Recently, I attended a parenting course; I had assumed being a mother of 3 I already knew everything there was to know on being a parent – oh how wrong I was!
The course really was an eye opener. Not only did I learn about rewards, sanctions and discipline; but more importantly I learned about the mindset of a child and how to get inside their head. I learned how to support my child in the best possible way. The mum teaching the course had older kids than me so I also learned about what to expect in the future and the nightmares to come!
Here’s my top 10 things to AVOID!
1) Forgetting your child is a little person: Growing up, what I wanted or thought wasn’t really seen as important. That’s not because my parents didn’t love me, but because they forgot I felt many of the same emotions they did. They were the parents and their thoughts mattered. They forgot what it was like to be a child. The same stuff that makes you happy, makes them happy. The same factors that stress you, stress them. Being a child doesn’t come without difficulties!
2) Lack of empathy: put yourself in your child’s shoes and try to see the world from their perspective. When they come to you upset or afraid, don’t brush off their fears; it’s real to them. We make children feel valued and validated when we empathize with them even if we don’t agree with their views. This promotes confidence and mental wellness.
3) Age appropriate expectations: – not giving them enough responsibilities. Doing everything for a child only holds them back. It can make them lazy and does not teach them independence. Are they old enough to try brushing their own teeth? Then let them! You can still stand by them and brush the teeth again if necessary.
It’s great you want to pamper your little ones, but assigning chores helps with their social development.The last thing you want to do is raise a child who goes out in the world unable to take care of themselves. Giving age appropriate chores for example, does not ruin childhood. Many children want to help out but we hold them back. Messes can be tidied up and children will make mistakes but you are aiding in their learning when you show you trust them.
4) Giving children too many responsibilities: If you expect too much of your child you can end up overburdening them. There are certain things children should be able to do at each age to be able to develop efficiently in the social area. This starts from as young as 0!
Every child is different of course, and the main thing is knowing your child and what they can handle. But there are guidelines which are useful to look at. For example, you wouldn’t expect a 4 year old to go to the shops on their own! When my daughter was 10 she was making me coffee but I can’t say I would trust my son because of how unaware he can be in the kitchen (although that may just be my own mummy fears!).
Judge each child individually and don’t expect the same from each straight away. All too often, we worry about the academic development of our child and neglect the social and emotional, but all are crucial for a well rounded child.
5) Labelling: how do you feel when you are labelled? What does it do for your confidence? You can bet your bottom dollar your child feels exactly the same way even if they don’t show it. Kids can withdraw when they are hurt just like adults or even become defiant and seemingly not care. It’s not true. We all feel pain and little ears are always open. You aren’t helping their confidence and you’re teaching them it’s not OK to be themselves or different.
The labels we give, can sometimes originate because our child is the opposite of us. A very active, outdoorsy parent may label a child who prefers being at home as lazy. A child who is more creative rather than academic may be labelled a daydreamer. Children often live up to their labels in a self-fulfilling prophecy way. This can be true of labels that we don’t think are damaging but can be.
Telling people a child is ‘the shy one’ may make them feel like they can’t speak up due to expectations. The girl labelled as ‘pretty’ may grow up vain only thinking physical looks matter. The ‘clever’ child may feel pressurised to always be first in everything which isn’t possible. Finally the child labelled as useless may feel there is no point trying as they will never be good enough. Accept your child for who they are and praise them for their qualities rather than gifts such as being kind or thoughtful etc.
6) Not thinking before we speak: It’s funny how many of us accuse our children of this, and yet all too often we are guilty of the same thing! Words once spoken, are impossible to take back. We don’t know what will leave a lasting impression on our children and we really need to teach by example. We need to take blame out of our statements especially the requests. Instead of saying “You don’t respect me, you’re so rude” Try, “I don’t think you meant to, but your words really hurt me just then and didn’t make me feel special.” It’s all about turning the negative statements in to encouraging positive ones. “I” statements are powerful and take the blame out of a sentence as they refer to how you feel or what you want rather than pointing at the other person.
