Let’s just say my mother would have never won “parent of the year”. One of my earliest memories of her was waking up in the middle of the night and finding her at the kitchen table. She was never one to hold us or kiss us good night, but I had an ear ache and as I tried crawling up into her lap, she had a cigarette in one hand and a rum and coke in the other and I remember her saying, “I am not going to hold you right now, my hands are busy!” I learned at a very young age that she never made time to love her children.
My parenting is a little different. I hug my children often and tell them every chance I get how much they mean to me. With my son being 26 and my daughter now 16, I sometimes find myself caught up in my career and they are caught up in their lives. I can remember times when I would drop my son off to school and he would try to evade my kiss goodbye, and my daughter sometimes holds her arms at her side when I give her a hug, rolling her eyes and saying she isn't a baby.
But then there are the moments when my children come to me. Unexpectedly, my son will stop by the house and find me and give me a bear hug. As a six foot, 240 pound, solid muscle rugby player, his hugs are immense. Busy with his career, his sport, and spreading his wings, my son is often hard to reach, so I always cherish those moments and do not lament the time in-between visits.
My teenage daughter is also learning to spread her wings. She is often caught up in teenage angst and is not interested in taking a moment to talk with me. She, too, towers over me and as avid horse rider, her long arms strong from hard work, her hugs are powerful and envelope me in her love.
Often my children find me as I am heading out the door, late for an appointment, or perhaps in the kitchen where I am attempting a new gourmet recipe. No matter where they find me, I have learned to stop what I am doing, savor the moment, and allow their love to surround me. I exhale my frustration at being delayed or burning the latest creation, breathe in their sweet smell and cherish the moment. You see, each time my children come to me, I remember that small child who wanted so desperately to be held, and I have come to realize that although I have given my love unconditionally to my children all their lives, there are still times where they come to me, seek me out, and need to be held, right then, right at that moment. It is not something that can be scheduled or planned, but becomes the most important priority of my time.
So when your children come to you, embrace that moment. Free your mind of all the distractions and focus on the love in your arms. Perhaps it is being the mother of older children that has made me realize how fleeting those moments are, but when your children come to you, hold on and let them know that this is what you treasure; their love, their embrace, in their time of need.
Parents want what is best for their children, and they strive to raise a child that has good behavior. Children need to be taught what is acceptable and appropriate, and the best way to accomplish that is through love and guidance. It is unfortunate that many parents wind up defining how to teach these skills to their children by using punitive measures such as shaming and physical force. What a parent needs to understand is that their children are always in a state of learning, so when you make a choice as to how you plan on dealing with your children’s behavior, you need to always assess what real lesson you are teaching them.
One of the first mistakes that parents make is placing intent onto the child’s behavior. Intent implies that there was understanding of the action and children are not cognitively capable of acting with intent. They are unable to view the world outside their own perspectives and act on emotional impulses until they learn how to control their actions. There are developmentally appropriate levels of awareness and parents need to understand the age-appropriate expectations for their child. It is imperative that parents understand their child’s development so that they can help guide the child through each of their developmental stages.
Babies cry because they have needs that must be met and have no way to communicate other than through their cries. Parents sometimes put adult intentions onto a baby’s action yet infants are solely responding to emotional and physical needs. Toddlers are beginning to understand their world, but they still view it through their own perspective. They do not understand that their actions have consequences and they are simply trying to explore their world. Parents need to teach children with love and guidance and great patience; children need repetition to learn and do not become experts after one lesson!
Parents also need to understand that children mimic what they see and experience, so many times their behavior is a direct response to something they have witnessed. They are simply repeating what they have observed and testing it for their own understanding; they do not intend to damage the object that they break any more than they intend to hurt the person that they may harm. Punitive measures such as hitting or spanking teach the child that such behavior is acceptable. Spanking a child because he hits only teaches them that you need to be bigger than the one you hurt! There are more reasonable measures to take that teach the child appropriate behavior as opposed to demonstrating inappropriate actions to the child by hitting them.
The most important (and challenging) step that a parent can make is creating an environment that is developmentally appropriate for the child’s age and developmental needs. Parents need to create a “yes!” environment where everything is safe for the child to play and explore. If there are areas that are not safe for the child, (such as a fireplace or a stairway), then parents need to take measures to keep the child away from those areas. Placing gates or guardrails keeps the area a safe zone for the child to play. If there is no way to make a particular area safe, then it is up to the parent to use great patience and guidance to keep the child away from danger. Yes, you will have to tell the child over and over because they need the time to learn and process the information. It is through repetition that they learn, and it should never be assumed that just because you told them “time and time again” that they have understood. They may have heard you, acknowledged that they “understood”, and then still go for the forbidden activity because they are curious learners NOT because they are intentionally trying to anger you!
