Wednesday, April 9, 2008

"How to be a Super Parent without a Super Nanny"

The Decision

In order to be the kind of parent you are trying to be you have a decision to make. Are you completely committed to raising your children? This means they come first. You, your spouse, significant other, life partner, family or anyone else that may have ruled your life now come second. If this commitment is not for you that is fine. There are TV shows designed for the type of crisis you will eventually have. If you are completely committed to providing your children with the type of parent(s) and loving home they deserve then you are in the right place.

The Plan

The plan is actually an umbrella term for many of the things you are going to decide on as a parent. This plan can come at any stage of the game but at some point you have to have one. If you are super organized and are looking into parenting before you become pregnant or while you are pregnant two thumbs up to you. You are already one step ahead of the game. If you already have one, two, ten kids and have now decided you need to revamp your parenting style good for you too. No matter where you are in the child rearing process it is never to late to devise a plan and make a change.

The Parent Type

What type of parent are you going to be? You actually have three choices in this category; authoritarian, permissive, or authoritative. An authoritarian parent is one that controls their child completely. You rule with an iron fist. Permissive parenting involves letting the children do what ever they want. Anything they choose is ok. These are the parents you see on TV. Being an authoritative parent means setting rules, giving choices, allowing your children to make mistakes, following mistakes with consequences, and meaning what you say. Quick hint – These are the most successful type of parents.

The Rules and Routines

Every household needs rules and routines. Without them you are living in complete chaos. This means you have a set bedtime. Barring very special occasions your children go to bed at the same time every night. As a family you sit down and have dinner together. This also happens at the same time every night. Each member of the family has a few things they are responsible for. Sammy feeds the dog and waters the plants. Beth clears the table and takes out the trash. You have rules. And for broken rules you have consequences. If your children are school-age you have a homework area and routine. Limits are set on TV, video and computer time. Family activities are an important part of your routines.

With that said, this does not mean that there is no give and take in your structure. Flexibility, to a degree, is actually a very important part of parenting. If you have very young children you establish the family rules and routines. After they are established explain them to your children. This does not mean sit your three year old down on the couch and give her a five page list of the family rules. Explain them as the situation presents. For example, at bedtime do the same things in the same order every night. If bedtime is 8:00, at 7:30 run the bath water, when the bath is finished and pajamas are on read a story. At 8:00 tuck your child into bed and say goodnight. By establishing this routine bedtimes become a smooth transaction instead of a nightly wrestling match.

If you are the parents of older children you may want to have a family meeting to establish the rules and routines. You are still the parent, which means you ultimately have the final say, but by giving your children ownership and choices you are telling them that they are important and what they have to say matters. This will go a long way when you have to discipline for a broken rule.

The Discipline

Mean what you say and say what you mean. This is one of the golden rules of parenting. If your child breaks a rule be prepared to follow up with a consequence. If you don’t you are setting yourself up for a constant battle with your children.

This should be a familiar scene. You are in the grocery store stuck in isle seven with a group of shoppers. One such group is a mom and her two children. One child is standing in the middle of the cart throwing everything mom puts in on the floor. The other child is climbing on the shelves. Without saying anything to child one she is putting back in the cart everything he is throwing on the floor. As mom is doing laps around the buggy she is asking in her sweetest voice for little Johnny to stop climbing on the shelves. This is not working so she now threatens a spanking and begins to count to three, all the while still circling the cart. One, two, three and little Johnny is still climbing on the shelves. Mom has her hands full of groceries from the floor and is not even close enough to give Johnny the spanking she promised. Now comes the bribe. “If you please get down from the shelf I will let you pick out a toy.” Little Johnny just heard the magic words he was waiting for and is now down from the shelf. Mom, a little tired from all the laps, proceeds with her shopping thinking everything is ok.

For this mom everything is far from ok. Little Johnny has learned quite a few things from this shopping trip. He now knows that mom is a push over. She does not mean what she says and all he has to do is wait long enough and he will get what he wants.

So, what could mom have done differently? First, she should have changed the tone of her voice. Your kids need to know when you are happy with them and when they have upset you. This is easily done by using a different tone of voice. Notice that I did not say anything about yelling. Instead of using her sweet I just made chocolate cookies voiceshe should have used the “Get down now!” voice. Next, since she said that Johnny would get a spanking at three he should have gotten one. Last, the hardest part. Mom should have taken child one out of the cart and led both he and Johnny out the door and to the car. No one gets a treat, no one gets to act up in public and everyone has to go home.

For most parents disciplining a child in public is a scary and embarrassing thing. What you don’t understand is that is actually looks worse when you don’t discipline.

The Patience

Patience will be an important factor in the success of your parenting skills. If you are starting at the beginning of your parenting years establishing rules and routines will be a little bit easier for you. For those of you that are trying to make changes in your parenting styles a little extra patience may be necessary. You are not going to change everything over night. No matter what, know that you are making an important commitment to your children and your family. Everyone involved will be a better person because of that.

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