Guest Post by: Erica Johnson
Whether you are an experienced parent or a newbie, small things can make a big difference to our kids in the way we approach them, react to them and guide them. In the new year, maybe some of these changes are ones that you hope to incorporate or improve upon as you try to be the best parent you can be for your child.
1. Listen with true attentiveness.
This really goes for any relationship, but we can tend to tune our kid out because they have lots to say. Even if they don’t (teens, anyone?), when they do speak, they need our full attention. That means putting down the phones, tablets and more in order to truly be engaged in everyday moments with our kids. Also, don’t be thinking about what you need to say next when your kids are talking. Truly listen, ask questions for clarification and keep questions open-ended (“What was the best part of your day?” vs. “How was your day?”). You may learn lots more than you ever thought about what makes your kids tick.
2. Encourage in specific ways.
We all love a good pat on the back, but kids need it even more than most adults. Rather than just saying, “Good job,” take a moment to thoughtfully acknowledge what was good about what your child did. For example, “Wow! I know that you worked really hard on that math assignment. Even though it was difficult for you, you finished it. Way to go.” Or maybe, “I noticed when you helped your teammate who was struggling at soccer practice today. You were being a good friend to him/her.”
3. When frustrated or upset, count to 10.
We may encourage our kids to take a countdown to cool down, but adults need time to simmer down as well. Whether it’s stepping away from a situation for a few moments, counting out loud to ten, closing eyes to count (to 10, 20, 100 . . .!), do what it takes to deal with frustrations internally so that you can address your child in a calm manner. More is caught than taught in this area, so hopefully your example will carry over to them when they are faced with a frustrating situation.
4. Be thankful for the small, everyday things and verbalize your thanks.
If our own hearts are full of thankfulness, then there is little room for complaining, criticizing and negativity. Comments such as “Wow, I’m thankful for sunshine after all that freezing rain” or “Even though the day didn’t go well, I’m glad we get to come home to each other” point your kids to focus on the positive joys of life. Like the
experts say, instead of focusing on the 10% of our lives that we wish were different, how about choosing to dwell on the 90% that is pretty good.
Parenting is hard, but our kids should see us growing and changing as individuals, even though we’re adults. Lifelong learning is important, and implementing small changes in our parenting can have a potentially big impact.