Being Proactive as a Parent
This is kind of a precursor to discipline. I think the more proactive we can be, the less we will find ourselves trying to control our children's behavior. Of course there are always times when kid's will misbehave, but even then using a proactive step might avoid more serious disciplinary measures. Related Post:Proactive Parenting
What is being proactive as a parent? You could say it's focusing on the positive, but also it's about building a relationship where your child can really feel your love, and that you care deeply about them, and respect them. Of course we love our children, but they don't always appreciate that or feel it the way we think they should. So here are a few tips that I've found very helpful in building a positive relationship with my children.
10 Top Tips for Proactive Parenting:
1. Model The Behavior You Expect - This might seem obvious, but how many times have you caught yourself doing something you wouldn't want your kids to do? It can even happen by accident, but remember that your kid's are always learning their standards by what you do. I once accidental left the grocery store without paying for a drink I had opened and drank in the store. One of the kids noticed and pointed it out when we got to the car. Do I overlook it, just keep going? It was a crucial moment for teaching a lesson so I went back in the store with my kids, to pay for it. The manager was very impressed and thanked me, and I think that made a real impression on my kids.
2. Make Expectations Clear - Instead of "be good", explain what you would like them to do. Instead of "don't do this or that", explain what they "can do". Of course sometimes we have to say "don't" or "no", but the point is to make sure your kids understand the positive behavior you expect. Simple information statements like these - "I expect you to clean up your room before you go to your friends house." or "If you go out to play now I expect you to get your homework done after dinner."- will help avoid nagging and arguments later. Kids really do want to take responsibility for themselves, and please their parents, but sometimes they forget how to do that.
3. Focus On Good Behavior - "Look how happy little sister is because you shared your toys with her!" Try to catch them being good and let them know why it's good. When my youngest was only 4 we were shopping one day and saw a little boy trying to reach the free cookie jar. I asked him if he wanted help and he said yes, so I lifted him up to get the cookie from the jar. Afterward my little 4 year old said, "That was very nice of you Mommy, to help that boy." If you focus on good behavior, they will too.
4. Build Communication Skills - Practice face to face, eye to eye communication. Kneel down so you are at eye level, take their hand to get their attention. Whenever possible, try not to yell from room to room or talk as you're walking away. Of course we live a hectic life and we can't always be perfect communicators, but as much as possible, try to really connect when you communicate. See the Communication tab for more tips.
5. Encouragement - Believe in your child's inner strengths, whatever they might be. In moments of frustration my mom always used to say to me, "Where there is a will, there is a way." I took this as a personal challenge to figure out how to get beyond my frustration and accomplish whatever it was I was trying to do. Giving our children too many solutions or too much sympathy can sometimes backfire. Instead, expressing your belief in their ability to learn, think creatively, find solutions and persevere, will help them believe in themselves. Related Post: Encouraging Good Behavior
6. Gratitude - "Thank you for cleaning up your room", "Thank you for doing your own laundry", "Thank you for doing your chores right away instead of putting them off until later." We may think that responsibilities should be fulfilled without question, but saying "thank you" never hurts. It causes your child to think about how their actions affect another person. You are thanking them because it relieves you of the burden of reminding, nagging, pleading, scolding or whatever would happen if they didn't do it. Children feel good when they have made their parents happy, so they are more likely to repeat good behavior when you express gratitude. Related post: Giving & Thanking
7. Find & Use Their Love Language - Have you read the book? Everyone has a love language which is how you communicate and receive love best. This is primarily an aspect of personality, but some part of it may also be due to conditioning. There are 5 love languages: Physical Touch, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service & Receiving Gifts. We all have one primary language and one or two secondary ones. If your child needs words of affirmation but you are always hugging them to show your love, they may miss the point and feel frustrated.
8. Keeping Traditions Real - Our family tradition when I was growing up was camping, 4 to 6 times a year, with 2 or 3 other families. Of course we did holidays with relatives and that sort of thing, that's important too, but I think camping was how we bonded as a family. Whatever your traditions are, fill them with love, laughter, and memorable experiences. A family game night once a week, or a family outing once a month, are beautiful ways to build the bonds of love.
9. Don't Forget To Play - As adults our minds are often preoccupied with responsibilities and pressures that prevent us from enjoying the simple things. If we don't take time to relax, play and enjoy our children's company, it can make the adult world look not so appealing to our children. Children learn through playing, and maybe there are new ways parents can learn as well. (See book above: Playful Parenting)
10. Be The Parent - You are the first authority, teacher and guide in your child's life - so believe in yourself! This parenting thing is not that easy so don't be afraid to ask for help or look for answers. At the same time, have confidence in your love for your children, and that you are doing the best you can. Don't expect yourself to be perfect, don't expect your kids to be perfect, just learn as you go and have confidence in what you do know.