Do You Want to be a Better Parent?

wpid-wp-1424492598398.jpegI’ve made no secret here on the blog that my eldest daughter is a terrible sleeper, and often presents us with very challenging behaviour. My hubby and I have read numerous books, blogs and websites over the years in the hope of becoming better parents. In the hope that the knowledge they impart will put us ahead of the game, and enable us to deal with the tough bits without ending up completely broken.

I’m not going to bang on about the obvious, we all know that shouting at the kids is bad and losing our cool makes their behaviour worse. I wrote a post a while back about eradicating negative parenting behaviour, which you might find useful if you are struggling with these things.

Today I’m going to share with you three useful, important tools that I feel are essential ace cards for us to have.

Eye Contact and Appropriate Physical Contact
I recently read the the book How to Really Love your Child by Ross Campbell. In it he talks about a child’s emotional needs being akin to a petrol tank in a car, and how we need to fill their emotional tanks up when they start running empty. By talking to them at the same time as doing a million and one other things, we are giving our the kids the message that they aren’t important. By downing tools, looking them in the eye and giving their arm a gentle pat while having a chat, they walk away from us feeling loved.

This makes so much sense to me, but also made me feel more than a little sad. I realised that I had fallen into bad habits, and was rarely getting down to their level when I was speaking to them. Worse still, he says if you are pretty much only giving eye contact to tell them off, it could do lasting damage to their self-esteem. I’ve definitely been guilty of that in the past, and have been making a concerted effort to rectify this since reading the book. The great thing about small children is that negative parenting behaviour is very quickly forgotten once we parents start turning things around.

Reflective Listening
I read about reflective listening for the first time in Miriam Chachamu’s How to Calm a Challenging Child a few years back. This is all about truly listening to what our kids are saying – not trying to enforce our opinions onto them, not trying to solve their problems for them, just listening to them and letting them know we have listened. 

It might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s actually much harder than you would think (well it certainly was for me at first anyway). It’s all about just sitting with them, letting them talk, and validating their feelings with simple generic phrases such as the examples below.

– ‘I can imagine you felt really upset when X left you out today’.

– ‘I can understand why you are feeling angry about that’.

– ‘You must be very disappointed that you didn’t get an invite to X’s birthday party’.

Positive Reinforcement
This is all about honing in on the positive side of your child’s behaviour, no matter how much of a challenge they are being. I’m a huge believer that when it comes to parenting we should choose our battles carefully. It can be so easy to fall into the negative cycle trap – which goes a little something like this:

Child is misbehaving – parent tells child off, maybe gives them a time out, or starts taking their things away – child sulks and parent gets angry – parent starts nagging the child – everyone gets cross and a full scale meltdown ensues.

I don’t think we should ignore all our kids naughtiness, and tell them they are being wonderful anyway because that would be lying, but there comes a point where you do have to let some stuff just slide. We have a zero tolerance policy on violence in our house, but Hubby and I are learning to ignore a lot of the smaller grievances and squabbles. By not giving them any airtime they are soon forgotten.

I find the absolute best remedy for our family is to take eldest out of the equation, calm her down and give her some attention (eye contact, physical contact, listen to what’s troubling her). Of course this is all so much easier said than done, and orchestrating that one on one time can be impossible when I’m on my own. Writing this post has made it sound like an absolute piece of cake, that I have completely nailed, which trust me is not the case. We have dramas and meltdowns daily – some days I’m cucumber cool about them, and others not so much.

I’m learning as I go along, just like everyone else.

Do you have any top tips to become a better parent? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section if you do ๐Ÿ™‚

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50 Comments

  1. April 24, 2017 / 5:29 pm

    Thanks Penny! You and Greg have been so enjoyable to work with during all of the many rentals at our cabins! Enjoy those views next week at Grandview Lodge!

  2. December 15, 2016 / 7:53 pm

    Haha, shouldn’t you be charging for that kind of knle?wdgeo!

  3. August 25, 2015 / 6:16 pm

    Thanks so much for dropping by, glad you enjoyed the post ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. August 25, 2015 / 1:54 pm

    Sound, simple advice!

