards to better parenting techniques! I've done it in moments of sheer desperation, when I felt like a total pushover or failure, because I didn't know how to manage my child.
But guess what?
Right now, sitting on my couch at the end of the day, I feel like I have suddenly seen a big change in both my children AND myself! And that is something to acknowledge, celebrate, and share!!
I'm not saying I'm a perfect parent (is there such a thing?), or that I have the most well-behaved children. But I do see an improvement from before, and I want to share what I feel contributed to these improvements.
1.) Say what you mean, mean what you say.
So many times we try to threaten our kids into doing what we want. But we use a false threat, like saying that if they don't get dressed they'll stay home alone, or skip dinner, or something else we are not actually planning on doing!! So stop using false threats! If you say it, DO IT. And if you don't plan on acting on it, DON'T SAY IT. Kids are so smart and they really pick up on it!
2.) No more "1-2-3"
It was becoming second nature for me and Faramir to start counting "1-2-3" when we told our kids to do something. "I want you using the bathroom RIGHT NOW!...ONE...........twoooooooo......." It got to the point where I was almost always counting. But basically, what I was saying was, here is a brief window of time where its OK to ignore my request. So we no longer do the "1-2-3." Instead, I make a request, and I immediately expect them to follow through. I'm not building in any dissent into my request!
3.) Choices & consequences
One really nice thing that has worked is presenting the request with options. I say, "you can either do X by yourself, or I can help you do it. Which do you choose?" Sometimes, my kid will immediately ask for my help. And sometimes, knowing that I am on her tail, she will immediately say that she will do it by herself! It has been incredibly helpful!
4.) Articulate some family rules.
After 100 times of slapping my own forehead when I saw my kids doing something ridiculously mean or unsafe, I decided to draw up a family rule chart. I kept it short and simple, with only 5 rules and pictures to accompany them. Anytime I see my child doing something "bad", I point to the rules and remind her: "what you are doing is bad/ dangerous/ mean/ selfish/ dirty/ etc. In our family, we have a rule to always do X." The pictures are very helpful for my oldest. The youngest has to learn through trial and error, but she is also picking up!
5.) Be consistent.
I guess I was too lazy or lackadaisical with my time-outs before. I couldn't do it to a cute little 2 year old. Or, I would use a public and well-lit part of the house, so it wasn't a big deal. Now, when my oldest is doing something particularly dangerous or disrespectful, I will warn her ONCE that if she continues, there will be specific consequences, like time out alone in the basement. She hates it so it is a perfect opportunity to provide a deterrence! My youngest is too little to be sent to the basement, but I DO give her timeouts and warnings so that it is fair for both children. And if I say I am going to give a timeout, I act on it for sure!
These are basic parenting steps I've read here and there, but its amazing how hard it can be to follow through if you are in an unhealthy groove. By the same token, they are simple changes to make and I really appreciate how helpful they have been in communicating values to the kids!!!
Also, I try to be gentle, clear, loving, and explain things to my kids (duh! I know most of us do! :p). By that, I mean that I try to stay away from SHAMING little ones when they have done something bad, unless it was on purpose and very destructive or dangerous. You might remember my potty-training rage with Princess Buttercup earlier. It was challenging, and there are still some incidents. But overall, she has improved SO MUCH when I calmly choose to take care of the mess instead of getting angry with her!!! She feels proud of herself for her accomplishments, as she should. And so do I! But I also feel proud of myself for keeping an even temper (most of the time). And when I back off, it gives her a chance to express her own regret and take responsibility! She'll apologize for something she has done, and even make suggestions for improvements, like helping to clean up, or promising that next time she will use the toilet.
I feel so thankful for the little changes I see in my parenting and how my children respond, and so thankful for the sources of inspiration, whether a trusted friend or a new book. Here's to more peace in our homes and more treasured moments with our children!
What are some of your best discoveries about parenting techniques?