It is other people who influence children about how they feel about themselves. They are all products of the "self-fulfilling prophecy." We have known for years that what we expect from our children is what we will get. Constant input of sincere positive reinforcement helps children feel good about themselves and enables them to function well. Constant criticism, on the other hand, causes children to feel bad about themselves and hinders their growth and development. Therefore, it is important to learn effective ways for interacting with your child. Parents who gain expertise are the ones who usually find it easy to get positive responses from their children, while those without the information often have great difficulty.
Parents and caregivers guide and support their children. They lead them, and they teach them. They do all this by what they say and do. The fifteen pillars of parenting are tools for guidance and support. There are four preparations, five attitudes, and six techniques. They all work together. The preparations are ongoing all the time. They are designed to guide children toward positive behavior and therefore decrease opportunities for negative behavior. The attitudes are the basics related to understanding behavior. They are beliefs. The interventions are actions you can take to handle behavior. While these tools are explained on the toddler and preschool level, you can begin using them in a modified way as soon as your baby starts to move around and then modify them again as your child gets older. Your child is busy learning about the world, and this child needs you as a personal guide, supporter, and protector.
Pillars of Preparation
The idea behind preparation is the concept of having activities run as smoothly as possible. Accidents always happen, but fewer happen when precautions are firmly set in place. Rules, systems, order, expectations, and schedules are basics associated with well-running households. They are part of the preparation process. In addition, you will see that what you focus on, what you do, and what you say are all important.
- Set up for Success. Be future oriented, always on the lookout for how to prepare for the future. Use all current information to make upcoming situations run more smoothly. In the table below you will see examples of problematic past situations and successful new ones.
Setting up for Success
Problematic Past Situations Successful New Situations Requiring your child to sit and listen for a long period of time like in a church, temple, concert, or play. Planning frequent breaks for your child when it is necessary for him or her to be in one place for a long period of time. Requiring your child to complete a task perfectly such as setting the table, completing a puzzle, or coloring in the lines. Setting up open-ended play activities for your child with craft materials, blocks, dolls, bubbles, play dough, sand, and water.
Communicating unclear expectations such as "clean up your room."
Giving specific directions such as identifying what you want done and when you want it done. Keeping inappropriate rigid schedules. Having a flexible routine that will meet your child's true wants and needs.
Here are some related ideas:
- Try to avoid setting up "yes or no" situations that could easily turn into "no" situations. For example, instead of asking your child if he is ready to get dressed, ask him which shirt he wants to wear.
- Break up long blocks of time for your child with smaller segments. If you are going shopping with your child for a long time, build breaks into your outing that will give you time to pay special attention to your child.
- Design reading time by short intervals. Read a section and then comment on it. Then continue with the next section when and if your child is ready.
You can see from these examples how much influence you have over your child's behavior. While a difficult situation can lead your child directly into misbehavior, an appropriate situation can lead to success and even to an eventual compliment or reward.
- Make Expectations Clear. Be fair, firm, and positive. These are parameters of effective discipline. They work to decrease misbehavior in the future. In addition, they help your child learn to take charge of himself or herself and in the end become his or her own disciplinarian.
It is fair to set up your situation for success and then explain to your child your expectations. For example, if you are going to Grandma's house and you want your child to participate well in the visit, bring along a puzzle, some books, or some other child-appropriate activity that you think your child will enjoy. Then, referring to the items you brought, describe to your child the appropriate behavior that you expect with those items. This kind of preparation is a way of teaching your child responsibility. You are putting him or her in the position to make a choice—follow the directions you have given and enjoy the visit or ignore them and have some difficulties.
Talk to your child firmly to show that you mean what you are saying. He or she easily knows the difference in your tone and will respond to you accordingly. If you are not sure of what to require, find out. Ask a parent, friend, or relative. Look it up in a book or on the Web. Find out what you need to know so that you can act with confidence. Your body language will speak loudly to your children
Your actions are positive because they are about teaching. They are focused on your child's well-being. You are helping your child to know how to act appropriately, and you are showing him or her how to make a choice to do so. Your direction is honest, caring, and loving. Change the word "misbehavior" to "mistaken behavior." Everyone makes mistakes, and the important thing to do is learn from them. Teach your child how to act better so that she will not make the same mistake again, and teach yourself how to set up the situation better for the future. If you find yourself in a difficult spot, you may need to do your teaching at a later time, after the emotional reaction of the incident has passed. The goal is not only to handle the present difficulty but also to prepare for the future. The key is to move on from the present and figure out what you both can do so that the situation will run more smoothly the next time.
- Use Praise and Encouragement Appropriately. Praise is defined in Webster's New World Dictionary as "to commend the worth of" (p. 462). Commend is defined in the same dictionary as "recommend" (p. 121). Implicit in this concept is the idea of giving approval. It comes with value words like "good, very good, excellent," and soon. Adult approval is very powerful for children. However, the most important approval is the child's self-approval. Therefore, to avoid creating a dependency on adult approval, praise should be used sparingly and reserved for major accomplishments like beautiful drawings, well-built towers, intricate structures made from blocks, and successfully completing difficult puzzles and other challenging projects.
To help your child learn how to give self-approval and minimize the need for adult approval, there is another version of praise. It is called encouragement. This is the act of commending different parts of activities that are distinct from completed acts or projects. Since these child endeavors go on all day long, all the time, you can recognize them on an ongoing basis. For example, for a drawing not finished, you can describe beautiful colors or interesting designs. For a tower just begun, you can point out well-placed blocks or skill in placement. For a puzzle not finished, you can reflect on a difficult piece well-placed or a clever choice. Implicit in this process is creating the opportunity for self-praise like, "I used beautiful colors. Good for me." "I placed the blocks well. Good for me." "I put in a hard piece of the puzzle. Good for me." Encouragement is what will help your child get to the point of true accomplishment, and that will lead to meaningful adult praise. Such praise will feel extremely rewarding, and it will not carry with it any kind of dependency on it.
Encouragement turns out to be at the heart of being able to create an ongoing positive adult-child relationship. These are positive adult interactions that encourage positive child actions. Before long, negative adult interactions will decrease and positive child actions will increase. You will see the power of the recognition of your child's effort and the resultant child self-praise. The whole process of adult-child dynamics will change, and you will experience the rewards of being in a positive parent-child relationship with your child.
A word about true praise: Try to give it privately. When your child has accomplished something, he or she will reap its rewards any time and anywhere. The privacy of your praise will keep it away from other children who may experience feelings of failure when they are not the ones receiving it.
- Make Your Child Feel Needed. Seek your child's help whenever possible. Sentences like "I need your help taking care of your baby sister—please hand me the bottle" and "Please bring me the towel" are all examples of making your child feel important and valued. Parents often find children uncooperative when they ask their children to do things. However, when they make their requests as part of a more meaningful context, they get a much more positive response.
Another way to show your child that he or she is valued is to ask for help with a task. While getting ready to go out, you might need your child to pack up a set of blocks in their original container. While preparing dinner, you might need him or her to fold napkins, pick up some toys, or put some items on the table. Another popular way to ask for help is with carrying things.
As you continue to seek assistance on an ongoing basis, remember to use the words, "please" and "thank you." Those are the magic words in our culture. They are words of respect and appreciation. Use them to build respect and appreciation into your parent-child relationship. Remember, the way to teach your child to say "please" and "thank you" is to say them to your child.
© ______ 2002, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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