7 effective strategies for practising positive parenting every day.
Here are 7 effective strategies for practising positive parenting every day.
1. Tell them what they can do and not what they can’t do
When you say “Don’t run” or “Don’t hit your brother,” you are telling your child what not to do rather than what to do. Since children’s brains still have trouble processing negatives, your little one may get confused. “If you tell your child not to run, his attention goes to the word run, which could make him think he should be running,” explains psychoeducator Marie-Hélène Chalifour. “Try telling him what’s okay to do. For instance, instead of saying, “No jumping on the sofa,” say, “Sofas are for sitting on.”
Another good idea is to focus on what’s most important. When there are too many rules, some are bound to be forgotten. Sonia, mother of three, uses visuals. “I made a sign listing our five house rules: share, speak calmly, pick up after yourself, sit down at the table to eat, and be respectful of others and objects. Each rule is associated with an image. When someone needs reminding of one of the rules, I just show them the image.”
2. Make them think
To teach your children about responsibility and keep them from digging in their heels, try asking questions instead of giving orders. This tip comes from Sandra, mother of two girls: “When they forget to clear their plates, I ask, ‘What are you supposed to do when you’re done eating?’ Knowing the answer—and doing it—makes them feel proud.” Getting children to think helps them feel grown up and responsible. They become more cooperative.
Another trick is to let your children make some of the smaller decisions, which satisfies their need to be independent and assert themselves. “When it’s bath time, you could ask your child if he wants you to carry him to the tub or if he’d prefer to hop to the bathroom like a frog,” suggests Chalifour.
3. Acknowledge their feelings
When a child is upset, it’s tempting to say, “Stop crying,” “It’s okay,” or “Calm down.” That’s what Sonia used to do. “Now, I try not to dismiss my children’s feelings. The other day, my daughter was sad about an argument she’d had with her friend over crayons. Instead of telling her that it wasn’t worth getting upset over, I said: ‘It’s a drag when someone takes your things; I know how you feel.’ She didn’t bring it up again.” Acknowledging what children are feeling is comforting because it makes them feel understood.
Showing empathy instead of saying no straight out can also curb frustration. For instance, you might tell your child, “I know you want a cookie, but it’s almost dinnertime. You can have one for dessert.”
4. Avoid labels
“It’s taking you a long time to get dressed. You’re slow!” It’s perfectly normal to find some of your child’s habits irritating, but it’s important not to put children down. In addition to hurting their feelings and damaging their self-esteem, you could be encouraging bad behaviour. Children who are told they are “annoying” will end up thinking it’s true and begin acting the way they’ve been labelled.
If your child makes a mess, describe things as you see them without judging or chastising. “If your child spills his glass of milk, for instance, say: ‘Oops, some milk spilled on the floor. What do we do when that happens?’” recommends Chalifour. You could then suggest cleaning things up together.
5. Opt for penance over punishment
When children misbehave, the ideal response is to give them a chance to make things right. Contrary to punishment, making amends teaches good behaviour. Children also feel better when they correct their own mistakes. “When one of my girls hurts the other’s feelings, I ask her to apologize by drawing a picture or doing something nice,” says Sandra.
Letting children experience natural or logical consequences is another way to teach them responsibility. Having cold hands when your son refuses to put on his mittens is an example of a natural consequence. Logical consequences are imposed by the parent. For instance, your daughter throws her toy, so you take her toy away.
6. Encourage good behaviour
Putting your energy toward encouraging good behaviour instead of trying to quash poor behaviour is another effective strategy. When praising good behaviour, describe what your child did right. For instance, you could say: “Good job! You put your PJs on all by yourself.” Marie-Hélène Gagné, a professor at Laval University’s School of Psychology, says that the more positive attention children get, the less they misbehave.
7. Don’t make assumptions
At the store, your two-year-old points to a stuffed animal, making you think she wants it. But what if she is just telling you that she knows what it is? “If you tell her no, she’ll insist, then start crying out of frustration,” writes psychologist Isabelle Filliozat in her book J’ai tout essayé. “You’re more likely to avoid a tantrum by saying, ‘Yes, it’s a stuffed animal. You like stuffed animals.’” Use the same approach with the threeyear-old who wants everything he sees. At his age, the verb “want” can mean a lot of things. For instance, “I want ice cream” could mean that he has spotted some ice cream, that he likes it, or that he remembers eating it yesterday.
If ever it feels as though your child is trying to push your buttons, remember that toddlers are not capable of manipulation. “He’s not trying to pick a fight,” says Chalifour. “If he’s pestering you, it’s because something isn’t right.” Try to find out what’s wrong: he may be hungry, thirsty, tired, antsy, or hot. Children sometimes act out when they need more positive attention. Chalifour suggests spending some quality time with your children every day, either playing, cuddling, or talking to them lovingly.
I’m about to lose it!
There may be times when you feel you’ve reached the end of your rope, but getting angry with your child is not the answer. You’ll only scare him and set a poor example. “Taking three deep breaths before doing anything else can help you keep your cool,” says Chalifour. “Instead of telling yourself that you can’t take it anymore, think of a positive moment that you shared with your child.” Remembering that your child isn’t trying to make you upset and that a child’s brain is still developing may also help you stay calm in tough situations.
Source: Naître et grandir magazine, March 2018
Research and copywriting: Nathalie Vallerand
Scientific review: Annie Goulet, psychologist
Photos: gettyimages/Tatyana Tomsickova, gettyimages/Steve Debenport