All I want for Mother's Day are well-behaved kids.
I love my children and they are (for the most part) good kids. Mothers out there know what I'm talking about - motherhood is not easy. And it doesn't matter what age the child is because each age group presents its own challenges.
My children are 7 and 4 and on the bad days I tell myself that this "drama moment" should be much easier to deal with than what lies ahead. I'm terrified with the thought of dealing with the "the birds and the bees" and drugs and alcohol. Luckily, I have a few more years to prepare for those years.
Two things have helped me this past year to become a better parent, besides help from my supportive friends. Just talking with my mom friends and hearing that they are going through the same issues that I am makes the situation a little easier to bear. I mean, really, "My kids are not the only ones who can be wild and obnoxious?"
Brainerd Dispatch staff writer Jennifer Stockinger painted her son Jake's hand for a Mother's Day project Thursday at the Brainerd School District's Early Childhood Family Education program's weekly parent and child class in Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
The first thing that helped me was a book called "Raising Your Spirited Child," by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. The book is geared for parents who have children who are more intense, more sensitive, more perceptive, more persistent and more energetic. These characteristics scream my children as they fall into these categories.
The main thing I got out of this book, besides the constant reminder to remain calm and patient - a hard thing for parents to do on a day-to-day basis - is the power of words.
The book talks about how to turn the negative labels into positive labels. I used to tell my son that he is a picky eater, but that is a negative label. I now tell him that he's a selective eater, a positive label.
Instead of telling your child he or she is demanding, say, "You hold high standards." Instead of loud, they are zestful (I love using this word!). Or instead of stubborn, they are assertive and have a willingness to persist in the face of difficulties.
I suggest other parents read this book because it'll help them understand their child's temperamental traits, cope with tantrums and blow-ups and learn strategies in handling daily situations such as bedtime, mealtimes or school.
The second thing that has made a world of difference has been learning about Love and Logic in the Brainerd School District's Early Childhood Family Education program's weekly parent and child class I take with my son. According to the Love and Logic Web site, the concept, developed by Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, provides simple and practical techniques to help parents and teachers have less stress and more fun while raising responsible children. The Love and Logic concept is supported through books, DVDs and CDs.
When people ask what Love and Logic is, Fay will say "Love" allows the child to grow through their mistakes and "Logic" allows the child to live with the consequences of their choices.
A parenting tip I learned through Love and Logic is to show empathy before delivering consequences and to not deliver consequences during "the heat of the moment." Love and Logic suggests delivering consequences at a later time to give the parent and the child a chance to settle down and for the parent to think of a consequence that can be carried through.
Boy, has this made a difference. I'm the first to admit that during a temper tantrum (negative label) with my son or a drama queen moment (negative label) with my daughter, I used to be quick to tell them that I was going to take away one of their prized possessions or that they couldn't go to a particular place that day ... and then I wouldn't consistently follow through with it. Bad, bad, bad. Well, I'm better at delaying the consequences, but now sometimes I forget that I was suppose to come up with a consequence. Life is busy, give me a break! Did I mention earlier that parenting is tough work?
Another parenting tip Love and Logic suggests that I feel is important is offering the child choices and making sure the choices are ones the parent and others can live with and won't cause a problem. The child then must decide in 10 seconds. If not, the parent chooses. After a few times, the child will learn to make quick decisions. Choices can include asking your child if they want to go to bed now or in 10 minutes; are you going to have peas or carrots for your vegetable for dinner; or for the older children, are you going to clean the garage or mow the lawn this week?
The choices make children feel they're in control and makes them feel good about themselves. And hey, it works. This past week I was at my sister-in-law's house getting things ready for a garage sale. My daughter wanted a pair of Rollerblades and I told her that was fine. Later on, she wanted a Polly Pocket house and I told her no because she already has like five of them at home. Of course, the crying began and more begging.
Then the light bulb went on and I told her she had to choose between the Rollerblades and the Polly Pocket house and I didn't even have to count to one because she yelled Rollerblades and put the house back on its display. What a revelation! I mean before I offered choices but it wasn't consistent and it came too late during the mental breakdown, so it didn't work. Or I'd try to reason with my child, which is a no-no according to Love and Logic. Love and Logic advises parents to never argue with their child because it won't go anywhere and it also suggests not giving long explanations to the child.
There are so many more tips I could offer through Love and Logic. For those who want to learn more about the parenting technique, I suggest taking a class at The Learning Center through ECFE in Brainerd.
Being a mother is a 24/7 job and I'm learning more every day. It's the best and most rewarding job in the world, sorry Brainerd Dispatch, but you do come in a close second!
And this Mother's Day, I surely will get good kids (all of the time). OK, I know that is wishful thinking.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.
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