When you decided to become a parent, you likely understood that it wouldn’t be the easiest job in the world, but that it would be worth it, right? And now that you are a parent, you’re seeing just how true that really is! Overall, parenting is a challenging but rewarding endeavor, but it can be difficult to always know the right thing to do.
You probably learned early on, for instance, that controlling your child’s behavior is nearly impossible to accomplish. From headstrong toddlers to teens searching for independence, managing behavior is a job that never stops. Here are a few useful tips you can use to help you take control.
Positive feedback is one of the most useful tools in your parenting toolkit. Children are just like grown-ups when it comes to receiving praise: the more they receive, the more they want to keep receiving it. Positive feedback is an excellent way to let your kids know they are on the right track and will encourage them to keep doing whatever it is that they’re doing.
When you give praise, be specific and timely. If they did a great job of organizing their toys, let them know as soon as they are finished. Don’t wait until the next day. And make sure to tell them specifically what they did that you liked. Try something like “I love the way you put your toys away right after you finished playing with them! That was so smart!”
Give Them Something Useful to Do
If your child struggles with getting into trouble or making messes, it could be that they are bored. To combat this, give them something useful to do. Tell them you need their help with a chore that’s just too complicated to do alone. Make sure the task is something age-appropriate that they can handle without getting off track or giving up due to difficulty. Giving the child a task will help them direct their energy into something useful, which means they’ll be less likely to create chaos in the home.
Be Happy Around Them
Along with feeling useful, children like to feel appreciated and acknowledged. Too many times, we busy adults get so involved with our own lives that we can let that leak into our family life. If you had a rough day at work and are in the habit of bringing that mood home with you, your children may feel like you are unhappy to see them. They will begin to associate your unhappiness with themselves. After all, they don’t know what goes on at your work when you are out of the house. They only know that when you walk in the door you seem upset. The natural conclusion for a child to draw is that they are the problem.
Instead, focus on letting your child know you are happy to see them. Smile when you come home or when they come home from school. Ask them about their day and show interest in what they tell you. They’ll be a lot more likely to behave well if they know it makes you happy.
Take an Interest in Their Lives
As your children grow up, they will start leaning towards certain interests, activities, and hobbies. Sometimes these will be very different than your own. Instead of trying to push your kids to what you like, give them the freedom to choose what they like. Then, once they’ve shown an interest in something, don’t insult or berate that particular thing. If you are really into basketball but your child shows more of an interest in ballet, don’t try to push them into basketball. Sign them up for ballet classes if possible, watch YouTube videos about ballet together, and encourage them to pursue it. As you show support for your child’s interests, they won’t be so concerned about making trouble when they are bored by being forced to watch a basketball game on TV.
Perhaps one of the greatest things you can do for any human being is to show empathy. It’s easy for us to disregard other people’s feelings if we haven’t gone through the same thing, but it’s also incredibly important to set aside our own beliefs about how we think they should be feeling and instead focus on relating to how they feel.
When a child acts out, they could be expressing frustration with a situation that they have no control over. Or they could be feeling bad about an interaction they had at school. If you’ve established a good habit of open communication, truly listen to what your child tells you. Then, try to find a time when you felt similarly. Maybe you haven’t ever forgot a line in your big school play debut like your child did, but surely you’ve had an experience where you were embarrassed in front of a lot of people. Channel that feeling and you’ll be able to relate to your child. Sharing the story may help them feel not so alone or embarrassed.