Thursday, March 3, 2016

Effective parenting requires a balance of these two elements...


There is wisdom in balance.  Keeping the elements of life in balance leads to a calm and peaceful existence.  Life with children is rarely characterized as calm and peaceful and with each additional child the chaos can multiply.  But balance is an extremely important element of good parenting.

Research has shown that the most effective parents over time are those who combine nurturing with authority.  In other words, parents who are responsive and emotionally connected with their children, but who also play the important role of authority figure in their children's lives have been shown over time to raise the most emotionally balanced and less destructive children.  For further reading on this research see below*

Many parents struggle with the authority figure role.  Does your child listen to you?  Do they follow your rules?  Do they respect your words?  Do they know that ultimately you are the boss of them until they grow up and leave your house?  If not, you have some work to do.

Children are master manipulators.  They know how to push our buttons for sport.  They are not as emotionally engaged when we are really angry.  And they have an easy time tuning us out if they have learned that we really don't mean what we say.  So how can this dynamic be changed?  Here are some tips that my husband and I found worked after years of practice.

1.  Have high standards for behavior and communicate those expectations to your child.  This means teaching manners and polite social behavior, expecting your child to respect your and his/her teachers and coaches, and in general behaving in a manner that brings happiness and joy to others.

2.  Only say what you mean.  Children quickly learn that idle threats mean nothing.  If you consistently say that you will do something and then don't do it, you are actively teaching your child to tune you out and worse, not trust your words.  Words are so important...spend them wisely.

3.  Don't allow bad behavior to spiral.  Nip it in the bud.  If your child has begun to back talk or be sassy, you may find it cute or not a big deal at first, but then you get used to it and somewhere along the way you stop noticing it.  And then it becomes a problem.  We found that it is much better to be proactive about little behavior slips than reactive when behavior has gotten out of control.  Make sure that your child knows what it is you expect and then do not tolerate anything less.  (for more ideas on positive discipline read this:  splashparenting.com/2013/03/six-steps-toward-positive-discipline

4.  Authority Figures Don't Negotiate!  My husband taught me to not accept arguing and whining when we were giving one of our children a consequence for bad behavior.  He would calmly remind our child that if he/she argued about the consequence, the consequence would be doubled.  This tip worked like magic.  If your child knows that a punishment could be doubled, he/she usually reflects on whether the whining and arguing are worth the risk, and the answer is always no!

Children want and need you to be the parent and for them to be the child.  They need their parents to be loving and kind and yet strong enough to earn their respect and teach them self control.  It is counter intuitive--we want to give in to our children and let them do, be, and have anything that makes them happy...but by always giving in to their desires we are not teaching them the important skills of self control and showing them that we care enough to set limits--it is a fatal swap--peace in the present for contentment in the future.  Giving in to your child's tantrum is teaching your child that tantrums work, and always giving your child everything they want will set them up for a future of discontent.  Good parenting requires the healthy balance of loving our children enough to act as the authority in their lives.  This means being strong enough to set limits on our children's behavior. Through limits, our children learn self control, and respect for us.  Without limits, children continue to push the boundaries looking for where we will finally set the limits.  And if we never set limits at all, our children believe that we don't care enough to set them.  So practice that balance for healthy and effective parenting.  Be the loving, authority in your child's life.
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*http://persweb.wabash.edu/facstaff/hortonr/articles%20for%20class/baumrind.pdf