First of all there is no wonder weapon to turn your child into the little sweet prince that cleans up after himself, says please and thank you and massages your feet every night. Being a parent means being able to stay calm, strong and on your toes. It is hard work but brings so much more than anything you could ever buy. It brings you unconditional love by a little person that needs you to survive and grow. In your child’s eyes you are a hero, a know it all, a superhuman being that can fix any hurt and destroyed toys.
But I do understand that life can be much easier when your child decides to cooperate with you more often than less. So here are the best ideas I could come up with that can help you to find more serene moments when your child actually listens. Please keep in mind that all of the parenting skills have to be adjusted to the age of your child. Also it is important to check with for example a doctor or counselor if your expectations are age appropriate. For example: I understand that sometimes we want our child to stay calm and take it like a “man” but in reality having a tantrum between the age range of 1-4 years old is a very age appropriate response to being told “no”. Yes, there are things you can do to decrease the number of tantrums, but if it happens, keep in mind it might be normal. So here are the first tips for positive parenting:
1. Play and be silly.
If you want your child to respect you, listen and follow your instructions you better take time to play with him and also allow him to take the lead. Through play kids actually learn social skills, turn taking/sharing, language skills, practice their imagination, grow muscles, develop coordination, and so much more. When you make it a habit to play at least 5 minutes each day with your child (more is better), your kid will want to please you more often and feels bad when disappointing you. Play and at times following your kid’s lead are the fundamentals for building a positive parent-child relationship and trust. Just think about it. Wouldn’t you prefer to help the co-worker who keeps spending time with you at lunch over the one who is mostly distant?
2. Parenting tip number two is praise.
Praise anything that you want your child to do more often and keep doing. Most kids actually want to please their parents. By you making a big deal out of your son listening to you, you are giving him a hint of how he can make you happy. But there are cautions. Make your praise and compliments age appropriate. A young child for example for sure needs a specific praise while your teenager understands the usual “great job”. A young child needs to hear what they did great since they may have done 3 things at the same time (i.e. (1)putting the toy away, (2)kicking the cat while doing it and (3)complaining). Tell your toddler “great job putting your toys away, that was awesome.” And maybe even give him a high five or hug. When giving praise, make differences in the intensity of them. Remember when your child said the first time “mommy”? You probably were frantic about it. After a while you stopped celebrating him saying “mommy” but gave more attention to new words and only ones a while decided to praise him saying “mommy”. The same applies for everything else. When your child has never cleaned up before and just did, make a big deal out of it. This initially gets him hooked on the task plus increases his self-esteem. You can fade out the intensity of the praise when he keeps cleaning up more frequently after himself. Even though, I personally believe that a “thanks for cleaning up” is always appropriate to teach good manners.
3. Tip number three is stating what you want.
This means instead of telling your child what he is doing wrong or should not be doing, you tell him what is expected. An example would be letting your child know to play with his toys gently and share rather than having to intervene and saying stop throwing your toys and taking your sister’s away. Keep in mind, most children want to follow our directions but they also hate being told what not to do. So try to get around the “No, Stop, Don’t” as much as possible by stating your expectations in a positive and clear way. Keep those harsh words for real dangers or cautions so they don’t loose their meaning. Imagine you are starting a new job and your instructor just criticizes what you are doing wrong or should not be doing. You probably would hate it and feel some resentment towards the person. The same happens with our kids when they keep hearing us use the negative words. So make it easy on your self and even consider using this little tip with your partner. It will get you what you want more often and at times even prevents arguments. In my counseling practice I often had partners and parents say: “But he should know it.” Guess, what, no one can read your mind. And while sometimes repetition allows people to assume what is expected, stating it clearly and positive makes it easier and does not leave room for misunderstandings.
4. The last tip for today is Ignoring (but keep appropriate age expectations in mind).
Ignoring is a life safer and appropriate for minor behaviors that are not a danger to your child, others or property. Typical behaviors you could practice ignoring would be attention-seeking behaviors like whining, clinging, begging, and maybe even talking back. Ignoring means you are not giving your child any attention for the behavior you are trying to extinct. But in return you will have to give attention to the behavior that you want your child to do. For example: when your child keeps whining for chocolate, ignore but when your boy uses his words praise him. You may still decide to not give him the chocolate but you provide positive feedback for the appropriate behavior. Important is that whenever you are ignoring a behavior keep in mind it does get more annoying before subsiding. Stay strong. If you give in, you may send the message to your child that he just has to try harder. Also, for the toddlers, sometimes an indirect verbal hint can help. Meaning you want your child to stop whining and use his words you could say this while not giving him eye contact or other attention: “Whenever Johnny is able to use his big boy words than I can listen to him.” I am assuming your child (in this case Johnny) knows what big boy words are. If he does not know it, than you will have to practice it while he is calm.
These were my tips for today. Subscribe to my blog for more tips to come.