Psychologically Speaking: Parenting pointers

Catch your child 'being good.' Everyone loves to be praised.

parenting image 88 224 (photo credit:)
parenting image 88 224
(photo credit: )
Dear Dr. Batya, Sometimes I get so angry with my children that I find I have to work very hard not to "lose it" with them. Could you give me some guidelines for dealing with my children's behavior? - D.F., Beit Shemesh I am not sure just how young your children are, but I think the guidelines below are good from about six months till 65 years. Our children are always our children and we need to treat them lovingly and with a great deal of respect, whatever their age. At some point, as our children become middle to late teenagers, we realize that our job as parent evolves to enable them to take on more responsibility and achieve greater independence. We now are involved as consultants, but assuming that we have brought our children up with good values, the rest is up to them, and they need to learn to manage their day to day life with our occasional guidance. I know you may feel desperate. At these times, stop, walk away, call a friend or emergency hot line, make a cup of tea, hop into a quick cold shower, breathe slowly, count to 100, write, but don't hit your child. At the end of the day, it won't help your relationship with your child or other family members, and it is a sign that you, the adult, are out of control. Catch your child "being good." Everyone loves to be praised and there's always something good and probably lots wonderful about your child too. On my office door I used to have a page with "100 ways to praise your child." E-mail me and I'll happily send it to you. You may just be looking with a too-critical eye if you can't come up with at least five nice things to say a day. Praise your child for appropriate behavior and ask him to tell you "good" things he has done, since you aren't always around to observe. Don't worry about interrupting him if you catch him in a quiet moment. It will be well worth it and he'll get back into whatever he was playing with. Involve your children in your daily life. Let them know what you're doing and find out how they spent their day. While it may be easier to do things yourself or do it "for them," they need to be involved. Feeling useful and needed is essential to building good self-esteem. Involve your children around the house with chores, even if they don't want to participate. They are part of the family team and have an important contribution to make. They also learn to respect you and themselves more in the process. Consistency is the backbone of good parenting. Say what you mean and mean what you say if you want your children to be able to understand that there are rules within and outside of a family. Set reasonable and age-appropriate limits that both parents are able to follow. Saying that you will do something and then not following through teaches children to misbehave and, perhaps worse, not trust the very people who are most important to them. You are also the boss and the role model for appropriate behavior, and they need to know that it is you and not them who run the house. If you are afraid of your child or feel that he is running the house, get help now as bigger children have bigger problems. Discipline your child with love. Punishment should be used only as a last resort, should be fair and should fit the crime. Excessive punishment will backfire and true discipline is really the teaching of appropriate acceptable behavior. When teaching that a behavior is unacceptable, let them know why and suggest what they can do instead. Don't belabor your point, give repeated warnings or get into a power struggle. Make sure that your expectations are realistic. Dates with your children are a wonderful opportunity to become closer. These are not opportunities for lecturing but rather for listening. Take a step back and hear what your child has to say. You may be quite surprised to discover that you like how he thinks and that he has much to contribute. If you start early, you'll discover that listening to an adolescent can be a real joy. Talk with your child. Yelling, screaming, nagging, talking down, threatening and any other similar behavior does nothing to improve the relationship. The best "teachable moments" are not just during a crisis but during those unexpected times such as walking together, car pooling or chatting just before bed. I believe that talking regardless of the age of your child is the essence of a good relationship. Actions speak louder than words. Children will imitate your behavior, so make sure you're happy with it. Look after yourself. You need time to refuel just by yourself without anyone, but you also need "couple time." If you don't make this a priority now you may discover that when the children are older, your marriage feels meaningless and you are unhappy. We all make mistakes. It's important to be forgiving with your children and move beyond the moment. Hug them, hold them, make time for them and let them know that there is nothing more precious in your life than they are. If you feel that your relationship with your children is not what you want it to be, or if you feel they have behavioral problems that are impacting on other family members, don't sit idly by waiting for things to change. They won't. Children don't usually "outgrow" their problems, but those small issues not dealt with now often become larger issues as your child gets older. Remember, if you want to change your relationship with your child, you may have to do something differently. You are quite right when you say that you have to work hard with your child. Parenting is not easy work and most of us learn by on-the-job experience. The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra'anana. ludman@netvision.net.il