Children come in all shapes and sizes. As they grow and learn new skills, we as parents are constantly and consistently challenged to grow with them. It is easier than it sounds. Parenting can be downright tough.
Being prepared for challenges may be unrealistic, but there are things that we as parents can do to guide our children in powerful and empowering ways. You wouldn’t give a presentation in front of three hundred conference attendees without having some notes and an idea of what you are going to say. When a challenge arises, you will be better equipped if you have decided on the approach you want to take with your kids ahead of time.
We parents all struggle on a daily basis to make our lives work. Paying the bills, raising our children, keeping in touch with friends and family, and maintaining a household can overwhelm the best of us. How can we listen to our children and empower them when we feel we can barely hold it all together? Common struggles with children can be more easily managed when keeping a few tips in mind:
1.) Bathroom Hygiene Chart. My daughter has been potty trained for two and one-half years, yet she has recently decided not to wash her hands or flush the toilet. Despite my repeated pleas that she follow the rules of general hygiene, she just seemed to have a block. Unless I stood right next to her during every bathroom visit, she wouldn’t do as I asked. So I decided to tackle the issue with a different approach.
My daughter loves to color so I asked her if she could help me with a problem I had. I needed her to help me make a sign in the bathroom so that everyone could remember the procedure. I made a list from one to four, drawing pictures of each step:
1.) Use toilet paper.
2.) Flush the toilet.
3.) Wash your hands with soap.
4.) Dry your hands with a towel.
At the end, there was a smiley face to remind her that good things happen when we follow the rules. She promptly colored both papers (one for each bathroom) and hung them up for everyone to see.
The benefit of this approach is manifold. First, she felt powerful that she could make a difference in an issue that I was having. Second, making my daughter a part of the process instead of badgering and alienating her has taken effect. She now feels a stronger sense of responsibility, having participated in “making” the rules. Third, whenever she falters from the path of personal hygiene, we simply point out the sign as a reminder. This approach replaces badgering with a gentle reminder.
2.) The box of No! As most siblings before the age of twenty, my children disagree, fight over toys, and generally don’t get along on some occasions. While I try to encourage my children to work out their own issues with each other, their disagreements sometimes reach such a feverish pitch that even the best advice goes unnoticed. The box of No! has taken care of many disagreements between them. Whenever my children cannot find agreement over who gets to play with a certain toy, for instance, I warn them that no one will be able to play with the toy. When my first warning does not solve the problem, I take the toy away and place it in a covered box. No one can play with the toy for 24 hours. The children don’t want to clean up their toys? After several warnings, I place the toys that are left out into the box of No! Next time, they are much more willing to oblige.
3.) X’s and O’s: Take a piece of paper and draw two lines on it. Place an “X” on the first line. Explain to your child that for every tantrum he or she has, there will be an “X”. For good behavior, he or she will get an “O”. You can even put a smiley face in the “O” to reinforce the idea for smaller children. After the child gets a certain number of “X’s”, they will be punished (e.g. no friends over that day, no afternoon video, or whatever you deem appropriate.). If the child fills the line with O’s first, he or she gets a reward. The first time I tried this approach with my daughter, she was so intrigued with the idea that her whining stopped immediately. By the end of lunch, she had started divvying out the X’s and O’s to her little brother!
4.) Sunshine and Rain Clouds: This is similar idea to the X’s and O’s which works very well on long car trips. Depending on how many children you have, make enough individual pictures of suns and rain clouds that each child has ten. Using a homemade chart, place each child’s name on one line. For good behavior, the children are rewarded with a sun. For bad behavior, they receive a rain cloud. At the end of the trip, they get to choose a reward if they have more suns than rain clouds. Oftentimes, just the threat of a rain cloud nips the bad behavior in the bud. My cousin took a twenty-two hour car trip to Spain using this method with his two sons. It worked!
5.) Throw Those Bad Kids Out the Window: No, not your own! Another approach to tackling sibling rivalry is a game I made up with my two children. When my two and four-year-old were at odds one day, I asked them for their help. Suddenly, I had two quarrelling children that I didn’t know what to do with. I asked them if they could help me toss them out the window. We took two imaginary kids, hoisted them out the ground-level window, and dusted our hands of them. It worked! This approach distanced the kids from their bad feelings. They were able to identify that it was the situation, not the children, that needed to be discarded. They immediately began playing nicely together.
6.) Kindness Pillow: Take a fluffy, colorful pillow and name it the “Kindness Pillow”. Let your children know that it belongs to you, but you will give it to the child that shows kindness to others. Reward them with the pillow when you see them acting kind (helping set the table, sharing an apple, etc.). Oftentimes, both or all children are acting kindly to one another and then each gets a turn to hold it. This method not only teaches them what kindness means, but it also reinforces the life-long lesson of sharing and being kind to others. This particular approach is extremely effective in my household and has given us all something to smile about.
Effective discipline stems from love and kindness. What better way to teach your children these things than to weave them into your disciplinary methods? It has worked for my family. I hope it works for yours!
Christine Louise Hohlbaum, American author of Diary of a Mother: Parenting Stories and Other Stuff, is a freelance writer with degrees in political science, German and English Lit. When she is not leading a toddlers’ playgroup, gymnastics class or attending PTA meetings, she likes to dance, read, and generally frolick.
Christine currently resides near Munich with her husband and two children. Visit her web site at:
(c) 2003 Christine Louise Hohlbaum. All Rights Reserved.
Submitted by: Christine Louise Hohlbaum *
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