Friday, April 15, 2011
Tips For Parenting | A FREE Parenting Class
Becoming a parent can be exciting and scary. You might have a pile of parenting books stacked on your nightstand and are still wondering if you're doing the right thing. I'll take you on a journey from the cute little baby to the challenging teenager. Enjoy the ride.
I went through all of the same emotions and concerns, and I read those books and looked for all the tips for parenting that I could. Overall, I'd say I'm a pretty good parent. The reason why is that I understood the basics of a child's needs and how to respond to them in a way that was appropriate for their level of development. Here, I'll take you from birth to the teenage years and share what worked for me. Yes, it's a FREE parenting class.
Babies & Toddlers
Babies have simple needs and they can honestly be a bit boring. Babies spend their days either eating, filling diapers, crying or sleeping. They don't do much else.
When a baby cries they are either tired, hungry or uncomfortable. A tag on their clothing might be poking them or their sock is twisted. Yelling at a baby will never make them stop crying, it only makes the situation worse. So, go after the big three - Is my child hungry? Is my child tired? Is something aggravating my child from a physical standpoint?
Note that babies need a lot more sleep than teens or adults. They cannot and will not adhere to your schedule of sleep. Be prepared to get up a lot during the night. They're either hungry or that load in their diaper is bothering them.
Getting a child back to sleep can be a real challenge. Motion soothes children. A bouncy seat or swing where they are gently bounced or rocked can often put them right out.
I remember spending hours with my daughter in the car seat just driving around. Rush Limbaugh knocked her every timet.
Keep in mind that children respond well to routines. Bedtime should be the same time every night. Bath time should be the same time.
During the first six months of a baby's life, their eyes are still developing. They see shadows and general shapes. So don't try to get your child to read while he or she is still rolling around in the crib.
What babies do have is fully developed hearing. So talk to your child as often as possible. A soothing voice will be more pleasing to a child than a stuffed animal. Babies also respond to touch, holding your child is an important bonding activity. When your child is resting on your chest, they can hear your heartbeat. That is comforting to them. Hold your child as often as possible.
Reading to your child from an early age is good and is number one on my list of tips for parenting. In fact, reading to your child every day should be a habit you religiously maintain until they are reading chapter books without pictures. Even then, you can read books to your child because they love that you are spending time with them.
What is your answer to this question? "What is your child's favorite toy?" - You might say the multi-colored rings or the train that pops the people up and down. WRONG. Your child's favorite toy is YOU. Nothing makes a child happier than spending time engaged with their parents - and the key word is engaged.
I used to feel so sorry for my former step-daughter. Her father would take her to the park and sit on the bench reading the paper while his daughter played on the swings by herself. How sad.
When my daughter was still a baby, I had one of those baby carriers that you wear on your chest. We went everywhere together. We'd dance and run around the house. She loved it.
When she got old enough, we'd go to the park and I'd put her in the swings. Whenever we went to the park and she'd spot the swings, she'd start squealing, "Up down, Daddy. Up down, Daddy."Kids love motion. But never hold a baby upside down or shake them. This can cause a brain injury that might be permanent.
As they get older, find puzzles and books at garage sales. A child doesn't care if they are new. We used to have so much fun smacking a ball of aluminum foil around. How much did that cost?
Children are naturally drawn to television. Colorful images can keep them amused for hours. But don't let the TV become a substitute for time with you. Also, be careful as to what your child sees. Some programs that you might like could scare your child.
I'm not a believer in hitting a child - although, I have done it a few times. Children will test you. Being firm and calm is the best way to react to them. And you must have consequences. Bad behavior that is unchecked will only get worse as time goes on.
We successfully used the "time out." However, there is a way to put a child in "time out" where it is effective and a way that doesn't do anything.
When your child expresses bad behavior, you must act immediately. Putting a child in time out even 20 minutes later is confusing to them. Step in and stop the bad behavior right away. State that you are putting them in time out for a specific amount of time, usually a minute or two minutes. A young child cannot be in time out for long periods like 10 or 15 minutes as their initial punishment, so start with a minute or two. Explain what you did not like about their behavior and what would be a better choice - emphasizing the word choice. I used to put my daughter in a chair and set the timer on the oven. "Am I done yet?" she'd ask. "Thirty more seconds."
