I can remember on multiple occasions people telling me “parenting doesn’t come with a handbook”– And that statement couldn’t play out to be any more true. I’ll be the first to admit that for me being a parent is one challenge after another (not that it doesn’t pay off because it certainly does). But as they get older, it seems to just get more challenging because they find their voice, they start challenging you, they start molding into the person they are going to be, they start rationalizing and questioning certain things. And that’s an amazing thing. They come into this world with nothing but their simple needs and grow into thriving people who we can only hope have raised them as fully functioning adults who make great choices in life.
Being a mother is NOT a one-size-fits-all ordeal. Every child has his/her own unique needs and wants… from what they eat for dinner, to how they are disciplined, to how we teach them valuable life lessons, to the most effective way of potty training them and the list goes on… And with that being said, we really only have one shot so we have to have faith in our parenting ways that the way we choose is the best for our kids. We are constantly taking leaps of faith and hoping that our choices pan out positively and effectively in our children’s lives from the day we find out that baby is in our bellies. Do we breastfeed or formula feed? Do we give them meat or no meat? Do we keep them in the house to avoid getting sick or expose them to other kids to boost their immune system by getting germs? Do we use Huggies or Pampers, and if neither of those work do we use cloth diapers? Should we pick them up every time they cry or let them self-soothe? Do we tell them to run & tell the teacher when someone hits them or do we tell them to defend themselves & fight back?
I want to teach my son to eat healthy but sometimes I just feel like eating ice cream three days in a row. But I can’t eat it because if I do, he’ll question me and become concerned with me because I’ve always told him ice cream isn’t healthy for him. This past weekend we went on a small trip to the Keys and I had a frozen strawberry margarita. My son wanted to try it and I had to explain to him it’s an adult drink & he can’t have any because there’s alcohol in it. That was literally the first time I’ve ever drank an alcoholic drink in front of him. He knew it was bad for me and asked me why I was drinking it if it’s bad for me? I told him, as I tell him with other junk foods that once in a while it’s okay as long as it’s not all the time. I know what I mean when I say that, but what’s important is how HE will interpret what I say.
I realize how important it is to stop and think before I answer my son. Every important question has a very important answer from us, no matter how little or big the question may seem. There are times that I panic and freak out and answer from the wrong place. There have been many times I have answered out of impatience or fear and for that I am so hard on myself for. I know that I can’t take back anything that I’ve done or said and kids really do, especially my 5 year old boy, take everything we say literally and to heart.
With that, here are some tips that I have been incorporating into my parenting that I have picked up along the way… there’s no such thing as a perfect parent, the best we can do for our kids is accept and love ourselves for where we are, acknowledge the things that need to be changed & do our best to change them. We must lead by example to the best of our ability and make sure we follow through with the things we say to our children and in front of them. They are watching our every move to make sure we do what we said we were going to do.
1. STOP! Before you answer your children, take a second to review your answer. Try to see your answer from THEIR perspective. How could they interpret it differently from the way you are meaning to imply it? Can you change your wording to fit their age and maturity level? Often times, we expect them to understand our adult logic & at the end of the day, they are kids & should be treated accordingly.
2. Turn the negative into a positive. If you have something harsh to say, how can it be turned into something positive?
3. Say something besides “NO”– This has been a huge one for me. I have always used the word “NO.” Now, I try to redirect my kids in another direction instead of giving them a direct “NO.” If my son asks me to go to the pool and my answer is no, I may suggest us playing cars or riding his scooter instead.
4. Instead of trying to speed them up, allow them to do things in their own time. It’s amazing what my 11 month old daughter has accomplished on her own in a safe and supportive environment. Not once did I initiate her walking. She did it all by herself. When I noticed she was wanting to walk, I then held her hand and helped her. I never pushed her or made her practice unless she initiated it. She is now walking all by herself like a champ! This also allows kids to to be themselves instead of us trying to make them into exactly who we want them to be (even though our hearts as parents are in the right place & we are just trying to protect them, this usually ends up backfiring).
5. Set your child up for success– Don’t make your child do something you know he won’t be able to accomplish. There are certain things like changing a light bulb or getting a gallon of milk from the top shelf that just aren’t suitable for certain ages to do. Instead, try small things like giving him/her the task of making his/her bed or making sure your children brush their teeth at least twice a day; things that we know they can accomplish that still remains a bit challenging will help boost their confidence and they will realize more & more how capable, strong & amazing they really are!
6. Speak positive words over your child! I’ll never forget one Sunday morning watching Joel Osteen preach about speaking words of positivity over our loved ones. Discouraging our children & telling them all of their faults like calling them fat or chubby, slow or stupid (yes I have heard parents in public use these words) is so detrimental to their wellbeing & confidence. Our words become their inner guide. Bless your kids with positive words and reaffirm to them how strong, smart & special they are.
7. Make it fun! We adults here in America have the wrong idea of “The American Dream”– As a whole, we grow up, go to school, get into debt before we reach the real world then work for a company that runs our health and spirits into the ground by using us for everything we’re worth. Then when they are done with us, they move onto the next person. All the while we are stressed and are missing out on our families and loved ones. This is NOT fun. Our kids learn from us. It’s okay to step outside of the box & try something different. Make parenting fun & laid back… I know with my son, when I make things fun he is 1000x more receptive to me than when I am really hard on him.
Disclaimer: I am FAR, FAR, FAR from a perfect parent BUT I acknowledge my faults and put effort into making myself better for my kids on a DAILY basis. These are things that have worked for ME and my children. As I write in this blog, every child is different. I don’t expect everyone to agree with what I write. I just know that these tips/tricks that I have taken on from other parents, books, professionals & experts work for me and I hope they can work for you, too!