For four years, Whole Hearted Parenting has presented the annual Parent’s Top Ten List which contains ten suggestions for creating a more harmonious, cooperative and respectful family in the New Year. You can get your free 2010 Parent's Top Ten List by clicking here. Because this list is succinct – no explanations of the concepts – you may be curious about the “why” behind some of the suggestions. Y ou may also be wondering what difference you might see in your family if you practiced a few or all of the suggestions on the list. Let’s look in more detail at a few ideas from our 2010 Parent’s Top Ten list.
Suggestion #1 is Notice and recognize your child’s improvements. Sometimes it is easy to only notice – and point out – a child’s misbehavior, mistakes or shortcomings. If a child makes A’s and B’s on his report card along with one C, the C often gets the most attention. Begin to notice even small improvements. A challenge in our house is my daughter getting ready for school in the morning. That is my challenge. She is happy not getting ready for school! Part of her job in getting ready for school is turning off the lights, radio, and the fan in her room. Another part of her job is putting all of her dirty clothes in her hamper. Rather than feedback being about the things she did not do – You forgot to put your clothes in the hamper – it is more encouraging to recognize the things that she did do – You turned off the fan and radio. That’s great! Focusing on your child’s successes and improvements is not only encouraging for your child, but for you as well. What we focus on is what we get, so the more we focus on improvements, the more improvements we will see. Notice how you feel and what you are thinking when you shift your focus in this way. If you are thinking “Man, how many times do we have to go through this before she cleans up after herself?” you will most likely feel frustrated or angry. Your frustration and anger will be reflected in your tone of voice. If you are thinking, “She is getting it! The clothes are in the hamper!” you will feel encouraged. You will feel better AND be more encouraging with your child.
Suggestion #3 is Eliminate “don’t”, “share” and “be nice” from your vocabulary. Let’s look at each of these. The curious thing about “don’t” is that we don’t really recognize it. For instance, if someone said to you, “Don’t look at the person on your right. Don’t look!” you will probably (and immediately!) look to your right. Our brains do not process the “don’t.” The choices are overwhelming! To create clarity for your children, tell them specifically what you would like them to do rather than what not to do. I nstead of “Don’t jump on the bed” or “Don’t put your feet on the couch” say, “Sit on the bed” or “Feet down.”
“Share” and “be nice” are used frequently with younger children. Children learn to share on their own without parental intervention. In fact, when parents request that their children share, most of the time their children are too young to understand what it means. Have faith that your child will willingly share and will learn to do so through his own social relationships.
Saying “Be nice” has a double whammy. First, children do not understand what it means so they are not clear on what to do to be nice. Second, it gives the message that unless we tell our child to “be nice” that they are unkind, bad or whatever their view of “not nice” is. To avoid this double whammy, tell your child what you want him to do. If your child is grabbing toys from a friend say, “Toys are for picking up gently. Use toys these toys on the floor. Mary is playing with that one.” You can also say, “Ask Mary to hand you the toy you would like to use. Grabbing can hurt.” Talk about these skills in terms of “friendship” or “teamwork” skills. If your child is going over to a friend’s house say, “Have fun! Use your friendship skills.”
The language that we use is powerful. Our focus is powerful. Enjoy your 2010 Parent’s Top Ten List and let us know what shifts for you!