There are days where I feel like I have this parenting thing under my belt...and then there are days where it just completely gets the best of me. Ironically, those days actually have very little to do with my children and are more a product of outside stressors wearing on my patience, or a severe lack of sleep. Parenting can be tough, it can be messy, and it can be hard. In my studies of psychology in graduate school, I learned about being an authoritative parent, attachment parenting, and positive parenting. Given all of my research, I should have the appropriate knowledge to be a stellar parent right? If only it were that easy. Often, like children, we know WHAT we should do but aren't quite sure exactly HOW to do it. For kids, we make checklists, read books, and explain things until we are blue in the face. For myself, I have set 10 goals for how I can become a more positive and present parent, and I would like to share them with you here. I don't like to write about what you 'should' do as a parent, because as we know, what works for one child may not work for another. However, some of the best current research in psychology tells us that by engaging in a more positive style of parenting we can empower our children and make them WANT to behave rather than guilt or shame them into doing so. As parents, we have so much control. We have the ability to choose how we speak to our children, what we expose them to, and how we react to their actions. So here are my 10 ways you can become more positive and present with your own children.
1. Let Your Best Be Good Enough. Be satisfied with your best. A happier you will make you a better parent. Let go of the guilt for all of the things you feel you could have done better, and put your best foot forward. You are a mirror for your child, trust me, your happiness will be infectious.
2. Make More Eye Contact. In a technological, busy, and scheduled world, our attention is pulled in many different directions. When having a conversation with your child, take the time to pause what you are doing and make eye contact. They will appreciate the attention and will feel heard.
3. Speak Calmly, Even When You Want To Explode. Breathe. Taking a deep breath is so powerful. The next time you see a piece of art lovingly scribbled on your living room wall, breathe. You will be able to react much better after a breath (or two).
4. Leave Some Time Unscheduled. If you are a planner, schedule downtime. When looking at your week, make sure there is time built in to sit on the floor and play with your child, or have a conversation with them.
5. Hold Your Children. Babywear, snuggle, cuddle on the couch, co-sleep, whatever 'holding' means to you, do it. Touch is an amazingly powerful tool that will deepen the connection between you and your child.
6. Use Positive Self-Talk. Avoid talking negatively about yourself in front of your children. It's easy to look in the mirror and breathe a sigh of disgust or quip that these pants make you look fat. Rather, model a positive self-esteem for your children.
7. Emulate Kindness. Avoid relying on the phrase "do as I say, not as I do", rather have the mindset of "see what I do, and do it too." Modeling is one of our most impactful methods of teaching. Hold the door open for others, thank people, offer a helping hand. I guarantee your children will notice.
8. Use Your Connection as Motivation. Much like modeling, your love is a powerful tool. Children want to please us because they love us. Let that be your goal. There is no need to shame or guilt a child into doing something. Likewise, when your child does make a mistake, always remind them that despite the choices they make, you will always love them.
9. Increase Your Child's Self-Esteem. Be responsive and attentive. Starting with babyhood, children who feel that they have the power to get a parent's attention and then get what they need/want will feel confident and empowered. Providing attention and meeting the needs of your child is not spoiling them. It is teaching them how to express themselves and will give them the confidence to do so in the future.
10. Reinforce the Positive. Catch the good. When you focus on bringing attention to all of the positive things your child does rather than the negative, you will be surprised at how much 'good' you notice. When playing, praise how nicely they are sharing or using an inside voice. This is an incredibly effective discipline tool that does not involve the need to yell or shame the child.
So here's to the never-ending journey of becoming a better parent, we are all in this together!