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10 Ways to Improve Your Parenting Skills Today.

Most parents today strive to be the best that they can be in so many areas, including parenting. However, we can get distracted by aspects of everyday life such as work, expectations, and the constant life demands being placed on us. Here is a quick list of ways to improve your parenting ability with hopefully very little effort.

1. Be present, get off of the cell phone

This one may feel and seem very obvious, but for many parents today it is a huge challenge when it comes to parenting.

I used to be the director of a mental health agency that oversaw therapeutic preschool and we had a sign in the front door that read. “Your child has not seen you all day and is very excited that you are here…Put your cell phone away. This is a no cell phone zone.” It is so sad that we had to have physical reminder to parents simply put their pieces of technology down and pay attention to their children.

The more we are able to make eye contact with our children and display appropriate social interactions the more they’re able to learn from us. If you prefer to have a child that only engages in technology and throws tantrums when you removed technology please continue on your devices. But most of us do not prefer to have this and therefore need to demonstrate to our children that the devices are not the most important thing in life.

2. Get down on their level and play the games they want to play

It may be a struggle for some parents to engage with their children with what they choose to do. This may mean playing Legos for 15 hours a week or getting a little muddy outside.

For myself, playing with my daughter involves getting her large bag of bows, taking out all the bows, and putting them back in the bag about 15 times in a row. Although, this is not my favorite activity to do, it is one of her favorite activities at the moment. But to be honest I can work so many positive pieces of play into it, such as fine motor skills, counting, and identifying colors, that I am fine with it. But most importantly it is a way for us to spend quality time together and for me to show her that I love her.

Playing games that your child chooses is a great way for them to not only build confidence with making choices but also for them to learn that you are able to follow their choices and love them for the choices that they make.

3. Go outdoors

I know I am posting and writing this in what seems like the dead of winter and in some states this is literally not possible given the below zero temperatures we are currently experiencing. However, I live in California and it is a crazy 61° out today in February (and you may be reading this a t a later time). Although it’s a bit chilly I will still make it a point to go outside with my daughter simply so she can enjoy the fresh air.

Many of our children spend so much time indoors be at daycare or school. Of course they should have the opportunity to go outdoors during their day, but this does not include you. Spending quality time outdoors with a parent is a fond memory that most adults have and we can strive to create positive memories such as these for our children as well. In addition to the positive memories they can create, playing outside can help them to establish healthy routines that involve plenty of physical exercise and movement.

So go outside with them and cheer them on as they ride their bike in the driveway, go on a hike, help them make mud pies, or play catch. All of these activities will greatly increase their personal development, life style choices, and confidence.

4. Do something creative with them

No matter how old your child is nurturing creativity can have wonderful positive affects on your relationship with them. Carving some time away from your daily routine and adding a creative element will not only inspire beauty, but can also help you build a bond with them and increase active communication.

Keep in mind that creative activities can be a wide range of elements. This may mean painting, making a sculpture, or cooking together. The end result is not what is important but rather the time that you spend with your child and the connections that you make.

If your creative juices are running dry check out some of my favorite creative items: water beads, kids paint kit, and kinetic sand.

The first half of my list focuses on things and aspects we can do with our children but now we are going to focus on a few things that we can do for ourselves that will greatly improve our interactions with our children.

5. Take space when you’re angry

Let’s be open and honest with one another. Life is hard and being a parent can be even harder. We are going to get angry and we are going to get frustrated. When we are emotionally triggered we are not presenting our best selves to anyone, which includes our children.

We have to remember few few key components about anger.

  • We are modeling behavior for our children. Therefore if you throw, great things, or shout when you become angry this is the exact behavior that your children will repeat.
  • Although children may not always verbalize their emotions and feelings after a parent has become angry, they may actually be very scared and threatened by your reaction, no matter how old they are.

If you’d like further information about how anger affects a child’s developing brain please watch this YouTube video.

Taking space when angry may seem like a very easy concept logically, but it takes a lot of discipline emotionally. We first need to identify that we are triggered, then communicate to those around us that we are triggered, and need to walk away from the situation, prior to having a negative anger response. Walking away from a situation prior to engaging in yelling or physical response will help you maintain control of the situation as well as yourself.

