Raising younger children
Basics of positive parenting for parents of 0-10 year old children
Caregivers of young children are their very first role models. Children do not just imitate their parents or repeat their teachers’ words and behavior, they believe what they to them about themselves.
When parents insult them or treat them badly, children will eventually learn to believe the insults, expect the insults and eventually accept the insults. While if they treat them with kindness, respect their choices and empower them to be responsible, they will grow with balanced characters and healthy level of self-esteem.
Reconsidering our parenting methods
Disobedience or bad behavior is not the only alarming behavior that should make caregivers reconsider their parenting methods. You should be alarmed if you see your children with an increased tendency to:
Withdrawal: Staying alone, quiet and sharing less about his/her day.
Violence: bullying or being physically and verbally violent others and overreacting to everyday issues.
Fear: feeling intimidated by certain people of situation and lying to hide something or avoid punishment.
Consider that many things can affect your children to behave the way they do:
- Things happening at the house: siblings jealousy, family dispute, financial struggles that children are aware of…etc.
- Things happening at school: studying load, bullying, being rejected or excluded by friends or classmates…etc.
- Not being able to express their fears and worries for fear of judgement, criticism or punishment.
- Not getting enough sleep or healthy nutrition.
Listening to your children is a skill
In order to understand what your children are going through, you need to listen to them:
- Choose a moment where your children are in a good mood. Ask them to tell you about something that happened during their day:
- Listen carefully and make sure you’re showing these signs of being a good listener: Showing them a friendly, interested face, nodding, sitting at the same level as theirs and looking them in the eye
- Avoid interrupting them and wait till they finish
- Ask them questions to show you’re interested (Like “and then what happened?” and “what did you do?”)
- Avoid judging and lecturing them if they say they’ve done something wrong. This might discourage them from telling you later on. Wait until they finish and think of possible ways to address this negative behavior later
- Now, switch roles and ask them to listen to you while you tell them something that happened to you.
- Talk with your child about what it feels like to be listened to. Do they feel you understand them better?
To make them listen you, try ‘positive request’ rather than ‘order’
A positive request is asking a person to do something, not to stop doing something.
“Come early” instead of “do not be late like you always do”
How to make a positive request?
- Make eye contact
- Define exactly what you would like him/her to do (For example: Please clean your room).
- Tell them how it would make you feel (For example: It would be very helpful if you clean your room).
- Use phrases that reflect respect and appreciation like: “I would like you to….”, “I would really appreciate it if you would do….”, “It’s very important to me that you help me with..”
- Always praise your children when they do what you requested.
How to manage negative or challenging behavior?
When your children ignore your requests or breaks a rule you two agreed upon, how do you “positively” tell them that they are acting in an unpleasant or unacceptable manner?
Express that you have negative feelings towards this behavior
- Look at them; speak firmly.
- Say exactly what he or she did that upset you (I feel bad when you……).
- Tell them what could happen or what they could do to fix or save the situation (I would appreciate if you could….).
- Suggest how they might prevent this from happening in the future (In the future I suggest you…).
Introducing consequences vs punishment
Consequences are different than punishments. They are opportunities for your children to learn that their actions will have an impact on themselves and others. They can help teach children independence, decision-making, and responsibility.
Types of consequences:
- Natural Consequences: Consequences that require no interference from parents. They are a natural result of a child’s behavior.
- Example: “If you do not put your clothes in the laundry basket, you will not have any clean clothes to wear.”
- Logical Consequences: Consequences that are a result of a specific behavior such as not complying to rules.
- Example: “If you come home late, you don’t get time out tomorrow.”
How to introduce consequences for not following rules?
- Identify misbehavior: What you want your children to do and what you don’t want them to do
- Give a clear consequence if this misbehavior happens: Use “if-then” statements as above
- When it happens, apply the consequences immediately after to make the link clear
- Praise them if they follow the rules
Help them solve their problems
Sometimes your children are behaving in a negative way because they’re stressed or worried about another problem. While it’s important to let your children be independent and try figuring things out on their own, you need to let them know they can always come to you for help.
Problems solving steps:
- Clearly define the problem
- Think together of possible solutions, encourage them to come up with two or more solutions.
- Talk with your children about each solution and how they would feel about it. Then, express your own feelings towards each solution by, for example, saying: “I wouldn’t be comfortable with this solution because..” or “That solution sounds doable because..”.
- Choose the solution that seems best and try it out.
- Talk and follow up with your child: Did the solution work?
- Be something different than what they use for a reward. Example: if a reward is spending more time with their friends, the consequence cannot be cancelling their time out with friends.
- Include apologizing If the negative behavior affects another person. Example: “If you break someone’s stuff, you have to apologize and help them fix it.”
Consequences MUST NOT:
- Include physical punishment.
- Deprives teenagers of a right like food or going to school. It can rather be restricting a privilege like decreasing time with friends or adding responsibilities like doing more chores.