3 Simple Steps to Be a Better Parent

A day crammed with too much to do. Kids who wail that you don’t understand them. A blizzard of bad words. As parents we all face day to-day challenges with our kids. Here are a few common, current dilemmas and some effective ways to deal with them—drawn from The “Perfect” Parent.

1. Take 5

Time to wake up, time to brush your teeth, time to … go to school, soccer practice, bed. We are always doing something! Even our free time has been gulped up by techie gadgets. Why not steal from the time that you spend “doing” things and gift it to your children by “being” with them? How? Take 5!

Yes, every day take 5 minutes with your child to do nothing—no-thing! Hang out with absolutely no agenda. Hold hands, put your arm around your child, or just sit next to each other. Nothing is more important than giving our kids the gift of truly “free” time. Taking 5 lets your children know that you are always there for them.

Don’t be surprised if some big issues show up for discussion. Making a habit of Taking 5 gives children the comfort and the confidence to talk about big issues when they arise. The earlier you start, the better. Yes, it will take a little discipline, but what good habit doesn’t? In my parenting classes, I have had parents share some amazing stories of revelations that resulted from Taking 5—curiosity about puberty, sex, drugs, bullying, to name a few. Taking 5 helps you and your child help invest five minutes today for a strong connection and lasting relationship tomorrow. Well worth the time, don’t you think?

[Read — Maria Shriver, “5 More of My Tips for Leading an Inspired Life”]

2. Dealing with the Feeling

“You never listen to me. You just don’t understand,” say our children. What lies behind those words is “You don’t listen to how I feel about this. You don’t understand my feelings.” In our attempt to quickly resolve issues for our children, we bypass their underlying feelings. That is why issues become repetitive and communication breakdowns happen. In order to resolve issues effectively, parents must be Emotionally Intelligent (EI).

EI is simply the ability to recognize and understand one’s emotions and those of others. So when you hear your children saying, “You don’t listen or understand,” try a quick “Dealing with the Feeling.” Here’s how:

Spot it—Spot the feeling (“My son is angry right now.”)

Say it—Say the feeling out loud (“I know you are angry right now.”)

Okay it—Validate their feeling (“I understand how you must be feeling. I would be angry too if I got a D on my math test.”)

These quick steps lower the temperature of heated emotions, encouraging your children to listen, discuss and move toward a resolve. Dealing with the Feeling (spot it, say it, okay it) is a tested tool that opens the door to effective communication, while promoting understanding and strengthening connections between parent and child.

[Check Out — 10 Simple Steps to Stop Toxic Parenting]

3. The Respect Effect

“My son used the ’F’ word in an argument with me! What is wrong with children nowadays?” These are common complaints in my parenting classes.

As tough as this might be to acknowledge, parents today practice less self- control with language than ever before. In the last 10 years, the “F,” “B,” and the “S” words have become part of our everyday vocabulary. Kids mirror what they see. If we practice being respectful to our children, family members and friends, then our children won’t know anything different.

“But children learn the worst curse words at school,” claim many parents. Yes, that is true. And movies and music also play a part. However, research reminds us that most of what becomes our children’s personality is influenced by us, their parents. We have no control over what happens when our kids are away from home. What we can control is how we behave in front of our kids. If parents have language boundaries and practice good “verbal hygiene” habits, children are sure to mirror that.

[Recent — 4 Ways for Parents To Get a Grip At Their Kids’ Sporting Events]

Be a mindful parent who uses terms of endearment when children are emotionally charged. (“What is bothering you, love or honey.”) This shows children that you care about how they’re feeling, builds their self-esteem and enhances communication. And most importantly, when you are right, practice being kind first. Teach them by example that the first approach to calming stormy emotions should always be kindness.

Practicing good verbal hygiene habits, using terms of endearment, and being kind during emotional upsets are all simple, surefire ways to sow the seeds of respect in children. Yes, kids will slip up every now and then. And yes, it might take a little practice and effort, but it will definitely make you proud that you raised respectful kids who contribute respectfully to their community.

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