My Top Ten Parenting Tools
After a few years 1 of parenting my lovely, spirited little girl, I’m sure I still have a lot to learn. But the following are tools that I think every parent and child would benefit from having in their “parenting toolboxes.”
10. Confidence - You have to feel comfortable with yourself and your skills in order to be a successful guide. A wilderness guide wouldn’t be very effective if he told you “I think this is the path we should take” or “I’m not sure if you should eat that leaf” – parenting with confidence is important in gaining the trust of your kiddos.
9. Resolve - Different than confidence, this is a tool that allows you to try and try again – to persevere in your efforts to do what’s best for your kiddos. In my experience, none of my parenting techniques have worked beautifully the very first time. Parenting requires the resolve to stick with what’s emotionally and developmentally best for your child, even when a “quick-fix” technique that may not be as healthy for your child calls out to you.
8. Attention- I find that if I spend just ten minutes giving Abbey my full attention, it makes a much larger impact in the general scheme of things than a whole 12-16 hour day full of half attention. I have heard this from other moms as well.
Set aside time specifically for your child, and when your child asks for your attention, give it 100% if circumstances allow you to “put down” whatever else you are doing.
I assure you, your days will be less hectic and more enjoyable, and your parent-child relationship will be much stronger.
We moms are always multitasking, but it can be our worst enemy. If you try to go about your day multitasking all the time, it really doesn’t work. Yes, children need to learn to play independently, and moms do need space to get other things done. But giving your kids your full attention at least for a part of the day and when they ask for it makes such a difference.
7. Consistency - We all know that kids respond well to consistent routines, and this is also true for consistent language and consistent modeling. I strive to use the same language pattern to help Abbey through similar situations, and my husband and I strive to maintain consistency in our modeling.
6. Flexibility - You cannot hold yourself to a firm set of expectations, and even though it is a staple in the traditional methods of parenting and child care, you cannot hold children to a firm set of expectations either. Expectations are really truly awfully detrimental to a parent-child or child-caregiver relationship. Even as adults, we are ever-changing, evolving, developing human beings. Children are even more so. They go through stages, and they need our guidance. Being flexible and compassionate helps them to move through these learning phases with confidence instead of shame.
5. Communication- Finding methods of communication that work for your child is vital. It changed my parenting completely when I realized that I could sing instructions when Abbey wasn’t listening, and suddenly, it was like I was speaking her language! Your child might prefer different methods of communication for different situations. This is another place where flexibility and confidence are important. You might be the only mom singing “It’s time to go home” at the playground. But if it works for your child, it’s the way to go!
4. Patience- Patience with your child, patience with your parter, patience with your friends, and patience with strangers in general. This is the hardest one for me. I am such an impatient person. Which is so funny, because people always comment on how patient I am with Abbey. But when you are patient, it reflects in the behaviors of your child. Your child wants to be like you.
3. Calm- So hard some days, but so important – our children feed off of our emotions, just as they follow our lead with behaviors and language. In my line of work and study, I find that I think a lot about emotional transfer with nursing dyads (usually infants and moms) as it relates to milk supply and nursing strikes. But it applies to toddlers and older children as well. If mom and dad are calm in a situation, there is a much greater chance that their child is going to be calm, and vice versa. Keeping calm has been something I’ve focused on . . . oh, forever. And it’s not always easy! If anyone has some research on this subject, I would LOVE to get my hands on some!
2. Respect - I talked about respect in detail earlier in the Fall of 2010, and I still feel the same way, if not more so, about the importance of respecting your child and not patronizing, shaming, or trying to control in parenting. Children are little people, and it is our role to be loving guides for them. We need to see them as emotional equals – their needs are just as complex and important as our own. And these needs are what create the behaviors that they exhibit, whether good or bad. Respecting children and using compassion to help determine the root of the need allows us to parent in a healthful and promotional way.
1. Compassion - If you look back to any of the previous Top Ten, I’m sure I used the word compassion multiple times. Makes sense, then, that it’s my number ONE tool that I think parents should have in their parenting toolboxes. It’s something I have been really focusing on in my life recently, and I have seen an enormous change in the effectiveness of all of the other parenting tools that I find important and use on a daily basis. When you utilize compassion, it means that you see the inner need and sometimes the inner suffering within another, and you feel compelled to help.
This may seem like a really demeaning way to go about parenting – lowering your own expectations and rules, and “catering to the needs and desires of your children”. Some would say it makes you a doormat. But that’s not the way that it works.
When you use compassion, not only is it easier to release expectations (remember that expectations make us want to control our children instead of guide and teach them), but it’s so much easier to communicate with your child and to help them fulfill the inner need that is causing a behavior. I’m going to be talking about compassion a lot more very soon, so I think I’ll leave this post’s discussion with that point. But I would love to know how you feel about compassion, as it relates to any of the relationships in your life.
This post is re-published from a previous version originally published at www.amywilla.com on March 18, 2011.
- Now, 4 years ↩