posted: Nov. 27, 2022.
A parent’s biggest concern is often wanting to ensure the parent parents correctly. Parenting starts with intentionality. It starts with being mindful of what is the lesson I want to impart to my child. It is not only what we say to children, it is what we model to them.
Let’s first start to what we say to children. When focusing on how to redirect your child, if you focus on what the child needs to stop, it reinforces to the child how the child made a mistake. When a child hears the negative reinforcement, it can undermine a child’s confidence and self-esteem. Instead of saying “don’t do…” or “no” focus on “I like it when…” We all love praise. Specific praise shows us what we do correctly. The more specific a praise, such as “I love how you cleaned up your dishes quickly and all on your own,” reinforces to a child that the child achieved positively, did something correct and creates skill building and initiative. The more specific and intentional parents are about praise, the more a child will try to garner that praise. Often parents assume 'over-praising’ will result in the praise falling flat or losing its momentum. Specific praise prevents that from occurring because the parent is genuine each time about what skill was achieved.
Now the bigger question—but my child whines all the time, what do I do? How often do you, as a parent, ignore your child when your child is playing quietly in fear that if you make a comment on the child’s quiet play, it will result in the child wanting more of your attention? Children want their parents’ attention. How often are you spending time with your child? It does not have to be copious amounts of time, but five to ten minutes one-on-one, every day makes a big difference to a child. It builds connection, shows your child you are interested in them, and forges a deeper bond with the parent. This means that if you ignore the tantrum—unless it results in destructive or aggressive behavior, to which you need to put a firm end to that behavior—and immediately praise the child for when your child takes a breath, pauses in between yelling or whining. It often confuses children, because they are used to parents focusing on the need to stop the behavior, rather than reinforcing self-regulating tools, such as self soothing and breathing. Ultimately, attention is the tool to help reinforce a child’s behavior. It’s the golden ticket. Whatever a parent hyper focuses their attention on, be it positive or negative behaviors, then it reinforces said behavior.
Realistically, parenting is exhausting, time consuming and never ending. It’s important that you, the parent, are also mindful of your own emotional and physical needs. Setting healthy boundaries around time, being mindful of when you are at your limit and are unable to demonstrate clear and level headed reactions towards your child or partner, asking for help when you need it, are all extremely important attributes. Children often imitate their parents’ behaviors, self-regulation strategies, because they look up to their parents. It is important that a parent always be mindful of how they act in front of children, as children are big tape-recorders. Instead of lashing out at your child for a behavior, start with the self-reflective question of “how and where did my child learn this behavior?” Was it from you? From school? From friends? Children strive to want to know more about how to engage in the world, and with their family and loved ones.
Ultimately, to start with effective parenting, comes from is the message that is desired to be imparted to the child. That can come with healthy limit setting, emotional regulation, skill building and interpersonal engagements. The more a parent is aware of how will this impact the child, the more effective the parenting.