Before I ever became a mom, I was a teacher. While I don't claim to be a perfect teacher or a perfect mommy, I do believe that I relate to children quite well, thanks in part to my time spent "in the trenches." Those six precious years of forging relationships, offering guidance, and teaching science to 150 students each year taught me several things that have also served me well as a parent. Keep reading for the eight most important.
1. Go Your Own Way
When you feel the need to discipline, be sure that this urge is coming from a bona fide need to do what's right and not from a knee-jerk reaction to do things that were done to you as a child. This is how unhealthy cycles repeat themselves. Go your own way and always do what's in the best interest of your children.
2. For Every Negative, Find 10 Positives
We probably don't remember it, but it can be very hard to be young. Everything is new and must be learned from scratch. Sure, children will need to be corrected. But for the sake of your child's self-esteem and the harmony of your home, be sure to compliment them many more times on what they do right than correct them on what they've done wrong.
You brushed your hair very well today and it looks fabulous.
I love how you set the table without even being asked.
That's very sweet of you to draw me a picture today at school. I love it!
3. The Connection Makes the Difference
The reason that I was able to get through to even the most difficult student (as well as my fiery toddler when she's upset) is because I take the time every day to forge that relationship with them. Spend at least 10 minutes each day tuning everything else out but your child and then shower her with love and attention. Your connection will be strong and her responsiveness to your requests will be greater.
Remember that favorite teacher you never wanted to disappoint? Well, it's time to start sprinkling some of that flavor onto your parent/child relationship. The great thing is it works both ways.
4. Child Acting Out? Put Your Ears On!
Remember, children are new to this great big world and they don't always know how to deal with the situations and emotions contained within. When your child starts to inexplicably act out, remember that she needs you more than ever. Start listening, really listening to her and help her express what she's feeling. After the emotions have subsided a bit, you can then try to come up with and explain an acceptable way to channel that emotion or feeling for when it happens again.
5. Be the Rock
No, I don't mean the wrestler, I mean create safety and calm for your child. You don't want your child to be afraid of you or label you as someone who flies off the handle. If your child can safely come to you and share their hopes, dreams, fears and everything in between, you will be able to help guide and steer her through rough times. If you appear unavailable or scary, your child will lean on someone else instead.
6. Don't Be a Broken Record
I had a mom who nagged, and frankly, I hated it. I quickly taught myself how to tune her out and during my teen years, we didn't seem to like each other very much. For recurring problems that make us feel like we are saying the same things over and over again, find a more creative solution. If you're repeating yourself time and time again, your children have stopped listening by now anyway.
If she has a messy room, try giving her some organizational tools to help clean it up easily.
If she has a messy closet and has cleaned it up recently, hang a world's cleanest closet sign on their closet door. How can you go back to being messy with that hanging there?
If your children are always forgetting to do their homework, make a standard family "table time" where common chores like homework, paying bills, and making grocery lists are all done together.
7. Give Your Child the Power
Children need to learn from a very young age the concept of cause and effect. Instead of them thinking that you are making every decision for them and that you are punishing them, they need to realize that the decisions are actually their own. And with decisions come consequences. Consequences can be good or they can be bad, but they will always occur. Every cause has an effect and your child is in control of that. This is a lesson that will serve them well and will teach them to reflect on their own behavior and how they could have chosen to do things differently.
8. Above All Else, Be Consistent
This is by far the rule of all rules in my opinion, and it doesn't just apply to teaching or to parenting. You have to talk the talk and walk the walk. Do what you say you're going to do, or don't say it at all. Empty threats undermine your authority and make your child lose respect for you. Never say it if you won't do it and never forget to follow through if a line has been crossed. Children crave consistency. In an unpredictable world, your child wants to be able to depend on what you'll do and say at all times. If you begin to make idle threats, you will begin to lose that special relationship with your child. I've seen it time and time again . . . a child will push you and push you because she is merely seeking a boundary. Do everyone a favor and give it to her, each and every day.
This applies to both mom and dad. Consistency must occur between parents as well as within each parent. If dad's a pushover and mom always has to be the enforcer, both the spousal relationship and the parental relationship will suffer.
Well, there you have it . . . words of wisdom from a woman who became a teacher first and a mother second. What parenting tips did I leave out? Do you agree or disagree with any of the above? Don't hold back, I'd love to hear your thoughts!