Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s easy to be a parent. Thankfully, there is no written test we must pass before having children! After raising my two daughters (now mothers themselves), I readily admit I was not the perfect parent and I’m still hearing from them about things they didn’t like or enjoy about my parenting. The reality is, not only is your child constantly learning, but you’re learning parenting skills as well and no one is expecting you to get everything right the first time! Here’s my checklist of 12 parenting tips which will hopefully make that daunting task of parenting a little bit easier:
1. Moderation is key. This can readily apply to parenting as much as any other aspect in life! Not all children thrive with a “tiger mom”. It never hurts to have a healthy balance in most aspects of parenting – not too strict and not too lenient. Remember, though, that you’re the parent and not your child’s best friend, and that both parents should be on the same page with a united front.
2. Balance the work with the play. Of course we want our children ultimately to be healthy, happy, contributors to society one day and that means receiving the necessary education before the big job interview, but be careful that it’s not all work and no play! Your child wants to experience fun and laughter and see you having fun and laughter as well. Remember you’re the best role model your child has. Include things in your family life like walks, nature hikes, picnics and family trips to the library. Outings like sporting events, cultural events, movies, or just a quick trip for some froyo are all relaxing ways to add enjoyment to life.
3. Rap it! Snap it! Clap it! Tap it! You don’t have to have a musical bone in your body to use the 3 R’s – rhythm, rhyme and repetition with song or actions when trying to help your child memorise facts. Children love this aspect of music and can readily help you compose a little rap song to include the information to be learned. They also love to see Mum or Dad joining in to help them in a fun way or silly way with no stress or tension. The self-confidence your child gains by learning something so easily that he or she thought could not be learned can’t be underestimated.
4. Discipline – Not Punishment: Punishment (spanking, hitting, slapping, insulting, belittling) the experts say, should not be a part of discipline for your child, as it’s generally the least effective method. Yes, there should be consequences for bad or inappropriate behaviour, however, as behaviour expert Barbara Coloroso advises: “Say what you mean, mean what you say, and do what you said you were going to do.” It works every time. Time-outs, rewards, incentives and awards can play an effective and positive part in disciplining your child. Remember to try to keep yourself cool and calm but in control during these disciplinary times.
5. Give your child choices. Every child likes to have the power to make certain decisions. For example, the way your child styles their hair is a very personal thing, and as long as it doesn’t interfere with his or her learning, is not breaking the school dress code and is not life-threatening or a moral issue, it’s not worth causing a family crisis over just because you as a parent don’t like it! As I so often say, there’s no choice about what time to go to bed, but there can be a choice of whether to wear the red pajamas or the blue pajamas.
6. Manners, Etiquette, and Appropriate Behavior: Your child should not be the cause of someone not enjoying a movie, being disturbed during a meal in a restaurant or having a disturbing plane trip due to yelling and screaming. Parents have to teach their children the proper way to behave in public and sometimes it takes more than one lesson, one practice or one reminder (picking the nose, coughing without covering the mouth, burping without saying excuse me, using profanity, etc.!)
7. Routines and Consistency: Try not to flip-flop on your rules and established routines. Once your child knows your expectations and knows that they will not readily change, he/she will easily abide by them. It reduces the confusion at home and helps with organizing the daily living. Your child must know when homework should be done, how to prepare for school the night before (lunches made, clothes chosen, homework in backpack, books gathered to be returned to school), when the bedroom must be cleaned, when to brush their teeth and get ready for bed, what daily chores must be done, when the pet is to be fed and what TV shows can or cannot be watched. Establishing routines and good consistency will be reflected very often in your child’s progress report at school. It is that important!
8. Social Skills and Good Eye Contact: Parents can really assist the teacher by helping the child to speak in complete sentences early instead of accepting one word answers or a physical gesture. Training the child to listen to instructions and follow them accurately is not always easy. It helps to first establish good eye contact with the child before even giving a direction with no extraneous sounds for distraction. Start simply with one and progress gradually to two and then three (take your plate to the kitchen, wipe it off first in the rubbish bin, then put it into the dishwasher on the bottom rack). By age six, your child should be capable of following three directions.
9. The “Funny Book” Idea: One of the best things I can remember doing for my children was having a scrap book and pen handy in a kitchen drawer. From the earliest age I would quickly write down the date and what they said or did that was so funny, interesting or amazing. We always think we will remember these things but we don’t. When my daughters were in their twenties they would pull out their “funny books” when their friends came over and have barrels of laughs reading all the cute and hilarious things they said or did, like the time I re-did one of my daughter’s bedrooms and she said, “Mum, you’re a really good inferior decorator!” I even heard one friend say, “I wish my mom had done that for me”.
10. Monitor Friends – Monitor Electronic Gadgets: I can’t stress how important having good friends is in your child’s life. They can play such a valuable role and carry such a positive influence. If parents find this is not the case when they observe and listen at play dates and sleepovers, then they must take steps to remove these bad influences as soon as possible – in short, do not let your child associate with that person. My daughters still have the same friends today that they had in elementary school and high school, even though they live in different parts of the world – they email, skype and even travel together as adults.
Similary, in today’s day and age, parents need to monitor electronic devices as much as they monitor playmates. Everyone knows of horror stories that can result when parents don’t monitor the child’s use of the computer and other devices. Keep that bedroom door open, or put the computer in the living room. We have all seen families in restaurants where each member has a gadget in his or her hands, where no one talks to each other and the meal is often left uneaten by the little ones. Only you as parents can change these addictive habits.
11. Games: Children respond miraculously to the word “game”, so when helping your child with homework you can always make up a simple little game to make it fun!. For example, when drilling flash cards – a wrong answer and the card goes to Mum or Dad and a right answer and the card goes to the child. Who will be the winner? Don’t forget to train your child to say “Good game!” or “Congratulations” afterwards. Even using a kitchen timer to help with focusing and completing a task can be fun for the child and an added incentive.
12. The Wish List: Incentives and rewards can be brainstormed with your child in the form of a wish list. You and your child simply write down all the things that would be nice to do or have or experience as a reward for good marks or good behaviour. Wish list ideas do not have to cost money and can even be something simple and fun like a walk around the block with Mum or Dad alone or an extra bedtime story or a bigger snack than usual. Your child simply picks the reward from the list when it’s deserved.
Happy parenting and enjoy your precious child!
“Tips and Tidbits for Parents and Teachers” can be purchased at most Dymocks Bookstores, Kelly and Walsh, Swindon Bookstores, Beachside Bookstore at Stanley Market, and from Amazon.com (E-books are also available).