Parenting can be tough and, in today’s world, some of the most important aspects of parenting get forgotten. Days are long and schedules are busy. Before we know it, children are grown and out of the house. And, unfortunately, a lot of times parent-child relationships are strained.
In our fast-paced society, it never seems like we have any free time to actually be the parents our children need us to be. At Atlanta SKILLZ, we have studied numerous families and researched and found 8 key things that parents need to focus to better their parenting. And it doesn’t take hours a day of reading books or implementing. In just 10 minutes a day, parents can make their time with their children more valuable and effective. The result will be happier, more compliant children and less stressed parents.
1. Connection: The times when children are the most responsive and happy are when they are most connected with their parents. Everything from getting down on their eye level, physical touch, and committed attention makes a big difference. When it comes to fostering self-discipline and self-esteem, children need connection more than anything else!
So, what can you do to build a stronger connection with your child? We suggest at least 10-minutes of ‘connect’ time each day! During this time, your child needs to have your full attention and full engagement. And the best way to do that is through play!
Here’s the deal: If you really want to connect with your child, then it’s not enough to take him or her to the playground and watch from the sidelines, you need to play too! Taking the time to play with kids really shows them you love them more than anything else you can do or say! Now, we know what some of you busy parents are thinking: “I’m just too busy to play each day.” We understand, but the benefits of carving out just 10-minutes a day far outweigh the negatives!
Remember, the quality of time you spend connecting with your child during play can make a big difference, so be sure the time is in fact 100% of your full attention and full engagement! We also recommend you let your child take the lead and join their ‘world’ by letting them decide the activities and pace. (This includes teens too!)
2. Attunement: Be so aware of your child’s strengths and weaknesses so that you can anticipate their behavior choices before they happen. When you are ‘tuned-in’ with your child, you can more easily understand how to help your child become the best version of themselves. You will create a stronger child who is richer in confidence, which is essential to also fostering independence as he/ she navigates through life.
So, how can you become more ‘attuned’ with your child in a manner that makes a difference? We suggest you intentionally pay attention to who your child is ‘as a whole’ which includes where he or she is at physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially. Pay attention to your child’s ‘strengths’ and ‘areas for potential improvement’ without being vocally critical. Notice we use the phrase ‘areas of potential improvement’ instead of ‘weaknesses’ because the goal is to identify where your child needs the most nurturing in replace of criticism.
Keep in mind, learning to be ‘attuned’ with your child takes time and effort, and is a process of trial and error. No matter how well you know your child, there will often be mixed-signals on whether certain behaviors or characteristics are ‘strengths’ or ‘areas for potential improvement,’ so our suggestion is to do your homework on his or her stage of development as a starting point for your observations.
Also, keep in mind that every child is different, and what may seem like an area where your child is falling behind does not exactly indicate your child needs immediate help or is a reason to be concerned. After all, you are the parent, and your natural parent instincts are the true factor when helping your child become the best version he or she can be!
3. Patience: A few seconds can make a BIG difference. Sometimes as parents we respond with too much anger, and that can be harmful and cause regression in our child’s behavior. When you take a few extra seconds before responding to poor behavior, you will make better parenting choices, and ultimately help your child develop better behavior choices.
So how can you foster more patience as a parent? We suggest you ‘catch yourself’ when you are about to explode. This does require you to be conscious in the heat of the moment, so be sure to identify your triggers by clarifying when you are most likely to lose your patience. For example: many parents lose their patience on weekday mornings and/or nights when there are time constraints. Being aware of this when you wake up and then reminding yourself to deploy patience will help you stay conscious when you, and your child, need it most.
Another suggestion is to develop a plan for how to respond with patience when your child has poor behavior. For example: your son spilled milk all over the couch after several warnings about drinking milk in the living room. A common reply would be to yell at your son as you are cleaning up the mess, but your game plan is to calmly work with your son to clean up the mess, and then have a calm talk about drinking his milk in the kitchen and being more careful with his cup.
Notice we mention being ‘calm’ when responding to your child? It does require a lot of self-control on your part. So be sure to take deep breaths, which will give your brain and body the necessary boost of oxygen to remain calm! Keep in mind, learning to be ‘patient’ with your child will not happen overnight, but can become a habit with time and effort.
4. Prompting: Setting your child up for daily successes is easier than trying to punish poor behavior. Sometimes children make poor behavior choices simply because they are not paying attention. Other times they make poor behavior choices because they have built a habit of making poor choices.
So how can you foster prompting good behavior as a parent? We suggest you deploy strategies which help set your child up for success! One suggestion is to ‘catch’ your child demonstrating good behavior and complimenting him/ her for it. For example: many parents have the habit of waiting for their child to misbehave before teaching them a lesson. Instead, build a habit of ‘catching’ them with compliments when they have great behavior. This simple strategy of praising a child when they least expect it is a great way to confidence in their behavior.
Another suggestion is to set your child up by giving him/ her a challenge to accomplish and reward him/ her for it. For example: tell your child to get ready for school in 10-minutes or less and you will give him/ her 10 extra minutes of play before bedtime. When children successfully accomplish challenges, they build a habit of enjoying challenges.
Notice these two strategies are about building good habits. The key is to focus more on build good habits versus focusing on bad habits. Children’s brains are moldable, and these strategies will help mold them into people who have self-discipline and accountability.