  5. May 8, 2015 / 7:30 pm

    I’m so pleased you found the post useful hon. Toddler tantrums, and bedtime meltdowns can be such a challenge but it really is all a part of their development at that age… as hard as it can be sometimes to remember that. Hugs xxx

  6. May 7, 2015 / 11:36 am

    Fascinating, Renee, you need to give me a reading list! I keep thinking I really need to do some reading about toddler behaviour, etc. Reuben isn’t challenging all the time but when he’s being naughty he takes it up to 11! And I am totally winging it and I’m ashamed to say I do lose it at times. More than anything I need to learn how to manage my own emotions!! I love the eye contact thing, that is so important.

    Thanks so much for linking up to #TheList xxx

  7. May 6, 2015 / 7:45 pm

    Great post and great tips. I do get down to my daughters level when I’m telling her off but I definitely need to stop what I’m doing and do the same thing when she’s not being naughty but just wants to tell me something xx

  8. May 3, 2015 / 10:38 am

    It works so well, but can be difficult to orchestrate sometimes hey! Glad you enjoyed the post John ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. May 3, 2015 / 10:07 am

    Limited patience and small demanding children go hand in hand my lovely! Glad you found the post useful hon.

  10. May 2, 2015 / 8:51 pm

    Fantastic tips as ever darling. I need to learn to have more patience with them and drop down to their level to understand what’s going on with them. It’s all a learning curve isn’t it? Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

  11. May 2, 2015 / 5:03 am

    Your list is sosimple, but we can all be guilty of fogetting these basic points. Interesting that you say you take your eldest out of the equation sometimes. With two kids at such different life stages we do the same sometimes. Great post #TheList

  12. May 1, 2015 / 11:46 am

    These are great tips to remember Renee. I think in this crazy age of technology and devices Seb and I are both guilty of not really listening to each other at times, one eye on the phone, ipad or xbox etc. If he sees me doing it with him then I guess he’s going to mimic by behaviour too. I am going to try and follow your advice and look him in the eye when I tell him off and get down to his level and properly explain why I’m annoyed. Plus spend more time ‘filling up his tank’ with love and attention without distractions. I have to say though, he’s a well behaved boy and at 9 years old I rarely get a tantrum. It’s just asking many times to get anything done but that’s just standard isn’t it! Great post, thanks for writing xx

  13. May 1, 2015 / 6:39 am

    I think every parent worries about whether they are getting it right. These are great tips and will definitely give them a go when my daughter is having a challenging day! Xx #TheList

  14. April 30, 2015 / 9:10 pm

    Hello there, I read this with great interest and thank you so much for sharing. Our little boy is a shocking sleeper too, I am not sure what to do about that, however I know that I have fallen into bad habits including not getting down to his level-this is a great reminder to remember to think more. Thank you! x #sharewithme

  15. April 30, 2015 / 12:57 am

    All of these are sound and reasonable tips. I think you’ve already touched upon my biggest take on being a better parent: picking your battles. There are some things that are worth the utmost discipline, and some which you can handle with a bit of tact. We want children to learn boundaries, yes, but also to not live in fear that everything they’re doing is wrong (that’s how I grew up and it gave me such a complex. I don’t want that for my child).

    In the end, the entire premise of your blog says it all: Mummy Tries. Attempting is half the battle, and you’re certainly winning that facet ten-fold.

  16. April 29, 2015 / 9:05 pm

    These are fab tips and you’ve just made me realise I’m probably doing a lot of talking to O at the minute whilst trying to also do a million and one other things and need to stop that and give him the eye contact and one-on-one time. Thank you for posting xx

  17. April 29, 2015 / 7:43 pm

    These are great tips, thank you for sharing. I try all the time to be a better parent and there are days where I feel I really do handle situations well. But some days, like today, I suck at it. I think we’ve all been there though x x

  18. April 29, 2015 / 7:23 pm

    Eye contact is so important. (then I can see if they are actually listening to me) Unfortunately my nearly 10 year old doesn’t want a hug when she is having a meltdown which makes me feel helpless when all I want to do is hug my upset daughter. I have to just wait for her to come to me when she feels ready.

