I enjoy going to parenting workshops when I can. I figure even if I take away one or two things that I can implement or try out, it's been worth the investment of time. I recently attending a workshop on the 40 Developmental Assets - and one of the handouts that I found most compelling, was '150 Ways to Show Kids You Care'.
Much of it was fairly 'common sense' (as much of parenting can sometimes be), but there were a few highlights that really stood out for me, that I am going to try to implement in my family right away. I thought they were worth passing on:
1. Say yes a lot
This is a very tricky one, especially when you have a toddler scaling the furniture. But it's getting creative about saying 'yes' that can be really effective with kids.
i.e. Can I play on the iPod?
Instead of 'No, you need to do your homework', it can be 'Yes, once your homework is complete and you've put away your backpack'
or Can I have a cookie?
Instead, of 'No, you can't have any treats before dinner', it can be 'Yes, after dinner you can have a cookie'
This simple change in the way we speak to kids gets them to hear 'Yes' more often than 'No', and reinforces their self-esteem (as well as hopefully avoids endless arguments).
2. Tell them their feelings are okay
Tough one. Tantruming toddler? Pouting preschooler? Sulking school-ager?
So often we tell kids 'you're fine, don't be upset' instead of validating what they feel. Instead, try 'I can see you're angry. I'd be angry too.' Even if you don't particularly like the way they're expressing their feelings, the key is that they know that their feelings are okay.
3. Forget your worries sometimes and concentrate only on them
I'll be honest, I find this hard. I'm a list-maker, running through things in my mind constantly, planning ahead - even if it's just for dinner that night. So I'm going to try a lot harder to do this - forget about what's on my mind and concentrate only on them. I know that they will notice.
4. Apologize when you've done something wrong
This can be powerful. We're always telling kids to apologize to their friends and siblings after squabbles, but sometimes we make the 'wrong choices' too and lose our cool. I've seen the surprise (and appreciation) in my kids when I admit I blew it. It also models this behaviour for them and helps them to realize that adults make mistakes, too.
5. Be excited when you see them
There was a wonderful quote at this workshop that I jotted down quickly. I may not have nailed it 100% but it really hit home:
"Every child should have a person in their lives whose eyes light up when they enter the room"
I think about the excitement I felt when I picked my firstborn up from daycare when he was just a toddler.
I will feel it when I pick up my two school-agers at elementary school today.
Do you they see my eyes light up? Do I show them how excited I am?
I will today. Because it matters and I want to show them that I care.
**Excerpted from 150 Ways to Show Kids You Care, copyright 2005 by Search Institute.