by Erin Weist
I was thinking today about things I’ve learned about children since first starting out over 10 years ago. I was embarrassed to think about how little I knew back then and the mistakes that I made as a mother, but I hoped I could share a few simple tips that might help another new parent.
Kids respond to praise better than reproof. I am still reminding myself with my little toddlers that the thing they seek the most is the love and praise of their parents. Although their behavior is far from perfect and often frustrating, I can greatly improve things through positive reinforcement. My little ones, even when grumpy and unresponsive to correction, will return to me with simple reminders of my love for them and my belief in their potential. Positive comments telling them that their mom knows they are sweet or good or helpful produce increasing behaviors of sweetness or goodness or helpfulness, while comments reproving them for being grumpy or unkind or disobedient can often increase behaviors of grumpiness, unkindness or disobedience. Sometimes, a simple affirmation that I know they can make a better choice encourages them to do that very thing.
Even negative attention is attention. When raising my first child, I could never understand how disciplining him would fail to bring about corrections. His tantrums would bring negative attention from his parents, without us realizing that was his goal. It took us an embarrassingly long time to realize that our negative attention was encouraging the tantrums and that we could change what kind of attention we gave him, thus changing the results. Often, by changing the subject, waiting patiently, or ignoring tantrums in my children, they will learn to change their own behavior.
Moods are catching. When I am in a funk, my children can tell. When I ignore them because I’m stressed or moping or focused on other things they respond with similar moods. Or, as mentioned above, it triggers negative behavior in order to receive attention. Taking some time for myself to meditate and pray in the mornings can give my day focus and direction, thus taking stress away from my kids as they look to me to determine the mood of our home. If I make even a small effort to become centered and peaceful, making a focused plan for the day, then our home is centered and peaceful and our activities follow suit.
There are many more lessons to be learned raising children in a home and we’d love to hear some of your ideas. Leave a comment on our blog or Facebook page to share with others (especially newer parents) some principles that you’ve learned through your experiences. Raising happy, healthy families is a blessing for all people in all societies so let’s help one another do our very best!