  19. April 29, 2015 / 4:47 pm

    Thanks for the reminder to properly listen Renee. Like most mums I’m often pre-occupied and know that this kind of distracted half listening can be quite demoralising when you’re on the receiving end. I’ve read that book too. Talks a lot of sense. I’ve not been very ‘present’ with mine lately and the cracks soon start to appear. Currently feeling pretty guilty about it ๐Ÿ™ x

  20. April 29, 2015 / 4:26 pm

    I just talk to my son. A lot of times it works but sometimes it doesnt and that is when we listen. More than the words that he is saying, we listen to his actions and just get a clue from there. Like you it takes time learn how parenting works but me and my husband learns along the way. #sharewithme

  21. April 29, 2015 / 1:45 pm

    I think as long we do these things in the main then all is good, none of us are perfect after all ๐Ÿ˜‰

  22. April 29, 2015 / 1:44 pm

    Great minds my lovely lady. My Hubby and I sat down on Sunday night, hence this blog post! It’s so obvious when we think about it for two seconds, if the kids see the grown ups misbehaving they will surely follow suit. Often taking stock and a step back to snap out of bad habits is all that’s needed. It all sounds so easy doesn’t it, but can be so very challenging in practice x

  23. April 29, 2015 / 1:38 pm

    My eldest is almost six and won’t stay on the naughty step these days, so we’ve had to think of other ways of dealing with bad behaviour. Thanks for dropping by ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. April 29, 2015 / 12:22 pm

    I know a fair few people who are really messed up because of their childhood, even though on the surface it wasn’t that bad. I know that you didn’t sound like his biggest fan in a previous comment, but Oliver James’ book They F*** You Up is a real eye opening, worthwhile read if you get the chance. It’s all about the family dynamic. Fascinating stuff xx

  25. April 29, 2015 / 12:15 pm

    It really is though, especially in the midst of a meltdown. Thanks for dropping by ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. April 29, 2015 / 12:15 pm

    Great post as always! We had a discussion about just this last night as the behaviour in our house can be pretty bad at times..both kids and parents! I know all the things I should do…it is just putting it into practice ๐Ÿ˜‰

  27. April 29, 2015 / 12:10 pm

    It’s comforting to hear that you do this with students. I really think eye contact and reflective listening are winners for kids of all ages.

  28. April 29, 2015 / 12:08 pm

    Thanks so much for your lovely comment Jess, I’m really pleased that you found this post useful. Please let me know if you find these things help xx

  29. April 29, 2015 / 12:07 pm

    Funnily enough I’m thinking about it Jenny… although it might just say:

    Drink lots of coffee
    Try not to cry

    ๐Ÿ˜‰

  30. April 29, 2015 / 11:37 am

    Can you write a manual of some sort? You seem to have a pretty good idea of what you’re doing.

  31. April 29, 2015 / 11:10 am

    A really helpful post Ren – this is something I’m always struggling with having three like you, and the eldest being the most demanding. I will make an extra effort to show him I am listening. I’m always lifting or cuddling the toddler, and I often remind myself that I should give the older two hugs, just because, as well. They’re only little too. Great food for thought and hopefully a catalyst for change in my behaviour. xx

  32. April 29, 2015 / 7:36 am

    No top tips, unfortunately.
    I love this. I try to do the reflective listening with my students and mostly give them eye contact but it can be hard. Especially to stop myself passing judgment or trying to fix problems.

    #sharewithme

  33. April 29, 2015 / 5:34 am

    Nice post. Good reminder. I totally get what your saying about the “it sounds so easy but it can be hard at times to actually do it”, thing.
    Thanks for sharing.

  34. April 28, 2015 / 8:26 pm

    Great reminders Reneรฉ, to watch our own behaviour around our children. When they push all our buttons it is sometimes difficult to do it so I’m glad that you are prepared to admit that it’s not as easy as it sounds! We’re all just a work in progress I suppose, but that saying “they f**k you up, your mum and dad” is haunting me a bit at the moment as there is someone I know who I learnt something about – a significant event in their childhood – and I’m beginning to suspect that what happened with their relationship with their mother in the aftermath has affected their personality for the worse for life. I really don’t want to do anything to mess my kids up, ever. X

  35. April 28, 2015 / 6:03 pm

    These are great tips. I am sure we all have different opinions on how to be a parent. Everyone tries their best.
    When my girls misbehave I tend to ignore or they go straight on the naughty step. I don’t tolerate any fighting or attitude! They will be straight on the step and they HATE it! That is the main point of it though isn’t it!

