Parenting takes stamina. Here are 10 favourite parenting mantra’s to help refocus and boost your enthusiam:
- Rushing is the enemy of love.
Families are time poor. We don’t do the manual tasks our grandparents did. It saves a lot of time but life has speeded up so it doesn’t help. Hurry puts pressure on children and parents. It disconnects. One of the main drivers for misbehaviour is rushing. We can miss out on one of the main benefits of being in a family – being together. Time spent together directly impacts on the quality of relationship we have with our children. Be aware of how rushing affects our reactions. We can give ourselves a moment to be aware and think before we react. Prioritise time together to improve the relationship. “Rushing is the enemy of love”.
2. I am a work in progress, I get there a little at a time, not all at once.
How often do parents say: “My child should be able to get dressed on his own/ sleep in her bed all night/ plan and organise his study schedule on his own/make a meal for the family?”
What do we mean when we say our child should be doing this? When I hear “should “ like this it’s a red flag. Shoulds make us feel like useless parents. Shoulds stand in the way of us making progress. Watch out for the shoulds. Learning is not a linear process. Expect setbacks. What matters is to keep going. Look for the small steps in the right direction, celebrate them. We are a work in progress and we get there a little at a time. Not all at once.
3. Think of your child as having a problem, not being a problem.
Do you remember when you were at school there was always the kid they called the “problem child”? My friend Elaine Halligan wrote a book all about her experience of raising her son Sam who was labelled this way (“My Child’s Different”). People used to say “I’m glad my child isn’t Sam”. When people judge and label children the child ends up being isolated. Being excluded makes it harder for these children to overcome challenges. When Elaine found the right environment for Sam with people who accepted him and met his needs he thrived.
When parents see behaviour that looks like something a problem child does, we panic. We react to the poor behaviour . We can even catastrophise that our child will become an axe murderer and end up in jail. This mindset makes us feel reluctant to help this child. It’s very hard to even like this child. Think of a child as having a problem rather than being a problem, then we feel empathy for their struggle.
4. All behaviour has a cause
If you’ve read my blogs you’ll know I first learned about positive parenting when my toddler was biting. I just wanted him to stop. I thought I would be able to get him to stop by doing all the things good parents do. I told him off a lot. I praised the good and ignored the bad. None of these things worked. Someone told me to bite him back. A lightbulb moment happened. I knew that this was not the relationship I wanted with my boy and I wasn’t going to be able to fix this on my own.
After spending time learning about positive parenting I understood that the biting was caused by his difficulty communicating. He needed to be shown how to communicate in an appropriate way. The cause of the behaviour was partly his developmental stage (egocentric – not able to think of things from another person’s point of view) and his need to develop emotional literacy (use words instead of behaviour to express his feelings). We worked on teaching ways to help meet his needs and over time (18 months) he learned how to get what he wanted (a toy) without biting.
Instead of reacting to behaviour think “all behaviour has a cause”. Work out the causes to make progress with the behaviour and the relationship.
5. Self-care is not selfish
I have not met a parent who nails this yet. Parents are constantly giving out. What are we doing to top up our own cup? We never made a special time to sit and read the paper before we had children. Going to see a film was something we did without really thinking about it. Everything changes after we’ve had kids. Ordinary things need to be planned and put in the diary. Prioritise yourself. Sleep, good nutrition and fun are all things we need, they are not just a nice to have. Put feelings of guilt to one side and see yourself as an important resource – “Self-care is not selfish”.
6. Give yourself permission to be a beginner
Have you heard people say that parenting is based on instinct? I don’t buy this. Even in nature there are animals that eat their children. No one has parented our particular child, with their temperament, living in their world. It has never happened before. There is no instruction manual. Mostly we do this very important thing without any training at all. Parents can be hard on themselves and hard on their kids for doing the best they can with the skills they have. We are all learning how to learn. Give yourself permission to be a beginner.
7. All feelings are valid – some actions need to be limited
Children like parents feel the full range of emotion. It’s ok to feel mad about the maths homework . It’s not ok to kick a hole in the wall because we’re mad about the maths homework.
When we punish our children for having valid feelings they feel wrong for having them in the first place and they don’t learn how to process and deal with emotion in an acceptable way. Kids need to understand their own feelings before they can develop empathy for other people. Validating children’s emotions – the positive ones and the difficult ones help them to develop emotional intelligence, an essential skill kids need to succeed in the world. Kids need to learn that all feelings are valid – some actions need to be limited.
8. We are the adult
The most effective way to teach children is by showing them how to act. When parents are confronted by a lack of cooperation it’s easy to forget that we are the big person. We can choose to be calm when our child is not. We are the adult.
9. Stop trying to be the perfect parent – be a real one.
Some days our ideal of the parent we want to be and reality do not match up. When we lose it and we shout at our kids we can feel like the worst parent in the world. Parents can be hard on themselves when they don’t need to be. There’s no such thing as the perfect parent. Kids don’t need a perfect parent. Kids need a human being who loves them and who also gets it wrong some times. We can apologise and say “ I wish I hadn’t overreacted then, here’s how I wish things had gone.” Children learn that being a parent is not easy. Showing our less than perfect side lets our children know that everyone makes mistakes. Stop trying to be the perfect parent – be a real one.
10. Every child needs a champion
“Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”
These words come from an educator in America called Rita Pearson. In her TED talk she highlighted how important it is to work on relationship with students in order for learning to happen. Our home is like a mini-classroom and we need to work on getting the relationship right. It takes time and there are constant setbacks. It’s ok. We can focus on making sure that the main message is clear. Kids need to know that we’ve got their back. No matter what. We are their safe people who love them unconditionally. Even in loving homes kids can end up feeling like they are not good enough or that they are overlooked. We are the ones who contradict this message. Every child needs someone who is crazy about them. Every child needs a champion.