Here are just a few tips to help you in your parenting, but ultimately, DO EVERYTHING WITH LOVE! You'll be a happier parent, and you will have happier children.
BOND WITH YOUR BABY
Stay physically close to your infants, especially during the first 8 to 10 weeks of life. Hold them a lot and wear them in a carrier when possible.
Respond quickly to your baby’s cries. Babies cry to communicate, not to manipulate. There is no such thing as “spoiling” infants. They’re learning to trust, and that you love them enough to meet their needs.
Breastfeed if at all possible. Breast milk gives babies superior nutrition and protects against disease, and contains brain-developing nutrients that can’t be manufactured. Also, breastfeeding mothers produce hormones that help them feel calm.
Beware of parenting advice that tells you to watch a clock or a schedule instead of your baby. Bonding to your baby by reasonably responding to her signals connects you to your child; baby training focuses on controlling your child.
This is important: You can give love better when your own cup is filled. (Don’t neglect yourself or your sweetheart…find a balance.)
Create balance in your life. Although you’ll be lop-sided while your baby is an infant (an extraordinary amount of time devoted to your baby and to your birth recovery), after about 10 weeks you should be able to get back into a more normal routine…more effectively meeting your own personal needs and the needs of your spouse.
CONNECT WITH YOUR KIDS
Connect by hugging, kissing, holding, smiling, winking – the list is endless. Tell your children – OFTEN – that you love them. Tell them you’re so happy to be their mom or dad. Tell them that of all the children in the world, they are the perfect one for you and your family. Talk about how strong they are – tell them how kind they are – praise them and love them with all of your heart.
Spend TIME with your children. There is no substitute for unhurried time with our loved ones. Give them quality AND quantity time. Be there when they fall down; be there when they need you…and be kind. Be interested in what they’re interested in, and show them by helping with their projects and hobbies. Children don’t thrive on left-over time, they thrive on prime time. What are you giving your life to that’s more important than your children?
Tell your children – and show them – how much you appreciate them. Shower them with praise; exclaim over their smallest accomplishment. They will learn to show appreciation to others exactly the way you show appreciation to them. Example is the best teacher.
Talk to them about the many things we should appreciate in life: our loving families, good teachers, good health, beautiful weather, etc. As you notice things to appreciate, they will do the same.
LET THEM FEEL NEEDED
Give them household responsibilities. Even the youngest child can put his clothes away or stand on a chair and empty the silverware into the drawer. Who cares if the spoons get mixed up with the forks? You’re raising children who will feel competent and confident if you give them opportunities to help, show them how to do it right, and then praise their efforts. Provide your children with many opportunities to serve and to excel.
DISCIPLINE WITH LOVE
Disciplining with kindness, firmness and consistency is highly important. You must be loving and kind – speaking with a gentle tone of voice and responding to their needs kindly. But setting firm, simple-to-understand rules is of paramount importance. What children learn when they’re young – beginning during their toddler years - creates a pattern for either obedience and respect or disobedience and disrespect throughout their lives. When you are connected with your kids, they’ll more likely accept your limits and trust your guidance.
TODDLERS: Try to minimize the discipline by baby-proofing your house. Also, use distraction when they get upset - this is so effective during the toddler years. When they’re upset offer them another toy, or a treat, or take them outside, or tell them a story with excitement in your voice. They can be swayed easily if the distraction is a good one.
TODDLERS: A discipline technique that really works with toddlers: Count. For example, if your child is banging on the table and won’t stop, you say, (with a firm tone of voice and with the ‘look’ on) “Fred, stop banging on the table.” He doesn’t stop…he’s just looking at you with a smile on his face…testing you. Say, “Fred, stop banging on the table right NOW. 1…..2…..” and if he doesn’t stop you say “3.” Then you take the banging tool out of his hand, stand him up (he’s standing on the floor) and kneel right in front of him so you’re eye-to-eye. Then say (firmly), “You always obey Mama. What did I tell you to do?” He mumbles, “Stop banging.” Say, “Did you stop banging?” Your son, “No…” You: “What happens when you don’t obey Mama or Daddy?” Your son, (he answers whatever consequence you and your husband decided on). In my house my son would’ve said, “Spank.” And I’d say, “That’s right. I’m sorry YOU chose the wrong.” Then I’d turn him around and give him one firm pop on the bottom. ONLY SPANK IF YOU ARE IN TOTAL CONTROL, AND WHEN YOUR CHILDREN DEFIANTLY DISOBEY YOU. I only had to spank my children (very sparingly) until they were about 5 years old. Then they didn’t need it because they had learned to obey, and obedience was their comfort zone. Also, they really disliked seeing me in my “Wicked Witch of the West” mode…their “comfort zone” was living with Mary Poppins.
Minimize the number of “no’s” in their lives.
I did a short piece on the radio (when I had my radio show) on this issue. I’d like to share with you now:
Parents, does this sound familiar?
“Can I have some ice cream?”
“Can I go to the park – for just a little while – with my friends?”
“Can I have a scooter?”
“Can I have a sleep-over?”
It seems like there are so MANY ‘no’s’ in a child’s life, doesn’t it? We, as parents, don’t WANT to always be disappointing our children with constant no’s.
Some children interpret a ‘no’ as a direct attack on their autonomy. They immediately try to counter attack! They have tantrums, call names or get sullen. Almost immediately we hear, “Why NOT?”
It’s exhausting for even the most patient of parents. So what can we do?
I would like to suggest that the solution is to say ‘yes’ to children as much as possible. Now, stay with me on this! It’s something I learned after many years of saying, “No, you can’t do this – no, you can’t do that.”
When your child says, one hour before dinner, “Can I have some ice cream?” You say “Yes! Right after dinner – after you’ve eaten all of your vegetables, and everything on your plate, you can have some ice cream.”
When your child says, “Can I go over to my friend’s house?” You say, “Yes! Right after you’ve finished your homework and your room is clean, you may go to your friend’s house until 15 minutes before dinner.”
Sometimes ‘no’ is so easy – we just say it automatically. I’d like to suggest that parents say ‘yes’ as often as possible – just be sure you’re saying ‘yes’ on your own terms.
Oh, by the way – I’m so against teenage sleep-overs that when my children ask, “Can I have a sleep-over?” I say, “Yes! Just as soon as you’re an adult and married…you can have all the sleep-overs you want!” Funny, how that question never comes up anymore…
When you need to discipline, be firm. Think about this: Most of the time you’re pleasant and cheerful. You praise and encourage with kindness. But when children disobey, you are no longer “Mary Poppins.” Your face gets stern and you look at them right in the eyes, speaking firmly...not angrily. Your children see, and feel, a change in you. They don’t like it. They want Cheerful Mama back. When they apologize and “fix” the wrong, she returns…you’re back to your cheerful self and you show an increase of love to your children at that moment…right after the conflict is resolved. Their “comfort zone” will become obedience. They’ll always want to return to their comfort zone; they’ll want to please you…IF you are a loving, kind parent.
YOUNG AND OLDER CHILDREN
Give them choices. Children want to feel like they are an important part of the family team. Let them participate in creating the family rules and consequences for disobeying the rules. Then, when they disobey, you can say, “Gee, I’m sure sorry you chose to disobey your own rule. And now you have to (the consequence)... I’m sorry. I’m sure that next time you’ll make a better choice.” You see, this way parents aren’t imposing punishment on the child. These are decisions the child made, and he must abide by the consequences he devised.
These are just a few tips to help you in your parenting, but ultimately, DO EVERYTHING WITH LOVE! You'll be a happier parent, and you will have happier children.
Dr. Paula Fellingham