I'm not an absolute expert on parenting and child behavior. Let's just get that out of the way right now. I certainly don't have all the answers. I mess up. I yell at my kids. I'm sometimes at a complete loss for what to do in certain situations. But I have 13 years of personal experience as a parent and an academic and professional background in working with kids of all ages. I've learned a thing or two about effective parenting in that time. Jumping back into the workforce in the field of mental health recently has been a reminder of some of the basic parenting skills that are often lacking or forgotten.
Believe me, I know better than you might think just how easy it can be to get into a rut and forget some of the common sense things you know in terms of parenting. Most of us are aware of the basic, common-sense rules of parenting. But in the moment when our little angels are screaming, not listening or have made us repeat ourselves for the 100th time, it's easy to lose your cool, ultimately losing the battle to your children. Here are some tips to help ensure everyone comes out a winner.
Show Them Your Poker Face
One of the most important lessons I could offer is to try not to let your kids see your temper. Then they know they've won. But, really, it's a matter of maintaining control of the situation and of yourself. If you're yelling and getting flustered,essentially, you're throwing your own version of a tantrum. It's not likely your kids will respond well to an adult tantrum. Instead, try to let them know your expectations in a matter of fact way. Keeping the emotion out of the situation puts the focus on the behavior that needs to be changed, rather than on the child's character.
Remember That They're Not Small Adults
Children are not just little adults. They don't have the developmental ability or life experience to reason or to understand things the way we do. That's not to say we shouldn't have expectations for our kids, but those expectations should definitely be realistic. One of the best parenting resources I've seen, 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 by Thomas W. Phelan, emphasizes this point. The author points out that it's often these unrealistic expectations that lead parents to losing control, and sometimes, to child abuse. If you're not aware of what to expect from each stage of childhood, do a little research on child development. It's amazing how your view can change with a little knowledge.
Let Things Be Hard for Them
Wait? What? Did I just tell you to make things hard on your kids? Nope. That's not what I said. But I did say to allow some things to be hard for them. Don't always rush to their rescue, to defend them when they've gotten a bad grade or have been disparaged by a teacher. It's okay to let them struggle or for them to not always feel good. That's life. A child gains confidence and self-respect by succeeding at things that are difficult. If you make it easy for him all the time, he's less likely to gain the confidence and self-worth he needs to manage in life. I've seen it so many times, and it's sad. I know the parents mean well. We all want the best for our kids. We hate to see them unhappy. However, giving in to avoid their whining or trying to make everything okay for them can severely backfire leading to dependent and whiny kids who cannot function in the world. No parent wants that.
I could probably go on and on, but I don't want to sound preachy. You'd tune me out if I did. I hope that these few tips may have an impact and cause a parent or two to consider certain practices that may not be working for them. Parenting is the hardest job on Earth. That's what Oprah's told us, anyway. I believe she's right on this one. So why make it harder by having unrealistic expectations or setting ourselves and our kids up for failure?
What are your biggest parenting tips? I'd love to hear them. We could all use advice and support in the parenting department, so please share!