Do not talk to your child when they are in time out. They should be seated in a quiet area with no TV or music. Denying your child your attention is what really has the impact on them, not sitting in a chair for two minutes.
If your child does not behave in time out, tell them you're starting the clock over. Add a minute and emphasize that your child needs to make a better choice.
It is very important for you to be extremely calm during any discipline. If you're agitated, your child will pick up on that and become more out of control. Also, they learn that they can push your buttons, if you are not in control when you're trying to get them to do the right thing.
Children don't like change. If they're playing and having a good time, when you tell them to stop, they throw a fit. A way to avoid this resistance to change is to announce to the child in advance, "We are going to have dinner in 10 minutes, start cleaning up." If the child doesn't start cleaning up, help them. This signals to them that the activity is over and they will be moving on to something else.
Our world is full of negativity. Your job as a parent is to do everything to make your child feel good about themselves. Reward good behavior. Compliment them as often as possible, especially when they tell the truth. Every time my daughter would fess up and tell the truth, I would acknowledge her behavior, "Honey, thank you for telling me the truth. I'm really proud of you for doing the right thing." Those words can go a long way with a child.
I'm a long distance parent. The other night I was talking to my daughter about something that happened at school. With a little encouragement, she told me the truth and explained the whole situation - even though I think she had a few of the facts skewed in her favor. The next day, I called her and told her, "I'm so proud of you for telling me the truth last night. You're the best girl in the world. You know that telling the truth is always the best thing to do. And you can talk to me about anything."
Repeating dialogues like this will help build a bridge between you and your child. During their teenage years, you hope the bridge can be maintained.
When you talk to your child, ask them questions that require more than a "yes" or "no" answer. Get them to speak up and tell you what is going on their world. Your goal is to build confidence in your child that they can talk to you about anything.
Be a good observer of your child's moods. If your child seems down, ask them what is bothering them. If you've been building your communication skills with your child, answers will flow from them and you'll avoid the dreaded, "Nothing."
Pre-school and kindergarten can be scary times for a child. This might be the first time that they will be separated from you for an extended period of time. Children can experience the same feeling of uncertainty if you use day care for them at an early age.
The biggest thing you have to communicate to your child is that everything will be alright. They will be safe. They will have fun. And YOU WILL BE COMING BACK. Some children think that this is it and that they won't see you again. No problem. You'll be back. And you better be on time or early. If you are as much as five minutes late, a child can go into hysterics. Be responsible. Be on time.
School means interacting with other children. Fights, disagreements and inappropriate behavior by other children are part of the game. If there are problems with your child and other children, talk to them in a calm voice and try to get as much of their story as possible. If you recognize that your child did not make a good choice, ask them, "Do you think you made the best choice in that situation?" Wait for their answer, even if it takes three minutes. You want them to get in the habit of thinking about their choices and coming to their own correct conclusions.
If you get called in to the school because of an infraction, approach the meeting calmly. If you barge in and start ripping into your child it only makes them more fearful to tell the truth or think clearly about what happened.
Most children feel very guilty about disappointing their parents. Use those feelings to your advantage, but use them wisely. Convict, never condemn. Convicting means that you state what was not right, "You did not come home on time." My father used to convict and condemn. "You did not come home on time, you'll never amount to anything if you keep this up." Deal with the problem and only the problem. You don't need to add commentary that will possibly hurt your child's self-esteem or their willingness to try to do the right thing.
With school comes homework. This is potentially the area where you can really fail your child. Be involved in their homework. Don't do it for them, but be there in the beginning. Children are easily distracted. Turn the TV off. Find a quiet place, a regular place where you do the homework. Make sure they have the right tools - pencils, paper, glue, etc. And do homework at the same time every day. Again, children like routines. We always did homework while the dinner dishes were being done. If my daughter had a problem, I could dry my hands and help her. The dishes can soak and it makes them easier to clean when you get back to them.
Let your child do their homework and school projects themselves. My mother always used to tell me that my school projects weren't good enough and she'd redo them. I felt like I couldn't do anything right. Not what you want to project on to your child.