5. Edutainment: Be the parent your child needs you to be. Children hardly ever embrace the concept of learning. As a parent, this can be very frustrating because our primary role is to teach children skills necessary to become independent individuals. With that said, being an “edutaining” parent is a key strategy for success!
So, what does it mean to use edutainment? It means abandoning traditional parenting methods of lectures and criticism and focusing on making learning fun! One suggestion is to use healthy competition when teaching your child how to build good habits, such as performing chores. For example: instead of criticizing your child for not making his/her bed properly, make it fun by saying something like: “Let’s see who can make their bed look nicer, me or you! If you can make your bed look nicer than mine, then I will play a game of your choice once we are done. But before we compete, let me show you how to make your bed look nice.”
Another suggestion is to make your child’s environment more fun while they are doing homework. For example: build a fort in the living room, or pitch a tent in the backyard. Use a diffuser with soothing smells and play some stimulating music. Also give them some fun, but healthy snacks while they work.
A third suggestion is to help your child learn a new skill while documenting it on video. For example: Teach your child how to bake a cake while recording it on video for your friends and family. Set the camera up on a tripod and commentate it just like a regular cooking show.
Notice these strategies are about making learning fun. The key is to focus more on how to help your child enjoy the process, which means you need to think like they do. This means being the parent they need you to be!
6. Nurturing: Look at mistakes as opportunities to educate. When it comes to parenting, it is important to remember the numerous benefits to being a nurturing parent. This includes enhanced brain development, better social skills, and increased self-esteem.
So, what does it mean to be a nurturing parent? It means displaying love and warmth, especially when your child misbehaves. This doesn’t mean you should ignore the behavior. Instead, address the behavior in a manner which helps your child learn and grow, and do so in a caring way. Studies have shown this to enhance brain development.
Being a nurturing parent also produces children who have a deeper understanding of empathy. Since they are raised in such an environment, they learn how to have better social skills, which means more meaningful relationships with others.
Another way to be a nurturing parent is to participate in attachment-based activities with your child. Attachment is the bond children develop with their parents and is extremely influential in their overall self-esteem. You can take all the toys and games you’ve given your child over the years, and they pale in comparison to the gift of being a nurturing parent.
7. Adaptability: How you respond when things aren’t going as planned is extremely important. When it comes to parenting, it is important to parent with adaptability. This includes avoiding the mindset that there is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ technique that applies to every behavioral situation.
So, what does it mean to parent with adaptability? It means to parent based on the situation at hand and your child’s temperament and current mood. This doesn’t mean you should make excuses when your child misbehaves because they are in a bad mood. Instead, it’s about having flexibility in how you respond to your child’s misbehaviors based on the situations mentioned above so that you meet your child where they are.
Being an adaptable parent means pausing to think and choose the best course of action when your child misbehaves. This gives you space in your mind to think about the best way to parent, which enables you to parent intentionally versus reactively. The latter tends to be by emotions, where the first is by strategy.
Parenting with adaptability also means you are your wisest self in the most difficult times. This enables you to provide your child with what they need in the moment. When that goal is in mind, you increase your chance of getting the best outcome from the situation as possible.
To improve your adaptability skills, it is important to have a clear sense of your child’s moods and how that affects their behavior. You must also be aware of how you respond based on their mood, so you can start to pause and choose the best response possible. The goal should be to make a connection with the child first so you both are in a clearer state of mind.
Keep in mind, being an adaptable parent is not easy. However, if you consciously pay attention to this skill over the next few weeks, then you will for sure make some progress.
8. Consistency: Be as consistent as possible regardless of your mood. When it comes to parenting, it is important to have consistency. The problem is, being consistent is hard. However, children need to be able to count on you not to ‘lose it’ if they make a simple mistake, and that you will still be loving when you are in a bad mood.
So, what does it take to parent with consistency? For starters, be consistent with your rules to help mold proper behavior. Kids need structure. With that said, be sure to plan ahead with your rules and expectations so you are prepared to calmly implement your plans when necessary. At the same time, don’t make irrational threats that you can’t/won’t follow through on.
Get in touch with what really matters. If you enforce rules sometimes and then other times you don’t because the rule really isn’t that important to you, then perhaps you should abandon that rule. For example: why can’t your child have dessert with dinner if they eat everything on their plate? Why make them wait for dessert until after they eat everything else, especially if you already plan on giving them dessert regardless?
Deploy consistent reinforcement. Behaviors can be conditioned if you consistently reinforce them. This includes both positive and negative behaviors that are important. For example: telling your child how proud you are when they have good behavior at a restaurant will help condition that specific behavior. At the same time, if your child knows there’s a consequence every time they break a rule that is important to follow, then they are more likely to stop that behavior. For example: if they throw their iPad when they are angry, then they lose iPad time for an entire day. If you sometimes let that rule slide, then they are more likely going to take chances on that behavior.
Model the behavior you desire from your child. For example: when enforcing rules, keep your emotions out of it. This can be hard, especially when you’ve had a stressful day. However, when you address rules calmly and rationally, then you are showing your child you can manage your emotions. This will help them learn how to manage their own behaviors regardless of mood.
Again, being consistent as a parent is not easy. However, if you consciously pay attention to this skill over the next few weeks, then you will for sure make some progress.
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