The lessons your parents taught you when you were young were meant to shape your behavior as you grew. Although they might not have intended these lessons to be advice for how to best parent your own kids, I think we should revisit those things your parents told you and listen now as parents and not children.
1. “If you dont have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”
There are so many times we are frustrated with our children and we speak out of this frustration simply to hear ourselves say what we are feeling. Not only do these statements not change your child’s behavior for the good, they have potential nasty side effects. Before you know it, you have taught your child to have a “smart mouth,” say “ugly things,” or express their own frustrations in a similar way. Be careful. Stop before you say something stupid. Don’t say anything at all…(see more here).
2. “It is not what you say, it is how you say it”
This goes for every time you open your mouth to speak with your kids. It is how you ask them to do things, it is how you wake them up in the morning, it is how you praise them, it is how you correct them. You do not always have to be a bubbly, happy-go-lucky, sun-shiny clown…that is impossible and ridiculous. But, be positive, use a calm tone of voice. Stay away from ordering, punitive threats, and authoritative demands. Listen to yourself. Seriously, listen to yourself today.
3. “Clean up after yourself”
I cannot tell you how many times I see children in homes and classrooms get into things they should not because they are simply left out and are directly accessible. Parents run around telling their kids, “stop, give that back,” “I said you cannot play your video games until you are done with your homework,” or “how many times do I have to ask you to not play with that stuff?”
If you find yourself in this position, think hard about what your kids consistently get into and get them out of the way. Find a place to put the remotes, the game controllers, the iPods, the permanent markers, the favorite cookies, where you control access to them. You will thank yourself later.
4. “Chill out”
We are terrible decision makers when we are acting on emotion. We do things we should not do, we say things we should not say (see rule #1), and many times regret these behaviors. If we take the advice from our parents and take moments to “chill out,” our decisions will be more calculated and, in some cases, we will decide not to react at all (see more about doing nothing here and about “zooming out” here).
5. “Be patient”
Behavior change takes time. Your kids will change. Bad weeks are going to happen. You will be frustrated. Behaviorally speaking, there are very few things that are learned with one experience (taste aversion being one of the most famous), so be patient, pay attention and make sure you recognize the good days.
There are many times when parents come to me with a “huge problem” and will tell me what they are doing, wanting to know if they are doing things correctly. A lot of them are. It just takes time. Hang in there. (See what “normal” kids do here).
Let me know if there is something I missed…comment here or on the BBA Facebook page.