6. Monitor your use of adult language.

I meet with so many parents that are in conflict over the language that their partner uses in front of their children. When meeting with the partner I hear a lot of the same things which includes “but my child is smart enough to know that those words are appropriate for them.” Well guess what I have a newsflash for you no child is smart enough and even if you think they are they’re still going to repeat you.

Kids will repeat thing that they do not understand in attempts to process it and learn the meaning. But older kids understand the shock value of profanity and they will absolutely repeat it. It does not matter how smart you feel your child is, it is the emotional reaction they get from profanity and will therefore continue it. Keep in mind, they may not continue it in front of you because they may know that some words are not appropriate in front of YOU. However, these words will come out in front of friends and at school.

It may take time to practice and monitor the language that you use in front of your children. But it can greatly increase their success in both academic and social situations.

7. Follow through and avoid empty threats

One of the easiest ways for parents to lose their parental authority and become frustrated with their children is to provide empty threats.

Empty threats often come in the heat of the moment when we are frustrated and do not know how to respond to our children. These look like consequences that are out of proportion to the action that has taken place. Once the station is over and we are calm, we recant on the consequence because we understand that our reaction was not in proportion to the action.

However, this teaches our children that consequences don’t actually have to be followed. I highly encourage you to create a script (when your calm) and follow it. You know your child best and you know the behaviors they engage in. If you know your child is struggling with hitting create a script for it. “If you can not use nice hands with your friends you will have to stop playing for 2 minutes.”

8. Give them praise.

Praise is one of the best ways to increase positive and desirable behaviors not only in children but in adults as well. Individuals are much more likely to repeat a behavior if they have received praise for it rather than avoid a negative behavior that they received a consequence or derogatory statement from. Due to this, praise will not only increase desirable behavior but it will also help to increase your child’s self-esteem.

Many parents often struggle with giving praise to the children over the “every day things they should be doing anyway.” But giving your praise for your child completing their homework, getting to out of the house on time, or making a positive choice will not fall upon deaf ears and they will most likely continue to engage in those behaviors as well as view themselves as successful.

9. Self care

Self-care is an important aspects a parent can practice for themselves individually.

We have to think of the concept of being on an airplane to really understand it. If you ever flown you have heard your flight attendant state “in case of an emergency place your oxygen mask on yourself prior to helping others.” This is the same exact principle that we think of relating to self-care.

If you have nothing to give to yourself emotionally you will have nothing to give to those around you. However, if you take care of yourself and engage in daily self-care you will have more to give to yourself and therefore more to give to those around you, including your children.

10. Know the milestones.

If you take anything away from this post… let it be this!

I cannot tell you how many times I have met with a parent who is so frustrated over their child’s lack of progress or inability to follow directions. Once I begin to explore this a little deeper it becomes very clear that the parents expectation for their child is simply not age-appropriate.

It is very quick and easy to learn developmental milestones of your child. Click here for a quick link to a website that will show some basic aspects of milestones. If you would like to get even more information I highly recommend looking at some more detailed text such as Are my Kids on Track? or Developmental Milestone of Young Children.

Knowing your child’s milestones and what they are actually capable of will not only help reduce their frustrations in situations but will also help to reduce yours. The more you have an understanding of your child the more you were able to interact with them on an appropriate level.

5 Ways to Win at Keeping Up with the Joneses

Do you find yourself constantly comparing your life, your accomplishments, your children’s successes, and your happiness to those around you?  Have you ever caught yourself enjoying a beautiful moment and thought “I need to get a picture of this so I can post it later so everyone else can see”? Have you ever sat down at the end of the day and thought about how pleasant your day was only to log onto Facebook and see a friends post about their day and decide your day wasn’t all that pleasant by comparison. Do you look at a peer’s new car, fancy vacation photos, or picture perfect family photos and get angry? If so, you may be stuck in the “Keeping Up with the Joneses” loop. A competition that many of us struggle with and constantly strive to win. 

Here are a few ways to “win” at the Keeping Up with the Jones’s loop.