    Great post.

    Beth | http://www.life-as-mum.co.uk

  36. April 28, 2015 / 1:52 pm

    Great post and great tips. These are things that I would like to think I do in my parenting but even only with one child rather suspect I could improve on.

  37. April 28, 2015 / 1:15 pm

    Fab post honey, I feel like I am failing a lot of the time at the moment and have definitely picked up some bad habits lately. I am just struggling with balancing both of them so Monkey is definitely not been parented that well. I am aware of it though and am trying apologise when I do get cross and give him as many cuddles and one on one time together as I can, though it is not easy. I have no idea how you manage with 3! Great post with some great tips and reminders, thanks for sharing! xx

  38. April 28, 2015 / 9:40 am

    Great advice. In the heat of the moment its easy to lose sight of what your chid needs from you and the reason behind their behaviour. this post opened my eyes, thank you #AllAboutYou x

  39. April 28, 2015 / 9:37 am

    I love this, it’s everything I need & believe in parenting. I’ve realised I don’t do this so much with my older children but they still need to know they’re important. Have you read what every parent needs to know? It’s my favourite parenting book. You have the same philosophies as me so I think you’ll like it. #thetruth

  40. April 28, 2015 / 7:09 am

    Great post! Totally agree. I really agree with the picking your battle point and also listening to their point of view. If my 20 month old requests something or doesn’t want something, if it’s reasonable I agree. She’s a little person just like me and it’s hard as she’s so young to realise she has her own opinions!! I’m trying. Xx #thetruthabout

  41. April 27, 2015 / 9:42 pm

    I totally agree with your three suggestions and yes none of them are easy but all reap so many rewards for us. Esecially reflective listening for me is the focus right now. Mich x #Sharethejoy

  42. April 27, 2015 / 2:33 pm

    Such good advice. All these should be obvious, but in the day to day chaos are so easy to forget. I do all the time… Great post lovely x

  43. April 27, 2015 / 12:42 pm

    I wish I’d known things like this the first time round. I wish I could have given them a go. Good luck with it, it must be hard work.

  44. April 27, 2015 / 8:36 am

    Thank you for sharing these tips Renee – I’m guilty of slipping into bad habits more often than I’d like – not getting down to my girls’ level enough and fighting too many battles – I definitely recognised myself in the child is naughty, has time out, sulks, parent nags escalates to meltdown scenario. I definitely need to be reminded sometimes to take that step back and let some of the little things go and to focus on positive encouragement more often.

  45. April 27, 2015 / 7:52 am

    Thanks for dropping by Al. It’s certainly easy to not be mindful of doing these things, but they really do make a huge difference ๐Ÿ™‚

  46. April 27, 2015 / 7:51 am

    I’m so pleased you found it useful hon. My Hubby and I have had so many ups and downs, and always come back to these basics. It can take a few days to snap out of the negative cycle but once you do it all soon becomes second nature again.

    My friend sent me a fab quote this morning “if you find parenting difficult you’re doing it right”. Raising kids in a mindful way can be tough, but will be so worth it in the long run xxx

  47. April 27, 2015 / 6:12 am

    It’s so funny how we don’t really think about these things from day to day! Great post!

  48. April 27, 2015 / 5:17 am

    Oh Renee thank you for mentioning that you were going to post this because these tips are just perfect and after my mama meltdown a couple of weeks ago I’m definitely going to ad them to my toolkit for coping with my two. I actually do find that getting down to their level makes a HUGE difference, especially to the Little Man who rarely listens at the moment being so full of his busy-ness, and I really must do that more often. The reflective listening is something I’m guilty off too and I’m going to make a particular effort to do more of this. Thank you for sharing this honest and practical post Renee xx

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