“Be kind, Be respectful, Be grateful, Be curious” is scrawled across the whiteboard I crudely drilled onto our kitchen wall. And in our family, this is how we aim to approach life, and each other.
Let’s go back to why I’m telling you this… I get really, really annoyed by writers who write with a negative slant when their message could’ve been communicated positively. Take for example, all of the “don’t” and “should” blogs, which generally have good content, but end up being parent shaming in the sense that you read them and feel guilty for doing all the things that the so-called experts tell you NOT to do, rather than empowered to try something new or to make a positive change.
This one here is a good example, which came across my Facebook feed last week. I read it and mentally ticked off all the things I was doing wrong, which in turn made me feel like shite, and by the end of it I estimated that my daughter would be totally screwed up and I was a useless parent.
Maybe it’s the pessimist in me that goes there when I read things like this, but I’m pretty sure the world would only benefit from less “not’s” and more “do’s”, right?
Imagine if my scribbled words on our whiteboard were “Don’t be mean, Don’t be rude, Don’t be unappreciative, Don’t be closed minded or ordinary”? I’d bet that instead of inspiring my family they’d probably feel a bit beaten down and cynical, and a little unworthy.
This brings me to think of my current list of my current parenting Do’s, in case you ever wanted to know:
- Tell your kids WHY you love them
Saying “love you” everyday is a good start, but I think it can be more meaningful if you tell them all the things about them that you love. You can never be too specific!
- Give your kids choices, within boundaries
This one was sort of jacked off the article above, and I think what they’re trying to say there is not that you shouldn’t give kids choices at all, but to give your kids one or two choices, or a yes/no choice rather than an opened ended question. So instead of “what do you want for breakfast?” and them in turn asking for things you’re not willing to give, ask “do you want cereal or toast, for breakfast?”.
Key here is that either choice is fine by you, but they get to make the final decision (although really, wouldn’t you want icecream for breakfast every once in awhile?)
- Give meaningful praise
Same as number one, saying “good job” for every single thing they do isn’t that impactful. “Good job for playing” “good job for eating” “good job for existing”… your kid either stops listening to the “good job” comments, or they start expecting them.
We loosely follow RIE, and this is one of the philosophies we aim to uphold. We’re not stone cold parents who don’t give any praise, we just try to follow up with the reasons why she’s done a good job. Things like, “Well done! It was hard to do that puzzle, but you did it!”.
What she doesn’t get a “good job” for is putting away toys, helping to clean up (her) mess, or any other age appropriate “chores”, because to me you don’t need praise for contributing to your family. She’ll either get a “thank you” or she’ll smile at me completely unprompted with pride on her beautiful little face.
While we’re on the topic, I have a totally unfounded, unstudied and definitely biased opinion that younger people these days are constantly in need of affirmation and I’ve been wondering a lot if it’s because they’ve been praised CONSTANTLY. It’s so natural these days to say “awesome” or “good job” or “great work” for stuff that used to be an expectation in eras gone by, and I think overall, the intention there is good. People like to be lifted up and praised. But too much praise means you might never understand the value of your OWN sense of pride and accomplishment.
- TRUST your kid, and back off
Probably the trust I give to Mackenzie right now is different to the trust she’ll get as an older child, and a teenager. Right now though, I trust her to play alone and unsupervised (within limits) but let me know when she wants help. I trust her to be kind, respectful and curious, and to problem solve. All within the boundaries of what is appropriate for her age. I trust her to figure things out, and try to limit my intervention. During playtime I pretty much let her do her thing, so long as I can see her or get to her quickly, and I don’t interrupt unless she asks for help or is in danger. I can’t stand “helicopter” parenting because really, it’s an underlying indication of distrust. Here’s a learning that we all need to understand: It’s a scary step to let your kiddo figure things out for themselves, but they’re naturally very resilient. You allow your child to be curious if you’re not there all the time, getting in their way. If you can let go while remaining present, you’ll get the best of both worlds… Your kid will feel safe to explore and try something new, and you’ll feel safe that you’re there if they need you.
- Involve your kid
I involve Mackenzie in all of our daily activities, like helping to set the table for mealtimes, helping me to dress her, putting on her shoes, packing her bag for daycare, putting away her toys, sorting washing to be folded (with mixed success. heh), bathing and brushing her teeth. How many parents do you know whose kids hate washing their hair? Or having their teeth brushed? Mackenzie loves them both, which I think is because I approach her with respect and I involve her.
We also talk a lot. Mostly about what we’re going to do next, what we’re doing now and reflecting on what we’ve already done. I think it involves her in dialogue and she loves to repeat back.
“What will we have for a snack, Mackenzie? Crackers or a biscuit?”,
“After this song we’re going to turn off your ABC’s and sit down for dinner”,
“Who did you play with in the sandpit today?” are all common examples of conversations we have. They help to prompt her so she knows what’s coming and that ways she’s much less likely to resist and also, there is huge value in recalling what’s happened in our day and how much fun it was. The first time we took her through the carwash, she loved it so much that she brought it up every day for nearly a week! I nearly got sick of “big brush, mama, car, mama!”
It really works for Mackenzie’s personality to involve her in the daily events of our house, to discuss them, and to have some impact/input on them. Being involved, by nature, keeps you engaged and kids LOVE to engage with others and learn. Engaged kids aren’t bored either. I know eventually she’ll get the “game” and refuse to help around the house, in which case I’ll have to change tact, but for now this is gold.
Ok that’s five, and I’d rather not continue blabbing on.
What are your current parenting “Do’s”?