1. Stop Playing the Game 

One of the best ways to win the competition with those around you and finally mastering the keeping up with the Joneses lifestyle, it is simply not engage in it. This style of living robs us from seeing the true happiness in our lives because we continue to strive for more, even when we have enough.

Over the past two years I have had more clients mention or complain about the interactions they have with neighbors or friends relating to the competitive lifestyle and ensuring that others know they are living their best life. This can come off as small comments that often times my clients don’t realize they’re making such as I see that my “neighbor is able to do all of these things”. Or something direct like “I got her daughter‘s birthday invitation two months in advance and they were so intricate and beautiful they must’ve cost $10 each. And here I am trying to get my daughter’s birthday invite out three days before the RSVP date.”

If you are feeling sucked into this loop know that you are not alone and that may struggle with identifying why they are drawn into it and how it is affecting them.

2. Update your social media tendencies

There continues to be an increase in the desire to engage in the competitive nature of friendship due to the increased amount of knowledge we have on the intimate details of other peoples lives due to social media. There have been ample studies that show that truly happy couples are the ones that post the least amount on their social media about being happy. The flip side of this also means that the couples that are in the most conflict tend to post the most about being happy. This makes us attempt a competition where the lines are blurred and the goal is completely made up, put through ample filters, and posted with the exact caption an individual want you to read. This is not real life, you will not win, so don’t engage in it.

Although the keeping up with the Joneses concept is not a new one, how to stop it has evolved with time. One of the quickest and logistically easiest (may be difficult emotionally) is to unfollow the individuals you compete with on social media. It make take only a few minutes out of your day but can eliminate hours of stress. If you need more positivity in your social media life follow me on or  Pinterest or Instagram.

3. Know your boundaries 

Updating your social media tendencies of course means that you will have to sit and think about who these individuals are that you need to unfollow. Some of them may be old friends from high school which may be easy for you to press that unfollow button. But what if it is a family member? Then you may want to question yourself if you have the appropriate boundaries and if you are following through on said boundaries. (I have a post about boundaries coming soon if you need more information, guidance, or help) 

 If you do not have clear personal boundaries with yourself and the people around you, your boundaries are more often than not going to be crossed. This may look like a friend constantly being late to every appointment you have, instantly starting to look for a new job because a friend just got a promotion, or trying to buy your child that brand new bike that you really can’t afford because the neighbors kids just got new bikes. It will be very difficult to end the keeping up with the Joneses loop if you don’t have clear boundaries.

 4. Power and control over your thoughts

After explaining this concept of not engaging in this competition I had a client recently say “Wait, not play? You can’t just not play this is the way life is. If I’m not competing with them they’re still going to do the same thing I’m gonna get sucked back into it every single time.”

If this is your mindset, it points to a much bigger challenge one that you may need to look into some options of monitoring and updating your thought processes. One of the most researched and supported forms of therapy is Cognitive Behavior Therapy, in which a main aspect is identifying negative or manipulative thought patterns, understanding each pattern, and changing your thoughts. This all may sound very complicated, and it can be, but for now please know that we are not just our thoughts and we are able to control them, even when they are telling us to keep competing. (I will soon have a blog post coming up about cognitive behavioral therapy which does exactly that.)

5. Be positive

The power of positive thinking will do wonders for the keeping up with the Joneses competition. If we are able to reflect back on each day that we have and identify the positive aspects throughout, we will be less likely to be pulled into the competitive loop. 

Think of not only the major positive aspects of your life but the small ones as well. For example I am thankful that I was able to walk to the park with my daughter this morning and that she enjoyed the time outdoor.

If you find yourself getting stuck with the same set of positive thoughts I challenge you to be more creative, in that we can find something positive in even the most difficult situations.

All in all, when we engage in competitive style life we often never win. It robs us of happiness and blinds us to the every day joys we can be experiencing. There are easy and simple ways to take control of the way we view ourselves. One of the simplest and quickest ways to do this is to monitor your social media, whom you follow, and the messages you are receiving. If those around you struggle with consistency is establishing clear boundaries and following through on those boundaries may aid you in creating the relationships you desire. If you struggle with consistency due to your thought processes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may be an excellent option for you. And above all be positive and thankful for what you already have.