As parents we all need to occasionally be reminded of what we can do to be the best parents to our children. Below is a list of five of my favorite tips:
1. Listen to your child. My idea of listening is very different than many other peoples. When I say listen, I mean truly listen. Let your child do the talking. This is not the time to voice your opinion. This is not the time to tell your child they handled something wrong, or should have handled it differently. This is time to just listen to your child. I have a very special 5 year old who comes to visit me from time to time. A few times when she’s come she’s been very upset. When someone at school says something mean, this is very traumatic to a 5 year old. I just listen and offer hugs. Often when she leaves, she is smiling. I then have a 16 year of my own. When she talks, I listen. I let her tell me what’s happening, how she solved the situation and how she feels about how she handled everything. This is listening.
2. When helping children recognize the differences between the choice they made and other choices, always talk about the choices, or the behavior, never talk about the child. The child is not good or bad or right or wrong. However a child might have made a choice that was not a great choice. Or the child might have made a choice that was just excellent. With a very young child, they might decide to pull a dogs tail. It’s important to stop the behavior but to also talk about the behavior not that the child was “wrong". When we pull a dogs tail, the dog just might bite us. However, with the owner’s permission, it’s great to pet the dog on his back. With a teenager, maybe they are making a choice to watch t. v. and not do homework. Talk about the behavior. Talk about the future. Don’t tell the child they’re wrong in their choice. Instead talk about the behavior and understand why they are making the choice to not do homework.
3. Be consistent. This is so important. Children need very clear guidelines. If a behavior is not ok on Monday, but ok on Tuesday, children become uncertain and confused. If they must wash their hands before eating, then make sure this happens every single time. If you are in a restaurant, you can use the restroom there to wash hands. If you are at a friend’s home, you can use the restroom there to wash hands. By being consistent it will be habit for the kids to wash their hands before eating. If your child is not allowed to jump on the couch, then there must be consequences every single time he/she jumps on the couch. When you are consistent, your children recognize that what you say is the way it is. They trust you. I know it sounds “weird" but when you are inconsistent, children don’t trust what you say. They know that your word might or might not be true.
4. Allow your child to make choices. Choices build a child’s self esteem and self confidence. With a very young child, allow them to choose their own outfit. Allow them to choose what toy to play with. Allow them to choose which book to read. With an older child, allow them to help choose which foods to serve with a meal. Allow them to choose their own clothes at the store. Allow them to begin developing their own routines of when to do homework, when to talk on the phone, and when to watch t. v. When we allow our children to make choices, we are helping them develop their own self confidence.
5. Spend time with your children doing what they want to do. Spending time with your child is so important. Having you, their parent, involved in the activity they’ve chosen can lead to a non stop smile on your child’s face. Does your 3 year old want to go to the park? Go, have fun. Does your 5 year old want to go to McDonalds? Go, grab a diet coke and watch your child smile. Does your teenager want to go to the mall? Go, enjoy the time together. Children want to be with mom and dad.
Audrey Okaneko is mom to two girls. She can be reached at email@example.com or visited at http://www.scrapping-made-simple.com .