7) Criticism: it’s important to note that there is a difference between constructive criticism and criticism. Constructive criticism is as the name suggests, it guides and helps one improve. Criticism however, just blames.
When your child comes home from school with a B and you say “That’s good but an A would have been better” you demoralize them. You have to word your sentences cleverly. “That’s great! I can see you worked so hard and I know you don’t always find it easy in math. Shall we continue working hard and try to beat your score and get an A?” The child feels validated and hopeful just by you changing the way you phrase things.
This isn’t limited to academics. You can use this method for anything. Instead of saying: “I said tidy up! This isn’t what I call tidy, look at how you have put the books away!” Try: “I can see what a wonderful job you have done tidying up, well done! Do you want to help me sort out the books now?” Kindness and patience go a long way!
8) Lack of praise/giving praise for the wrong reason: We touched on this earlier. There are 2 types of praise: praise for doing and praise for being. When we give the wrong type of praise it’s usually the second type. If you praise a child for being clever, the day they don’t meet your expectations you would have stripped them of that. Instead praise them for who they are. kind; funny; thoughtful; hardworking are a few examples. This is praise for being.
Praise for doing is praising them for things they have done like sharing their toys or cleaning up etc. You should praise your child every day for both doing and being. Sometimes we get so caught up in our busy lives that we forget our children need nurturing daily, like a plant. The more you practice it, the easier it gets!
9) Not giving your full attention: No-one knows more than me how impossible that feels when you have 3 kids (1 being a toddler) running around and you’re the only adult around for miles. There’s housework to be done: the dishes and cleaning and cooking, the little one needs a nappy change or a feed and all of a sudden your eldest comes in wanting to talk about the great story they have written or their day at school. What do you do?! My belief was always that the youngest child took priority and I had to take care of their needs first.
I would tell my daughter to come back later and pretend I hadn’t seen her enthusiasm drop. She wouldn’t want to talk later and it would depress me. It’s even harder when two or more kids want to share something with you.
My course coordinator gave me some brilliant advice. She told me I should tell the kids to keep their thoughts in their heads and physically hold on to it (by holding their heads) for just a second, if I really couldn’t listen straight away. She told me to tell the kids to take it in turns each day to speak first then swap over. They could play ‘rock, paper, scissors’ to see who went first.
She also said if the little one was safe she could wait for 5 minutes whilst I listened to the older kids. This really sets them up for the rest of the day. It makes them feel heard and appreciated and gives them a sense of worth. It’s not nice thinking no-one cares how your day went.
When you give your attention it’s important to leave what you’re doing for the moment and go to the child. Make eye contact and show them you are really listening to them. Ask them questions to show you’re taking it in and comment where necessary; like, for pictures. Don’t forget empathy for those hard days at school!
10) Not maintaining boundaries: Children will always test their limits, heck, even adults do it! This is why it is so important you are consistent in your parenting. Everyone needs to be on the same page. If your child sees you always react in the same way to something (fairly) they will learn their actions have consequences and will know where they stand. This leads to them feeling safe; secure and happier.
Remembering everything can be tough and that’s why family rules are brilliant. You can sit down with your family and come up together with a list of rules you must all stick by. 5 rules is a good length as it’s not too many. Then come up with rewards for following the rules and also sanctions for disobeying them. One rule we use in my family that the kids came up with is: “Do ask before you borrow something.” It’s important to use reinforcing positive words like ‘do’ rather than ‘don’t’ (all too often we forget to tell our children what we want them to do. We normally tell them what not to do.).
The reward is to be able to borrow the item again and the sanction is to not be able to borrow it for a week. The rewards don’t have to be costly gifts! Once you have your rules put them up where they can be easily seen. It’s then up to you to maintain them!
I promise you if you can just follow these tips then you will have a happier and more positive parenting experience and so will the kids!