With all of the parenting advice out there, I’ll just bet that some of you are looking for a nuts and bolts K.I.S.S. approach. Personally, I have gotten hours upon hours of advice from people (mostly solicited). There are five main themes which popped up over and over again. Each one of these has many sub-categories of course, but as issues come up, it should be fairly simple to put them into the context of one or more of these overlying themes.
Managing Your Expectations
As parents we expect a lot from our children. We expect them to do good in school, to read by the time they’re two years old and to be kind and respectful at ALL times. The nature of being a child isn’t that clear-cut though. Children are learning about their life in just about every conceivable context. Socially, kids are pushing limits with their parents as well as their peers from the time they are old enough to crawl. Academically children have such creative minds that it can sometimes be difficult to complete a task from A to Z without incident (we all started out coloring outside the lines). When moving around, kids tend to be more link bowling balls than humming birds, so things break and the kids break and things can just get way out of hand.
A lot of you are nodding along as you read this, but ask yourselves: How did you react the last time something did not go to plan? When you do react strongly to something you have to ask yourself: Were my expectations too high? I am by no means condoning a “Success through lowered expectations” approach, I am merely suggesting a set of expectations somewhere near reality.
Now that we have been briefly introspective about our expectations of our children, we can talk about setting rules. Rules are an interesting concept as they have the ability to shape social groups greatly. Rules can create everything from an Orwellian society to (some still believe) a Utopian society. What type of society do you want in your house? You can enforce rules from the time your child is an infant. When she pulls your hair, you can explain that hair pulling hurts you and if she does not stop, put her down and explain the rule again.
It is important that both parental units (Dads and Moms) are consistent in applying the rules of the house. If your children receive mixed signals about one limitation they are more likely to not follow other rules. As parents we get tired, and as a parent of twins, you’ll find no-one more sympathetic than I. That being said, the rules of the house must be enforced consistently no matter what your state of mind. Otherwise your child will learn to only ask for things when you’re sleepy… no one wants that.
It is also important to be consistent with your praise. Letting kids know when they are doing a good job often will raise their self-esteem and make them want to share every one of their accomplishments with you.
Getting Calm (Mad)
Reacting emotionally is one of the biggest mistakes that parents make. I have been guilty of this too (Why is it that babies always wait until you’re 2 minutes away from finishing something to completely lose their minds?). It is important to recognize when you are reacting emotionally and know how to reverse this process. Mantra’s help me, but use any tools that you’re comfortable with. The outcome of this exercise should be to never react in a way that scares your child or makes her feel bad about herself.
This concept is the easiest to understand and the hardest to implement. These days every household is a two income household with both parents working. It can be very difficult to feel like you are involved in your children’s lives. The term “quality time” was invented for just this reason. When you are home and with your children, make sure you are awake and engaged. If this requires another cup of coffee on the way home then so be it. Spending time with your children is rewarding to all of you, so if you completely ignore everything else I’ve written in this post, please heed this point.
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