~Give Specific Praise. I read this book called Unconditional Parenting which was hard to wrap my brain around, but I did take away one piece of advice that I really like. Instead of: Good job! Great! You’re awesome! (which, of course I still say plenty), it is more empowering to say: You RODE that bike! You won that debate! Wow–you played that whole piece. When the child hears words like that, they then say to themselves: Yes, I DID play that piece! I did that!
~Don’t shield them from pain, discomfort etc. Too many parents: “I just want my child to be happy” . I think it’s important to give them tools to find happiness–help them learn to fix it, don’t fix it for them, but they will only learn how to use those tools if they are allowed to feel UNhappiness. I also tend to not make everything FAIR all the time. I noticed recently I took Lolly to a special spy store and Phoebz was cool with it…a few weeks later I bought Phoebz some new clothes for an audition and Lolly didn’t get her panties in a twist….they also know that I wouldn’t stand for that behavior, so they’ve LEARNED how to be happy! Also, spoiled kids–not much fun, and I am convinced that is why this country is in SO MUCH DEBT–because EVERYBODY just wants their kids to be HAPPY—ew. It’s like we all need our houses to burn down so that we appreciate who we are without the stuff. (venting over)
~Boundaries Kids need them like, so bad. You’ve seen those parents: “He’ll ONLY eat pizza.” Whatever. If you don’t want your kids to eat crap, don’t feed them crap (metaphor for so much!). YOU are in charge. Your child is NOT in charge. Read Lord of the Flies? Thank you. “My child won’t stay in her bed, she has to sleep with us.” Nope…you are just too tired to deal with it. Yes, for 3ish nights you are going to lose some sleep, but it will be solved for the long term. Kids push because they are testing the boundaries, and you MUST push back AND be consistent. You can be friends with your child for like 50 years, but the first 20 or so, you are not there to be friends.
~Give them healthy food. I can’t believe I let my #1 drink chocolate milk AND juice in the morning when she was a toddler. What was I thinking? So happy I finally just insisted on WATER. WATER WATER WATER. One of my best triumphs was when I had the girls pretend to be giraffes and eat the giraffe leaves (raw spinach) off the trees. I am not so much into the whole HIDE the good stuff thing…I think that you should show the children broccoli, make them taste it, and chances are they will like it. I heard on the Dr. Oz radio show that some children need to be exposed to a food upwards of 10 times before they embrace it. I have seen this happen at my kitchen table.
~View the parenting as Us against Them. Kids will always try to ask BOTH parents if they don’t get the answer they want the first time. Sometimes I get caught in this and if I happen to say the opposite of what Jason said…if I find out they had asked him first, I automatically change my answer to what he said, even if I disagree….because UNITY in parenting trumps everything else
~Ask your children questions. Often they will be able to guess (already know) your opinion on something, so ask them to tell you theirs first, and then share yours WHILE validating theirs too. If it is a question about how something works, ask them how THEY think it works first. How does that make you feel? is a good question to ask whenever there is emotional duress. I struggle to, but, put your phone away, walk away from the computer….talk to your kids…ask them questions.
~Figure out their Currency. As soon as possible, figure out what THEY VALUE (I learned this from Dr. Phil). That is how you buy their obedience. Scene:
Lolly: gets out of bed for the 3rd time.
Kristy: holds Lolly’s Ellie (transitional object–make sure it’s washable and maybe have a backup duplicate just in case) above the trashcan, looks her in the eye and says: “You know I will.”
Lolly: retreats to bed (because she KNOWS (from experience) I will, because I have been consistent, and I never make an empty threat…I always follow through)
Kristy: I love you!
Currency starts working around 2/3 years old. When they start having a will, you set it up so that THEY are choosing whether or not they keep their favorite thing, by making the right choice. This takes the tantrums, craziness, corporal punishment, yelling, emotions OUT OF IT, and keeps everybody calm, balanced and steady.
~Water works. When nothing else works, stick them in a cold shower. Or, just pour water on their head–I did that on the subway once during an epic Lolly meltdown and it worked like a charm. That hour before bedtime-stick them in the tub. For better or worse, water works. I used a squirt bottle on my 3rd grader (debatable if THAT was the right thing to do…..maybe not) when she was having a tantrum.
~Love. The other day the girls and I were taking a FRIEND CONNECTION quiz on the wii. The question was: what is most important? Freedom, Kindness, Love. They were supposed to answer as I would. We all answered Love. We try for Kindness too in our house, but in these crazy tween years, I often have to remind myself about that love that can get buried underneath the drama. Also, love your spouse and give everybody the benefit of the doubt. The grass is not greener ANYWHERE else….keep the love alive.
~Parent-oriented kids. I want my kids to be parent-oriented as opposed to peer-oriented. (also from a book! which one? gah. ??) I try to focus on our relationship every day. It’s easy for me becauase almost every day my girls want to talk through an incident at school usually involving getting their feelings hurt by a peer. I am so glad we have this connection, where they feel they can tell me everything. I think it’s because I listen and ask.
~Be who you want them to become. Words really mean a whole lot of nothing. Your example is so so so so so powerful. I first learned this when my first daughter said THANK YOU to the man at the hot dog stand after he handed her her hotdog (don’t worry, we don’t eat Hotdogs THAT often). Whenever my kids are acting up I know it’s my fault. They are learning it from ME! Drives me crazy that my weaknesses are just OUT THERE for all to view. During Lolly’s 1st grade parent/teacher conference her teacher explained all the issues and she was just describing my list of weaknesses. I promised her she would get a lot better by the time she hit her thirties.
~Comparison is the thief of joy. I learned this phrase from a new friend recently. It was spot on. If my kids start comparing themselves to each other or friends, I encourage them to try to develop the trait that they see in others that perhaps they want, or to be happy for them or happy to be their friend.
~Let them climb subway poles. I have a spirited child. I have to tie her down of course, but I do try to let her just be who she is and sometimes that means climbing a subway pole. For the record, I also let me kids eat off the floor (I have never sanitized a bottle or a binky–just a little hot water–good!), but I do draw the line at the subway floor, except for that one time when (hotdog again!) Lolly was desperate for a hotdog, I bought her one, only to have her drop it almost right away on the subway–5 second rule anyone?