Raising children is one of the toughest and most fulfilling jobs in the world — and the one for which you might feel the least prepared. Below are 10 child-rearing techniques that can help you feel more fulfilled as a mother or father — and enjoy your children more.
1. Children learn a lot about how to act by watching their moms and dads. The younger they are, the more cues they take from you. Before you lash out or blow your top in front of your youngster, think about this: Is that how you want your youngster to behave when angry? Be aware that you're constantly being observed by your children. Studies have shown that kids who hit usually have a role model for aggression at home. Model the traits you wish to cultivate in your children: respect, friendliness, honesty, kindness, tolerance. Exhibit unselfish behavior. Do things for other people without expecting a reward. Express thanks and offer compliments. Above all, treat your children the way you expect other people to treat you.
2. If you frequently feel "let down" by your youngster's behavior, perhaps you have unrealistic expectations. Moms and dads who think in "shoulds" (e.g., "my son should be potty-trained by now") might find it helpful to read up on the matter or to talk to other moms and dads or child development specialists. Children's environments have an impact on their behavior, so you may be able to modify that behavior by changing the environment. If you find yourself constantly saying "no" to your 3-year-old, look for ways to restructure your surroundings so that fewer things are off-limits. This will cause less frustration for both of you. As your youngster changes, you'll gradually have to change your parenting style. What works with your youngster now won't work as well in a year or two. Adolescents tend to look less to their moms and dads and more to their peers for role models. But continue to provide guidance, encouragement, and appropriate discipline while allowing your adolescent to earn more independence. And seize every available moment to make a connection!
3. Have you ever stopped to think about how many times you react negatively to your children in a given day? You may find yourself criticizing far more often than complimenting. How would you feel about a boss who treated you with that much negative guidance, even if it was well intentioned? The more effective approach is to catch children doing something right: "You made your bed without being asked — that's terrific!" or "I was watching you play with your sister and you were very patient." These statements will do more to encourage good behavior over the long run than repeated scolding. Make a point of finding something to praise every day. Be generous with rewards — your love, hugs, and compliments can work wonders and are often reward enough. Soon you will find you are "growing" more of the behavior you would like to see.
4. Face it — you’re not perfect. You have strengths and weaknesses as a family leader. Recognize your abilities (e.g., "I am loving and dedicated"). Vow to work on your weaknesses (e.g., "I need to be more consistent with discipline"). Try to have realistic expectations for yourself, your spouse, and your children. You don't have to have all the answers — be forgiving of yourself. And try to make parenting a manageable job. Focus on the areas that need the most attention rather than trying to address everything all at once. Admit it when you're burned out. Take time out from parenting to do things that will make you happy as a person (or as a couple). Focusing on your needs does not make you selfish. It simply means you care about your own well-being, which is another important value to model for your kids.
5. You can't expect children to do everything simply because you, as a parent, "say so." They want and deserve explanations as much as grown-ups do. If we don't take time to explain, children will begin to wonder about our values and motives and whether they have any basis. Moms and dads who reason with their children allow them to understand and learn in a nonjudgmental way. Make your expectations clear. If there is a problem, describe it, express your feelings, and invite your youngster to work on a solution with you. Be sure to include consequences. Make suggestions and offer choices. Be open to your youngster's suggestions as well. Negotiate. Children who participate in decisions are more motivated to carry them out.
6. It's often difficult for moms and dads and children to get together for a family meal, let alone spend quality time together. But there is probably nothing children would like more. Get up 10 minutes earlier in the morning so you can eat breakfast with your youngster or leave the dishes in the sink and take a walk after dinner. Children who aren't getting the attention they want from their moms and dads often act out or misbehave because they're sure to be noticed that way. Many moms and dads find it rewarding to schedule together time with their children. Create a "special night" each week to be together and let your children help decide how to spend the time. Look for other ways to connect — put a note or something special in your kid's lunchbox. Adolescents seem to need less undivided attention from their moms and dads than younger children. Because there are fewer windows of opportunity for moms and dads and adolescents to get together, moms and dads should do their best to be available when their adolescent does express a desire to talk or participate in family activities. Attending concerts, games, and other events with your adolescent communicates caring and lets you get to know more about your youngster and his or her friends in important ways. Don't feel guilty if you're a working parent. It is the many little things you do — making popcorn, playing cards, window shopping — that children will remember.
7. Children start developing their sense of self as infants when they see themselves through their parents’ eyes. Your tone of voice, your body language, and your every expression are absorbed by your children. Your words and actions as a parent affect their developing self-esteem more than anything else. Praising accomplishments, however small, will make them feel proud; letting children do things independently will make them feel capable and strong. By contrast, belittling comments or comparing a youngster unfavorably with another will make children feel worthless. Avoid making loaded statements or using words as weapons. Comments like "What a stupid thing to do!" or "You act more like a baby than your little brother!" cause damage just as physical blows do. Choose your words carefully and be compassionate. Let your children know that everyone makes mistakes and that you still love them, even when you don't love their behavior.
8. Discipline is necessary in every household. The goal of discipline is to help children choose acceptable behaviors and learn self-control. They may test the limits you establish for them, but they need those limits to grow into responsible grown-ups. Establishing house rules helps children understand your expectations and develop self-control. Some rules might include: no TV until homework is done, and no hitting, name-calling, or hurtful teasing allowed. You might want to have a system in place: one warning, followed by consequences such as a "time out" or loss of privileges. A common mistake moms and dads make is failure to follow through with the consequences. You can't discipline children for talking back one day and ignore it the next. Being consistent teaches what you expect.
9. As a parent, you're responsible for correcting and guiding your children. But how you express your corrective guidance makes all the difference in how a youngster receives it. When you have to confront your youngster, avoid blaming, criticizing, or fault-finding, which undermine self-esteem and can lead to resentment. Instead, strive to nurture and encourage, even when disciplining your children. Make sure they know that although you want and expect better next time, your love is there no matter what.
10. A youngster's sense of self-worth is a major factor in deciding your youngster's future. How they feel about themselves will affect their choice of friends, how they get along with others, and how they develop their potential. Their self-esteem influences all aspects of their lives. Your youngster's self-esteem is a precious thing and should be handled with great care. It is crucial for your youngster's healthy development and future well being. It is also has a great deal to do with how your youngster behaves now and later. Use the following tips to foster a sense of self-worth while protecting a youngster's self-esteem:
- Avoid comparing a youngster to other kids.
- Avoid compliments with riders, like, "You did this well but…" or "Fine, now if you would only…"
- Avoid talking about your kids within their hearing. Even if the story is cute, it might be embarrassing to your youngster.
- Cherish youngster's individuality.
- Compliment, praise and encourage.
- Don't call kids names or label them with derogatory words.
- Don't do things for kids that they can do for themselves.
- Don't use sarcasm.
- Let kids answer some of their own questions.
- Praise without words. Smiles and hugs are always well received by young kids.
- Spend time with them & let them see that you enjoy being with them.
- Use praise that lets kids know that they have been helpful.
- When things go wrong, focus on the behavior that is unacceptable, not the youngster.
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