By Dee Braun
I received a letter the other day from an exasperated mom of a 20-month old and it struck a chord in me. As a mother of six (4 boys, 2 girls) I’ve been there, done that – and about pulled my hair out during the process.
To be honest, the golden rules of motherhood that I’ve learned are VERY simple.
1) you listen – to what he’s thinking and feeling and then adjust your comments, advice, discipline and tactics accordingly. This is crucial to start now because as they get older, that listening can save their lives, literally
2) you pay attention – to how he acts, what he’s doing, his moods, his friends, his likes, his dislikes, the looks on his face, the words ‘behind the words’ when he’s upset. I swear if more parents actually PAID ATTENTION to their children, we wouldn’t have the teen crises we have today.
Paying attention isn’t just ‘watching’ a child – it’s truly trying to learn all you can about the child and then noticing the little things – the moods, changes in behavior, changes in friends, changes in likes and dislikes, changes in even facial expressions. How can a parent ever know how to handle a crisis with a child whom she doesn’t even really know?
3) set reasonable boundaries and stick to them – if your child has a problem with temper tantrums in the grocery store check-out line, then choose that to work on this week.
Take him to the store every day if you have to, and tell him beforehand what he will get and what he will not. “Mommy needs to go to the store for paper towels, we are not buying candy for you today. If you start begging and crying, you will have a 10 minute timeout when we get home.”
And then stick to it. Even if it takes 2 hours to get him to sit still in time out for 10 straight minutes. Even if it is in middle of Blues Clues. With a child 3 or under, I’d probably do 5 minutes (that’s a looooong time to a toddler!).
But what I did with my kids is every time they said a word, moved their hineys off the chair or screeched, the clock started over. I used a simple kitchen timer and put it where they could see it and count down with it. Oh, and timing doesn’t start until protestations and crying stops. This same principle works on older children.
You simply adjust the method behind the disciplinary action to fit the age of the child. With my teens, it’s a cell phone. They lose it for one week – but if they beg, or even ask for it back, I tack on another day.
4) don’t Sweat the small stuff – nobody should truly want a perfect child. A perfect child who never acts up, never throws a tantrum, never makes a mistake, always sits still, is a child who is stuffing their emotions and trying to live according to what he thinks everyone else wants.
What kind of person does that child become as an adult? One without original ideas, or at least a fear of acting upon and/or sharing any original ideas he may have. He’ll be an adult who cares more about what everyone else thinks than what he wants or believes is good for him.
And, he’ll be a child who never has the strength of self to test boundaries, and boundaries should always be tested – it is how we grow, learn, create and invent in this world. In other words, you’ll be raising a neurotic future adult.
What does my child need to learn?
My advice? Make a list of the most important things your child needs to learn – the most important social boundaries, personal boundaries, etc. And then work on those one at a time. If he throws a fit in public, so what? Remove him from the situation and give him a time out and know he’s normal – which is a very good thing.
5) don’t try and shove a round peg into a square hole – one of the biggest crimes in our schools, in my opinion, is the lack of treating children as independent-thinking, unique individuals. All children are not the same – and thank God for that!
They don’t learn the same, they don’t think they same, they don’t feel the same and they don’t see the people and world around them the same. So why do we think we can teach them the same – whether it’s at home or at school? We can’t.
And this goes back up to number 2 – paying attention. As you grow to know your child more – and believe me, at the toddler stage a child changes daily – you’ll understand how better to teach them the lessons they need to learn.
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See Also Parenting Articles by Dr. Randy Cale at www.TerrificParenting.com