So you want to be a… SUUUUUPER PAREEEEEEEENT [echoing booming voice]. Congratulations on having an aspiration. Now let’s get real. That mom or dad you see with the “perfect” kids at the park were not so together the night before when bedtime turned into a scene worthy of calling in a certain reality show for assistance. We all have some work to do in the parenting department… and we always will. But before you turn in your cape in despair, read on and discover five simple do’s and don’ts that can help you achieve a little time in the coveted spandex suit.
DON’T – MAKE THREATS: “If you do that again, I’ll…” You’ll what? Your kids know you’re not serious. You are only damaging your credibility with those empty threats. And, it’s likely they are even laughing at you behind that angelic face. If you are not going to follow through on a statement, don’t say it in the first place. Consequences for behavior should already be laid out for your kids so there is no need to keep saying it in the form of hollow threats over and over.
DO – SAY WHAT YOU MEAN: If you want your children to believe what you say, then say what mean and mean what you say. If you want to give them a warning, ask them once to correct their behavior, then immediately follow through with the consequences if they don’t. Put some substance on your words and your kids are less likely to ignore them.
DON’T – PUT THEM DOWN: Words hurt. Listen to how you speak to your kids. Do you use phrases like “What’s wrong with you?” “You make me so mad…” “I can’t believe you did that!” or something similar? These kinds of statement are sending the wrong messages and are born out of frustration and not discipline. The fact is that kids are going to make bad decisions and make mistakes. It’s time to stopped being surprised when it happens and just learn how to deal with it when they do.
DO – DEVELOP POSITIVE PHRASES: In the heat of the moment, words are spoken which are first to mind. For that reason you need to develop some positive alternatives that you can draw from when you are feeling angry or frustrated with your child. Phrases such as “Do you wish you had made a better choice there?” “I think we better talk about this one.” “How could you have done that differently?” or whatever suits your personality as a parent. The difference is that that you are teaching your child to think through what happened and find a better choice for the next time.
DON’T – YELL OR LOSE YOUR TEMPER: When you yell, scream, or lose control, your kids no longer hear your words. All they hear is anger and now they are processing that instead of what you are shouting at them. It raises their anxiety and whatever lesson, however brilliant, that you might be spewing has been completely lost in the noise. It’s ineffective and it will leave YOU feeling stressed out.
DO – MODEL SELF CONTROL: The bottom line is your anger is irrelevant. Kids can SEE you are angry, frustrated, or annoyed without having to witness you coming unglued. It is not a bad thing for them to see that you are having emotions. However, this is your opportunity to model the kind of behavior that you want your children to use when they have those feelings. Do you want them to lose their temper with their little sister when she does something to make them angry? Probably not. Most parents would agree that they want to see their children learn conflict resolution skills – so that begins with you SHOWING them it in action.
DON’T – BE A RESCUER: You know who you are… the parent who swoops down and saves little Johnny every time he makes a mistake. He forgets his lunch and you bring it to him. He gets in trouble at school and you insist to the Administrator there must be some kind of mistake. He gets benched at soccer and you have words with the coach. I have a friend who fired a 26 year old man for missing days without calling in and being chronically late to work. His mother called later that day to demand an explanation. There is no nice way to tell you this. If you are a rescuer – Butt Out! Little Johnny is one day going to spread his wings and fly into this cold cruel world and if you keep rescuing him he will not make it.
DO – PROTECT AND SUPPORT: Natural consequences provide some of life’s best lessons. If you interfere, you have robbed your child of the experience. It is much better than you allow minor consequences to happen, so that your child will become a responsible and careful adult. If he forgets his lunch, let him go hungry for one day. Chances are the hunger pains will be the only lesson he needs and he will not likely forget it again…for awhile anyway. Introduce a new phrase into your vocabulary: “Gee, that’s a bummer, Johnny. What are you going to do?” Let them figure it out. If they are younger give two or three suggestions how you would handle it and then let them decide. If they are older, just let them decide. However, there ARE times when you must interfere to protect your children from consequences that are dangerous. Knowing when to act is the balancing act that we must all learn as parents.
DON’T – SHOOT FROM THE HIP: So many parents just deal with kid issues as they come. They have no real plan or strategy and consequences are usually dealt on whim and during emotional duress. If you operated like this on your job you’d probably get fired.
DO – DEVELOP A PLAN FOR EVERYTHING: Yes, it will be a bit of work to get implemented but it’s an investment in your children and in your own sanity. If you have a plan you will easily know how to handle almost every situation. No plan is a perfect plan for every child. Every child is unique and special. You need a customized plan. Go ahead and read all the parenting books – then put them back on the shelf while you create a plan especially for your family.