Creating the safe environment for the child is the first step, but the parent still needs to be diligent. The second line of defense is preventing the child from doing something that is not acceptable. If a parent or caregiver notices that the child is about to use his new toy on the big screen TV, they need to redirect the child’s attention to another activity. Distracting the child and showing them a new activity is the best way of preventing them from doing harm. If a parent is distracted and the child does do something inappropriate, (such as using his toy hammer on the TV), then the next step a parent should do is show the child what IS appropriate with the toy. The parent should say, “Hammers are not to be used on the TV, but you CAN hit this block with your hammer!” Generally, a child is happy to comply. If they still continue to go for the forbidden use of the toy, then the next step is to take the toy away. This time you say, “Hammers are NOT to be used on the TV. If you cannot use the hammer correctly, I will have to put it in time out until you learn how to use it the right way”. If and when you do bring it out again, your FIRST step is to show the child where it is OK to hit with the hammer! Again, you may have to repeat this process many times!
Putting a toy in time out is a useful means to teaching a child that using a toy inappropriately means that you do not get to play with it. Sometimes, it is not that the child is using an object, but instead is either biting or hitting. At such times, placing the child in time out can be appropriate. However, parents need to understand what a time out is intended for! A time out is NOT punishment. A time out is a chance for the child to get control of their body and to get them away from what they were doing wrong. The time out should be extremely brief for toddlers, and it is more about taking the child from the activity they were doing, firmly telling them what they did that was NOT ok, telling them that when they are ready, they can return to play, and then immediately letting them return to play…only this time, the parent needs to be involved in the play until it is clear that the child will not repeat the inappropriate behavior. If a child is crying or totally out of control, a parent should tell the child that when they can act appropriately, they can return to play which teaches the child responsibility for his own self-control. As children get older, a parent should ask the child to tell them why they were in time out, what they are going to do to make up for what they did, (clean a mess, help an injured friend, etc.) and then tell that they will not do that again.
Even by creating a safe space and redirecting a child, there are times when a child may still be doing something that is inappropriate. Parents need to remember that this is a terrific opportunity to TEACH your child what is appropriate. A parent must look closely at their response and understand if their actions are teaching their child what they want them to learn. Parents do not want to teach their child how to hurt someone, how to scare someone, or how to bully someone, yet by spanking, yelling, or harming a child accomplishes that extremely well. Parents who want their children to grow into responsible, caring, well-behaved children need to learn how to teach their children how to behave. They need to model great communication, speaking out of kindness and with the INTENT, (see, it is adults that have this ability!) to teach the child the appropriate response.
If a child does something inappropriate, parents need to understand that their intent, (there it is again, the PARENT needs to have the intent!) should not be to punish the child, but to teach the child the correct behavior. When a parent looks at what is needed, they have to dig deep within themselves to find a creative and REASONABLE way to show the child correct behavior. Amazingly though, when a parent models respectful, caring and nurturing behavior, a child will mimic this as well.
All in all, the bottom line is that the parent DOES have the cognitive awareness and ability to INTENTIONALLY model appropriate behavior. An adult can be held accountable for their intentions, and a parent needs to take that responsibility very seriously. Every action, every word and even the manner in which those words are delivered needs to be with the INTENT to be caring, nurturing and loving, and the child will learn through this example. Children learn what they see, and it is up to the parent to show them what love looks like.
I leave you with this favorite poem of mine. It is worth taking to heart. Every child is worth it.
CHILDREN LEARN WHAT THEY LIVE
Dorothy Law Nolte
If a child lives with criticism,
he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
he learns to fight.
If a child lives with fear,
he learns to be apprehensive.
If a child lives with pity,
he learns to feel sorry for himself.
If a child lives with ridicule,
he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with jealousy,
he learns what envy is.
If a child lives with shame,
he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with encouragement,
he learns to be confident.
If a child lives with tolerance,
he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with praise,
he learns to be appreciative.
If a child lives with acceptance,
he learns to love.
If a child lives with approval,
he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with recognition,
he learns that it is good to have a goal.
If a child lives with sharing,
he learns about generosity.
If a child lives with honesty and fairness,
he learns what truth and justice are.
If a child lives with security,
he learns to have faith in himself and in those about him.
If a child lives with friendliness,
he learns that the world is a nice place in which to live.
If you live with serenity,
your child will live with peace of mind.
With what is your child living?
Hello! Welcome to my new website! I am so pleased to be on this journey of becoming a Parent Coach! I am in my last quarter and will graduate in June, 2014 with my Certificate of Parent Coaching® from Parent Coach International. You may not have heard of Parent Coaching, so let me explain!
Coaching is about helping improve your talents. A good coach motivates, inspires, empowers you to become your best. A coach does not necessarily have the talent that you possess, but knows how to help you discover and develop skills to achieve your goals. Parent Coaching embraces all of these ideals, and helps you become a better parent!
As I raised my two children, there were definite moments where it would have been nice to have someone to discuss issues that developed. How to make it through the sleepless nights, what strategies could be used for tantrums, what kind of advice is best for a child being bullied? All these challenges and more are issues that sometimes plague parents. With the techniques that I have learned in my training to become a Parent Coach, I now have the ability to work with parents and help them discover a plan of action that works for their family.
I hope that you have the opportunity to read some of my future blogs as I plan on posting tips for parents as well as relate success stories from parents that I have coached. At the moment, I am a student so I am still learning. Visit my site and join me as I grow and perhaps you may learn Another Angle on Parenting!