This is part four of a four part series on Positive Discipline (or positive parenting). For the past few weeks we have focused on a few key areas of positive discipline. So far we have discussed the importance of conducting self-evaluations, providing structure and limits, and praise and rewards. Please feel free to send questions in the comment form if you are looking for more specific information.
We’ve covered a lot of positive parenting strategies over the past few weeks. We’ve talked about evaluating our own reactions, providing adequate structure and establishing limits, offering frequent praise for positive behaviors, and using rewards to help with specific behaviors. Now it’s time to put it all together by focusing on long-term goals.
In my opinion, parenting is the best job around. It’s fun, exciting, action packed, and miraculous. Watching my kids learn and grow brings me more happiness than I can even describe. But that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy. All children are different, with different needs and different interests. Life is busy. Parenting can be hard at times. It can be exhausting.
I try to stay focused on the best parts of parenting, even on a day when the kids are horribly sick and won’t stop crying. I try to take a deep breath and envision a better day when I need to get through a long one. I completely understand when moms are overtired and out of patience. It can happen in the blink of an eye.
But lately, it seems like parenthood is being described as a chore. That busy mornings, school drop offs and pick ups, lunches, dinners, play dates, and sports are all just part of this enormous chore that eats away at the “free time” that moms should be enjoying.
I encourage you to try to avoid thinking of parenting as a chore. Yes, there are meals to prepare, errands to run, and carpools to drive. But these incredible little beings that need so much from us right now deserve better than to be thought of as a series of chores. They deserve our attention. They deserve to be loved and played with and appreciated. They deserve to be taught and respected so that they will grow into independent thinkers who care about others and work hard to achieve their goals.
They can’t do it without us. So let’s stop thinking of parenting as a chore and start helping our kids move toward independence with a few simple strategies:
Empower good decision making: It can be hard to sit back and watch as your child struggles to make an important decision, but allowing them freedom to work through these choices (with you by their side for support and help when they ask) gives them the self-confidence to continue to make positive choices. If we rush to fix everything for them, a pattern of learned helplessness can develop. If we stand quietly by their sides and provide guidance when needed, they can learn to think for themselves. It’s a beautiful thing. Empower them often.
Encourage individuality: Every child is different. Personalities begin to emerge within weeks, and they develop their own likes and interests based on their experiences and their needs. Allow them the flexibility to be themselves. Recognize their strengths. They don’t have to play baseball because daddy was once an athlete or love acting because mommy was always the star of the high school play. It sounds simple, yet often parents guide their children toward certain sports or interests because that’s what they know. I shocked my parents when I declared, at age 15, that I wanted to be a psychotherapist. But they stood by and cheered when I got my BA in psychology and again when I earned my MSW. They allowed me to freedom to be me. Give your child the gift of individuality and watch him thrive.
Teach balance: In an overscheduled world where kids only stop moving to play a video game, or only stop playing that video game to suffer through soccer practice, learning to balance all areas of life is an important skill. Choose one or two after school activities at a time. Schedule one or two play dates per week. Factor in family time. And please, place limits on TV, computer time, iPads and all other igadgets, and social networking sites. Teach your kids how to enjoy a little bit of everything, and how to unwind without the use of electronics. Yes, Borders is closed for business. But books are still available.
Open communication: Kids need to be able to talk to their parents without judgment. Keep an open line of communication when your kids come to you with problems, big or small. Stop what you’re doing and really listen. Provide advice that is useful to them and help them put that advice into practice. Be there for them.
Be an active parent: It always amazes me that parents are so surprised when they see me (or my husband) actively playing with our kids at the park. The kids love when we play hide and seek, duck duck goose, and red light/green light to name a few. The other kids at the park love it too. They all ask to join in. Children thrive when they are closely connected to their parents. Children use play as their primary method of learning and connecting. Get into the action and play with your kids. I can already hear the arguments coming (I’ve heard them all before), “kids don’t need to be entertained!” No, they don’t. But they do need to feel connected to their parents, and playing with them forges those connections.
Using positive discipline isn’t just about discipline. It’s about laying the groundwork for close, trusting relationships so that our children can grow up self-confident and become independent thinkers.
What positive parenting strategies will you use along your journey?
Katie is a Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist/Parenting Consultant in Los Angeles, CA. She has a four year old daughter, two year old son, and a rock and roll husband who makes her life complete. Katie has a parenting advice blog at http://practicalkatie.com/and can also be found on Twitter.