Monday, April 16, 2012

Parent's Tool Kit

Choosing Your Battles

You probably sometimes ask your kids, "Is this worth fighting over?" Sometimes we also need to ask ourselves that as parents, before we get into a habit of ongoing battles with our kid's over the little stuff. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you should just give up and let them do everything their way, but there are other solutions besides nagging and heated arguments.

Thinking of yourself as a teacher is helpful, you are teaching your kids how to live respectfully in relation to others. So the first thing is to be a good role model, the second thing is to make rules and expectations clear, and the third thing is to create a system in which children can perform well. This is where rewards and consequences come in handy, but also make learning enjoyable and help them see the value of what they are
learning, and allow mistakes to be part of the process rather than something to be feared.

I learned a lot from my son's kindergarten teacher. When she wanted the kid's to be quiet and pay attention she  would whisper instead of yell. She used a quiet look of disapproval and a warning chart system, along with smiles and a rewards chart system. She was very kind, helpful, and happy to get to know and work with each child's unique character. She could be comforting, but never a push over; you could say she was "practically perfect in every way".

So what does this have to do with choosing your battles? The home is the child's first school, and parents are a child's first teacher. Children really do want to please their parents but they need a system that works for them. If they feel overwhelmed by too many demands they will become defensive. If expectations are not clear they will become confused and feisty. If parents are inconsistent, kids will learn to push buttons to see what they can get away with. All of this is what leads to those battles about every little thing.

For parents it is really best to reserve our powers of persuasion and argument for the most important issues, the things you value most. At some point you may need to stand your ground on things like family values, attitudes and ethical and moral behavior. You will be much more persuasive if your kids value you as a mentor, or respect you as a benevolent teacher rather than a nagging irritant.

If battles become a pattern, kids will become determined to find a way to win (even if it's passive aggression, or "little miss perfect"), or they will give up and shut you out. By creating a consistent system to deal with all the little issues of daily expectations, you give your kids a chance to perform well and gain your approval. This keeps you in a respectful authority position, while also helping kids realize that their good behavior and responsibility brings benefit to themselves as well as to the family. It's a win-win without a battle.

Raising kids is not easy and some children are more difficult then others, so it really takes a lot of effort on the part of parents to figure out what works best in guiding our children while making sure they feel loved. That's why I recommend a lot of books, because non of us had perfect parents so there's always new and helpful parenting practices that we can learn from.

Do you choose your battles? I love comments so please feel free to share your experience.

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