Friday, February 19, 2010

Must Have Parenting Tips

It's Friday re-run time again! This list was originally posted on July 7, 2008. WOW my kids have grown in the last year and a half!

Some of these ideas are sprinkled around in other posts, but for simplicity, I wanted everything listed in one place. I decided to combine all of the parenting tips that I've learned from books or borrowed from other mommies that work really well in our house. All for your reading pleasure. Wasn't that nice of me???

* Choices - Usually 2, never more than 3. I'm a big proponent of giving my kids choices. At breakfast, it's "What kind of cereal do you want today?" instead of "What do you want for breakfast?" (which has resulted in an answer of, "Um, brownies!") For snacks, I'll manipulate them into eating fruit by asking, "Would you like grapes or cantaloupe?" At dinner, I'll ask if they want the green plate or the blue plate? The meal stays the same (because I refuse to be a short-order cook) but it gives them a small feeling of control. Before bedtime, Ryan can choose to get his PJs on first or brush his teeth first. I know it doesn't seem like much, but I've come a long way from barking orders and refusing to switch out bowls at breakfast, all because I didn't give the kids any options.

* Pick your battles - I've learned not to die on every hill with my strong willed kids. I might try to convince Ryan to wear a different shirt with his shorts, but I consider that teaching the definition of what matches. That's a lifelong skill! But if he insists on wearing an orange shirt and spiderman pants, so be it. Except on picture day...if we're going somewhere that I know we'll be taking pictures for me to scrapbook, those are the times that I insist on approving his outfit before we leave the house. And since I don't care 360 days out of the year, that works out pretty well. I've sort of adopted Dr. Phil's philosophy of "choose your battles wisely, but if you pick a battle, don't lose." That makes me even more selective in the "battles" I pick!

* Tell, don't ask - I've tried to do this from the beginning. I say, "It's time to go to bed," instead of "Are you ready to go to bed?" Because really...what kid will ever admit to being ready to go to bed???

* "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit." I say this at least once a day. It eliminates the "she got more yogurt than I did" and I noticed at school that it nipped the "I wanted the cupcake with the pink frosting!" issue in the bud when celebrating birthdays. This phrase has saved my sanity more than once. And both kids finish the statement when I start saying, "You get what you get..."

* Let it out, but not here - When a tantrum starts or there is excessive crying for anything not related to pain, we send the kids to their play room. I want them to have feelings and let out their negative emotions, but I don't want to have to hear the meltdown, nor do I want to give the issue "an audience." And they're not being punished for being upset, hence surrounding them with toys if they need some time alone to change their attitude. They always emerge from the room with blotchy faces saying, "All done," we hug it out and all's well with the world again.

* "Yes Mommy" - Since I started encouraging the kids to respond to requests with "Yes Mommy," they suddenly seem to respond faster. There's something psychological about that phrase that commits them to doing whatever I've asked them to do. When I ask Kaylin to return a stolen toy to Ryan, she has a tendency to stare at me and smile, but when I leadingly say, "Yes Mommy..." and she repeats it, she hands the toy right over to him.

* "Coming..." - When I call someone's name and they're somewhere else in the house or have wandered down the aisle at the grocery store, I've gotten them in the habit of saying, "Coming, Mom." Same concept as "Yes Mommy" - it commits them to come when they're called.

* Explain the rules beforehand - This might seem excessive, but I explain the rules en route to almost everywhere we go. Especially play dates and public places. I've come to learn that nothing can be assumed with my kids. And what's bizarre is if I tell Kaylin not to take out her rubber bands and hairbow at the gym (they've warned me that smaller kids can find them on the ground and choke on them) she won't do it. 100% of the time, I pick her up and her hair is in tact. But the one time I don't remind her, she pulls out the ensemble and I get scolded. At the summer kiddie movies, every week, we go through the routine of "no talking, just whisper if you have something to say...stay in your seat...once the popcorn is gone, it's gone, I'm not buying any more...we will go potty before the show starts, otherwise, try to hold it..." This really works out well and everyone knows what's expected of them beforehand.

* Taking turns - I read somewhere that until 3 or 4 years old, kids don't get the concept of sharing. So I've tried to use the term, "Remember to take turns" instead of "You need to share." Pre-schoolers seem to understand that better. Then a few weeks ago, my friend Lee taught me the greatest phrase EVER, which I've had my kids repeat again and again. This has saved us from countless battles and kept things from escalating into a war zone. "When you're done, may I have a turn?" Even if child #2 answers "no" to be snotty, I always remind child #1 that the answer has to be "yes" because child #2 isn't going to play with the object for the rest of time. Period.

* Taking turns in the car - Somehow, we got in the habit of bringing small toys and books in the car. We never drive anywhere that far, but my kids love grabbing a toy for the ride and hoarding it. So I've come up with the idea to give the first child the toy on the way there (where ever "there" is) and the other child can have it on the way home. It works wonders for backseat squabbles which are very common in my car!

* Rotate toys - To keep our kids from getting sick of playing with the same toys, I pack up and rotate in (and out) toys every few months. It works really well and when everyone's particularly bored, I'll pull out the bin of old toys and suddenly it's like Christmas morning again!

* Interrupting - If I'm talking to another adult and Ryan wants to say something, instead of saying, "Mommy?" over and over, we have him put his hand on our arm to let us know that he wants to talk. We even take it a step further by putting our hand on his hand and giving it a gentle squeeze to acknowledge that we know he wants to talk. I have him do this when I'm on the phone, too. We've gotten out of the practice (and unfortunately, self-control is not one of Ryan's strong suits) but we're working on it.

* Blood and Safety - There is to be no tattling in our house unless it's a safety issue or unless there's blood. This has caused the kids to have to work things out between them and the loud bickering has decreased dramatically because they know no one is going to come "save" them.

* Helping hands - It's so much easier for me to make dinner by myself, but I usually try to build in extra time for one or both kids to help me in some way. They are so proud to taste what they "made" and to tell Mike about their creation. And I talk about this all the time, but this has to make the list, for sure: I'm a huge believer in the Accountable Kids program. (I really need to start getting some marketing kickbacks from those folks!) It teaches kids to be proactive in doing things around the house instead of being nagged constantly by us as parents. LOVE that system!

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LB said...

I just want to thank you for posting this... I am not a mom yet but this post had so much practical information that I saved it for later reference! :)

Emily said...

I love your blog, it is definitely in my top 5! I really need this right now and I have looked at the Accountable Kids site more times than I can count! These are great tips and I will be sharing your post on my blog soon! THANKS!

dawn said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I like all the rules and try to follow most of them. I always enjoy reading your blog. Thanks for sharing ideas and giving us inspiration.

Meg said...

I think you need to re-post this about once a month.

JB said...

Yes Mommy...This is genius! I will definitely start utilizing this technique.

Heather said...

SO many great ideas/tips! Thanks for sharing! :)

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