Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Parenting, just my take

I've tried to stay away from this topic.  I don't want to give unsolicited advice, but it seems like one of the hottest topics to blog about.  I am in no way an expert, just wanting to share my experiences and thoughts on the matter.

People seem to really struggle with child rearing, and they should!  It is the hardest job we will ever have as young/midlife adults!  We all (well not all, I mean there are some people who have children that I would not refer to as parents, but that's a whole other topic altogether) want the same thing for our children, to be healthy, happy and well adjusted. 

My whole perspective on parenting is that firstly, you need to have patience.  Example:  When the two year old is in the middle of a meltdown, make attempts to re-direct them, if that fails, ensure they are safe ie. not banging their head on hard surfaces, or kicking hard objects; and then wait it out.  The conversation comes after.  Simple, clear, using words you know they understand.  When the communication has broken down do that point, there is nothing to do but wait.  

Secondly, consistency.  Your child should know what to expect from you.  Every misbehaviour is an opportunity to remind them of the rules, ask them to repeat them, make sure they are looking at you, and prompt an apology.  Children are impulsive and WILL break the rules, that is a fact.  They will test them too.  Over time, it sinks in, even if at first they don't seem to "get it".  The key is to use language you are sure they understand.  Short sentences, too much information and they will not be able to remember what you have said.  Each time you discipline should look very much like the last.  Whether you pick time out, rewarding appropriate/ignoring inappropriate, it doesn't really matter.  What matters is that it's consistent.  I will say this.  Please don't hit your children, I truly believe in my heart it is not necessary.  There are other, more effective ways.  Every good behaviour is an opportunity to reinforce, tell them "good job!  good listening!  good manners!" to tell them how proud you are of them, to give them hugs and kisses that they so desperately need. 

The other thing that I don't see reinforced enough is that you have to develop relationships with your kids.  Play with them.  Talk to them.  Read to them.  Let them tell you stories, listen to what they are saying even if they stutter with excitement and can hardly get the words out coherently.  Involve them in everyday activities.  Help mommy and daddy cook, help with chores, carry the empty laundry basket, put your folded socks away.  The chores take a little longer but help them learn the routines of the house, and spend TIME with their parents.  I know that people are busy and want to get things done, but there is always time for bonding and we should use every opportunity. 

If you want to read parenting book after parenting book, fine, but many of the principles are the same.  Even if your child has physical or developmental delays, the same strategies can be used, it just may take a little longer or need a little tweaking.  Only the parent can figure out what works best with their child.  Some respond well to rewards, some respond better to what I call "losing privileges".  My son knows that if he does not listen well, he could lose his tv time, or bike time, or game time.  He is motivated by having access to those things.  Some days he loses none, other days he loses all of them, but we always start the day with a clean slate.  I don't take away our cuddle times before nap and bed.  These are essential to both him and me.  Special time is non-negotiable in my house.  When we wake up we hug, kiss, and say good morning, no matter what.  At bedtime we have a story, song, I love you's and say we'll race to the morning.   

There is also professional help out there.  Behaviour consultants can teach parents the specific strategies for behaviour modification and give in-home support to model the strategies.  There are some behaviours (ie. self-injury, extreme agression, eating inedible objects (Pica)) that parents may not be equipped to deal with.  If you need help, it's important to ask.  Start with the doctor, when it comes to young children they need to be aware of any developmental issue, and move forward from there.

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