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.
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.