Every parent must negotiate a minefield of contradictory parenting practices every day. "Remember," says nanny Anna Lussenburg of Calgary, Alberta, "we've been on this planet some 160,000 years and although things change, much remains the same. You've got instincts for a reason." Trust them.Photo: Black Jake/iStockphoto
Children need both love and leadership. "They look to you to provide direction and clear expectations for their behaviour," reminds Lussenburg. "If you negotiate constantly, change your expectations or look to them as to what to do next then they'll feel unsafe.... When any child feels unsafe they will ramp up their behavior to get you to take control of the situation and make them feel secure."Photo: Lost in bids/iStockphoto
If you're providing feedback about a negative behaviour, it’s extremely important to be behaviour-specific with your language. In a firm but calm tone, label their exact behaviour as unacceptable, tell them why and provide an alternative solution or allow them to problem-solve. For example: “You do not use your hands to hit. Hitting hurts people's bodies and feelings. You can ask your friend for that toy using your words.”Photo: skynesher/iStockphoto
"It's become normal for parents to spend their days entertaining their children," says Lussenburg. "The truth is, children thrive when they are part of life and not the focus of it." She suggests taking kids on errands and involving them in day-to-day life.
"I see parents spending their days doing what they think their child wants rather than what they need to do for the family as a whole... [It] actually the last thing a child needs. Kids are hard-wired to watch, imitate and play alongside you." So go on and grab the grocery cart.
Even when behaviour escalates and tension is high, follow-through on what you say. When reality TV star Supernanny says, “It’s bedtime” and the child does not listen the first time, she calmly guides the child to his or her bed. No negotiation.
Parents on the show turn to Supernanny when a family dynamic isn't working. Their kids are usually controlling the parents’ behaviour in the home, while the parents display little confidence or are inconsistent. So Supernanny shows them how to take charge of the situation. You can do the same.
When you give your child praise be specific. "Behaviour-specific language is important because it communicates exactly what the child did and why it is meaningful," says Malachowski. "Children develop a healthy self-esteem by feeling good about their accomplishments and support and love you provide to them."Photo: Fertnig/iStockphoto
Get kids involved with chores. This teaches your kids that they can contribute to the household and creates opportunities for them to be rewarded for positive behaviour.
A calendar posted on the refrigerator could be a simple place to develop a plan. Giving your children meaningful roles empowers them and makes them feel important. Get your three-year-old to rinse the dishes in a sink of warm water. Older children can tidy, set the table or match socks. Get creative.
Reward charts and lists of rules may or may not work for your family. "The important thing to remember," says Malachowski, "is that external rewards like toys, allowance, special foods and activities can motivate children and sustain behaviour only temporarily. If you choose to use reward systems, it is important to make a plan to fade them out, so children may begin to find certain behaviours self-reinforcing."
Instead, post a visual list of what is expected of them every day, like getting dressed, making their bed, brushing their teeth. This will instill confidence and independence.
"It's easy to forget about the goal when you’re weighed down with diapers and diaper bags...and you haven’t had a good sleep for a year," jokes Lussenburg. Don't stress about milestones. Teething will pass. Instead, focus your energy on the boy or girl you are shaping today.
Don't forget to just let loose and have fun. Fly a kite. Build a robot. Skip down the street. These are some of the sweetest moments of your life.Photo: Giorgio Magini/iStockphoto
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