Here are some tips I laid out in a presentation I did for HIPPY-
Meet them where they are at
Intellectually: Kids are getting more and more imaginative- creative play, fear of monsters, playing more socially- starting sports/ school, vocabulary is momentously expanding, and they have begun to understand time.
Physically: They’ve increased agility, hand eye coordination, and frustration now with understanding more of the world and not yet being able to have their body keep up with their imaginations.
Emotionally: They are experiencing temper tantrums which are like a neurotransmitter storm going off in their brain. It’s not manipulative, it’s not something they learned to do necessarily, but again, that frustration with matching emotions to appropriate levels of behavior. They are only just learning how to navigate the differences between fantasy and reality, and dabbling with humor/ sarcasm, so you see them trying out things just to test your reaction and its appropriateness for the situation.
Sometimes my children work through problems like me and I totally get it. Other times, they work through things like my husband and I’m left completely baffled. I think this is because our personalities are determined by our DNA (in part) before we are even born- that serotonin, dopamine drip is set up to work similarly to mom or dad. This is why depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, addiction… all of these things are/can be hereditary.
- Validate your kids.
-Take their emotions seriously. You may know better, but if you act condescendingly to your child, that’s how they will learn to deal with others. This is their reality, it’s all they know, and the world is scary and still somewhat unpredictable- teach them empathy.
- Respect your child’s biology.
-Never make jokes or jeers about your partner or your child’s biological parent. That’s their DNA, you’re making them feel insulted about. Instead, try to explain that perhaps they do have traits like their parent in a matter-of-fact kind of way. Making it known (without judgement) helps a child to learn that they are not alone, they are not uniquely difficult, and try to help them find the positives of their personality.
- Model an appropriate hierarchy in your household.
-There are traditional relationships and symmetrical relationships. Both are fine, but in both, the parents are above the children. They need parents; They have plenty of friends. If you want to avoid being too controlling or bossy, treat them like a respected individual but do not indulge them or treat them like a best friend. You can come down to their level, they cannot come up to yours.
- Teach them to apologize.
-Model this for them by apologizing to them, too.
There are two parts to an apology: I’m sorry. And- Can you forgive me? See, apologies can still leave the victim feeling unvalidated. “What?! I said I was sorry!! What more do you want from me??” Teach your children to ask another for their forgiveness- letting the victim have a say in it as well, also encouraging and validating the attempt to apologize. Not only that- but teaching them to forgive! This is great conflict resolution skills. Speaking of which- its ok to argue and cry in front of your children. Keep it appropriate- no hitting or screaming or cursing…but DO give your kids a chance to see how to manage conflict.
- Allow for as many natural consequences as possible.
Ex: your child steps on a toy and hurts their foot- there it is! Natural consequences- “It doesn’t feel good does it? Maybe you should pick up your toys so you don’t get hurt.” Child doesn’t want to eat dinner? They claim they are hungry at bedtime. “Hm, it doesn’t feel very good to go to bed hungry, huh? Maybe you should eat with us at dinner time.” Trust me, this will be a blessing for the teenage years when they don’t want to listen to you anyway. Teach them to identify the natural consequences, so they don’t always have to be looking to you for guidance/reprimanding.
– Make each day relatively predictable such as bedtime: bath-pajamas-brush teeth- read a story-say a prayer-kisses- and set the clock. (Deklan has a clock which turns blue for night time and yellow for when it’s O.K. to get up. You can find it here on amazon: “Tot Clock”
-Don’t make too many exceptions to the rules which may confuse them- like my son who always wants candy for breakfast. I say no, and explain that candy isn’t healthy to eat for breakfast, but then there have been times that I’ve given him yogurt with a few M&Ms on top, or chocolate chip pancakes. Sometimes, I get lazy but I have to be aware that this may confuse him, and then make strides to explain the exceptions to the rule/ or at least be understanding as to why he’d feel confused about that.
- Decision Making- Healthy choices
-This tip builds confidence, but still gives them a say in what they would like to see happen. Give them choices which are both beneficial to you and your child. For example:
“Do you want peas or carrots with your dinner?” Do you want to nap before or after you have lunch?” Google the book Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster W. Cline for more examples.
- Teach them limits/ boundaries:
-Often this subject comes up around the topic of screen-time, and sugar. Just like you would a baby, try to set up your child’s environment as best you can so that they can’t make mistakes like (my child) gets up at 5 a.m. to play Ipad… Instead, we put those things away to where he can’t access them until we are up to supervise him. Another helpful rule we implement- “No tablet after dinner.” This tells him, it’s time to wind down… rest your eyes from the lovely blue light….
- Explain WHY? As much as possible
-Don’t overuse the word NO. “No” should mean- absolutely not. “Stop.” should mean that’s the end of this. Also, yelling (if possible) should be kept as a last resort. If you sound loud all the time over everything, how will they know when this time you REALLY mean it?
Alternatives to the “soft” no: I don’t think so, Not this time…, maybe later…, just a minute… these are wishy washy- which is fine- just be intentional
-STOP alternatives: Encourage them on what TO do instead- “Use your words, keep your hands to yourself.”
Don’t simply teach your child to OBEY, but help them to understand so they can make healthy decisions even when you aren’t around.
- Encourage them.
-Be specific as to what impresses you. “That was really nice of you to help your sister…” or “Thank you for being patient”
When I want my son to truly break a habit I give him stickers for every good thing he does and I’m GENEROUS with them. It helps me calm down and see that he IS a good kid and I am having a positive effect on him. Also, it allows him to be encouraged for even the small things that maybe I take for granted. This helps him stay motivated in a store, helps him focus on the positives… etc.
Remember: There is no single right or wrong way to raise your child, and even I don’t do this correctly 100% of the time, but that’s a part of being human and teaching your child to manage the real world. Good Luck out there… we all wish there was an instruction manual.