intention: inˈten(t)SH(ə)n/ (noun) an aim or plan (Websters, 2005)
Here is a quick list of ways to improve your parenting to enjoy success with those whom mean most to you, your children.
- Understand your past and how it affects your present. Attachment theorists understand that the greatest predictor of how a child will develop and thrive is how their parents make sense of their own lives. If parents make sense of how their pasts affect them, their children do well.
- Stop Comparing. Comparison is an automatic response of our brain to make sense of our world. Most neurologists understand that the brain tends to make lists and logic maps on our everyday choices and experiences. The brain is often thought of as obtaining information to help us learn when the truth is that the brain obtains information to help us stay alive. Jump to being a parent and having to keep yourself and your offspring alive. Our children place us on overdrive when it comes to making lists and “getting it right.” The next time you catch yourself comparing yourself to another parent remind yourself, “ I am comparing my parent list to their parent list.” Your brain is reminding you of what you know thus far as a parent. Give yourself and the other parent a break and take a moment to speak to your brain by saying, “thanks for the reminder of how I have chosen to do things. I’m sure her brain has another list for her experience.” It is one tool in moving towards fostering compassion for yourself and the other parent.
- Ask for Forgiveness. The greatest gift you can give your child is an example of handling a "negative" emotion. The next time you scream at your child or act in a manner less than appealing to you and your child, apologize to them. This act kills two birds with one stone. First, you are modeling how to apologize when someone has done something wrong. Second, your child now feels and understands that you respect and love them enough to apologize for your behavior. This teaches them empathy, compassion and sets them up for success in most relationships.
- State and Keep Clear and Concise Rules. Parents often speak too long and with complicated messages, causing a child to misunderstand and act out behavior rather than ask about their confusion. It’s important to speak to the goal of their behavior; whenever possible give a positive alternative or give them a positive way to attain their goal, narrate and label feeling around their behavior, set a clear and understandable boundary, and if you need to set a consequence, make sure it is quick and in the moment rather than days later. Please stop asking yes and no questions, especially to young children (under 7). Asking a little one "can you please put away your toys?", can be answered with an easy "no." They are not being rude or disrespectful, they are answering your question. Try this instead, "it is time to pick up your toys." Trust me on this one.
- Maintain a routine as often as possible. Children understand time and feel safe when they can predict and know what comes next. Set up a routine that you follow most days and most behavioral problems will lessen.