There are lots of lists of “top ten” tips on this and that – top ten best self-tanners, top ten best local pizzerias, etc. As a part of this edition of FAMILY FOCUS, I thought I would share the top ten best parenting tips. At The Wise Family (www.thewisefamily.com), we refer to them as COMMANDMENTS because, more than tips, they really are rules to live by. Although we didn’t find these on stone tablets, they have been in our toolbox for decades, so credit is due to the brilliant author, with a few updates from us –
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF PARENTING
1. Set a good example. Your child looks up to you and tries to be like you. It’s fine to tell your child to be respectful, truthful, helpful, and kind. But it won’t count unless you act that way, too. PS. That goes for eating your broccoli and not being on Facebook at the dinner table, too.
2. Give energy and attention to goodness. What you feed, grows. Look for chances to reward positive behavior with your attention. Look for chances to give your attention when no negative behavior is happening.
3. Avoid giving energy and attention to badness. What you feed, grows. Kids want any attention, good or bad. If you argue or yell at your child, he will learn to misbehave more to get your attention. Instead, simply give the child a short time out where no attention is available. When quiet again for a few minutes, then you can give him attention for taking a few minutes to calm down and reflect.
4. Keep your promises. Your child counts on you to feel loved and secure. When you don’t come through on a promise, she may feel insecure, and believe that you don’t care about her. Promises are just as important whether it’s for a “treat” or for something the child doesn’t even want, like a time out. If you are not sure it will happen, don’t use the “P” word.
5. Only make promises you can keep. Don’t promise things you only wish could happen – it only hurts worse when it can’t. Also, avoid making big threats or punishments – these are promises, too. Later, you may realize that you were wrong, and take it back. Stick with promises that you can keep.
6. Use consequences, not punishments. A consequence is something that is naturally caused by a behavior. For example, when you are not being kind to others, you can’t be around people for a little while. When you make a mess, you clean it up. When you don’t finish your homework, you can’t watch TV. When you leave my tool outside, I won’t want to lend it to you next time you ask. Children learn how to behave better from having natural consequences. (Notice that we didn’t use the word “IF”).
A punishment is something that is given by an angry adult for revenge. For example, when you do that one more time, you can’t go to the park tomorrow. Punishments – including spankings – are for children to suffer. Children also learn from punishments: they learn to be sneaky and hateful.
7. Stay in control. Everyone gets mad. The trick is to catch yourself when you’re just starting to get upset or frustrated. Then you can take care of the situation quickly, before it gets out of hand – maybe by giving a time out, finding some goodness to give attention to, or taking a time out for yourself. Parents make most of their mistakes when they are mad: they yell, they argue, they give attention to badness, and they give punishments – which might also turn out to be broken promises. If you can’t catch yourself before you lose control, get help and learn how. It’s worth it.
8. Include your child. Children naturally want to help out and be included. For example, even a very young child can “help” you wash dishes by stirring the dishwater with a spoon. If you take the time to include the child and to make chores fun, he will learn to be helpful and to feel good about himself.
9. Make your child feel special. Avoid comparing children to each other or trying to give each child exactly the same thing all the time. That just fosters insecurity and sibling rivalry. Children don’t need “equal” treatment; they need to feel special. Find ways of appreciating each child for her own qualities. You can show this with special privileges, small gifts, attention, or activities.
10. Take care of yourself. Obvious, but important anyway. Parents need nutritious food, enough sleep, exercise, friends, enjoyment, a little time off for themselves… Raising kids is a big challenge. Your job is not to make your children happy, but to model happiness in your own life, work and outlook.
Connect with us at our website, www.thewisefamily.com, or find us in the social media sphere @wisefamilies if you have something to add to our commandments above! We’d love to hear from you!
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“Dr. Amy talks about moving children from being externally-driven to internally-driven…and she helps you get there!”— Parent of 15-year-old daughter
“Dr. Amy brings together the best emotion-focused strategies with cutting-edge brain science to change the lives of children and families”— Parent of adopted twin girls