Over the past four years, I've read a lot of parenting books. Recently, I went on a bit of a binge and took about six out of the library at the same time. Reading parenting books can be overwhelming - so many opinions, perspectives, suggestions...
This latest round seemed to be no different. Until, that is, I started to feel like I was reading the same book over and over. Once I started to see the patterns, I realized that the same messages have been echoed in almost all of the books I've read (maybe I'm a little slow on the uptake).
So, to spare others the trouble of reading dozens of books (and to save myself from having to read any more), here is my take on the collective wisdom:
1. Foster strong connections with your kids. Tell them you love them. Play with them. Laugh and giggle with them. Learn what makes their eyes light up. Compliment them. Ask them their opinion and listen to the answer.
2. Be an empathetic listener. Let your kids know you have really heard what they are saying. Resist the urge to always jump in with a response, lecture, or suggestion. Sometimes all they need/want is to tell someone that they had a lousy day. If a response is required, they will be much more receptive to what you have to say if they feel like they have been heard first.
3. Be a strong, consistent, guiding presence their lives. Kids feel secure knowing there is a loving adult "running the show". Be clear and consistent with your expectations and values (which is not the same as rigidly adhering to rules no matter what the cost). Be as decisive as possible - avoid "waffling". If you need time to think about something, say so. If you make a bad decision, admit your mistake and explain why you've changed your mind.
4. Focus on problem solving, not punishment. Instead of trying to come up with new and more effective punishments or consequences, focus on trying to help your child avoid repeating the same behaviour in the first place. Are they developmentally ready for what is being asked? Do they have the necessary skills, knowledge, or tools? Do they need some kind of reminder or cue to remember the desired behaviour? (Nagging doesn't count!) Involve your kids in this process as much as possible.
No problem, right?