Nutrition and exercise are a very important part of a child's development. Over 20% of our children today are obese. I blame the parents. You CAN drive past the fast food joints. You CAN cook healthy meals for less at home. You CAN turn the TV off or the XBOX and take your child to the park. Ignorance and laziness are killing our kids. Don't let your child be a victim of your bad habits. Look in the mirror. Maybe you need to change yourself, first. Then, you can be an asset to your child instead of a big ass.
Look out. Everything changes. That sweet child that kissed you when they were dropped off at middle school will suddenly become a different person, and it will happen overnight. Forget the kisses.
Teens are genetically predisposed to becoming adults, finding their individuality and learning the limits of boundaries. They are also subject to immense peer pressure. Puberty makes them crazy.
But, you can't put them on the curb until they become responsible adults. You have to work hard at being a parent of a teen.
Allow them their space and the ability to make their own choices, but also let them know what the boundaries are. Be aware of their behavior, moods and friends. I live by the philosophy, "You are who you hang around with." If your child is hanging around gang members or a bad crowd, you better put a stop to that right away. I used to mentor kids in gangs and I'd ask them if any of their friends were killed. All of them said yes. I told them that Willie got killed and you're doing what Willie did, so you will probably be killed to - do you want that?
Social media and texting expands what used to be left at school or only whispered on the phone at night. Whatever went on at school will follow them home at night. Plus, kids can come in contact with all sorts of people via the Internet and some of them have bad intentions. Find blocking software that can keep your child safe from indecent sites and intruders. Children can also be subject to cyber-bullying. It's hard enough for a child that is not popular to endure a day at school and then come home and get more abuse online.
Get your child involved in positive activities or sports. However, don't overload them where their days become struggles and they wind up completely worn out. Homework is the priority, not all the other stuff. Large numbers of children are dropping out of high school because of poor grades or lack of motivation. You have to stress the importance of an education to your child. They will get nowhere without a minimum of a high school diploma. Now, even college graduates are finding it tough to get decent jobs. Make higher education a goal from the time your child starts high school. Don't let it be an afterthought in their senior year.
Driving, Drinking, Drugs & Sex
Distracted teens account for about 80% of teen driving fatalities. It's serious. One of the most important tips for parenting a teen is you need to adopt a zero-tolerance rule with your teen about texting and driving. Even use of the cell phone to talk while driving is enough to get them into trouble.
A carload of teens provides more distractions than even an adult driver can handle. Some states are trying to adopt laws that would allow only one person under the age of 18 in the car with a teen driver, unless an adult is present.
One rule you can use is that your child can only have passengers in their car if they are all wearing a seat belt. This will keep them from loading up the car with rowdy friends.
Drinking and drugs derail young lives and can cause them lifelong misery by disrupting their schooling or getting them in legal trouble - not to mention death.
Look for sudden mood changes in your child or an unwillingness to associate with other family members. Secrecy is their cover. Try to find out what is going on in your child's life. Are they depressed? Are they having problems at school or with friends? Teens tend to magnify small problems into major issues. You have to bring them down to reality before they seek solace in drugs or drinking.
When it comes to sex, there are two trains of thought. Some parents feel that, "They're going to do it anyway." So they give their sons condoms and put their daughters on birth control. If you have an especially independent or unruly teen, this may be the best plan of action. Teen pregnancy or STD's can severely alter a child's future.
Many people mock the practice of abstinence, but it has a 100% success rate. The teen pregnancy rate for abstinent teens is ZERO.
Your family values and how you view sex and sexual activity can have a big impact on the way your teen will think about sex. Media bombards children with sexual imagery. I had to put a block on MTV because one night my step-daughter was watching teen girls making out in a pool. Sorry, those pool toys didn't float in my book. We found other activities or rented movies. MTV became a non-issue.
Raising a child takes a lot of work, get used to it. A child should give you the greatest joy of your life and should be the biggest blessing you can ever have. Treat that relationship with the utmost respect and responsibility. Your kids depend on you. There are hundreds of tips for parenting and you can attend all the free parenting classes you want, but the most important thing you can come away from this article with is to be there for your kids. Be there and be involved. They'll love you for it.
Related article: Teenage Boys and Girls Sexting Could Create Lifelong Legal Consequences
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