Overflow that Parenting Toolbox
I am a strong believer in that a Parenting Tool Box should be overflowing. The more tools (tips and tricks) you have up your sleeve as a parent, the more prepared you are to take on most situations. It would be nice to have an individual operation manual handed to you at the birth of your child. In lieu of the manual, build a humongous Parenting Toolbox. Fill the Toolbox with tips and tricks that fit your parenting style.
Before I became a parent myself, I had developed a pretty big toolbox (so I thought). This toolbox was filled with child development information, hands-on experience working with children, tips and tricks in dealing with lots a behaviour related issues and parenting ideas.
I got the information for my Parenting Toolbox through working with children and families, attending a number of work related seminars on child development, teaching parenting workshops and obtaining my 4-year Child Studies Degree from Mount Saint Vincent. Then I became a step-parent and biological parent.
Well, the information I had learned (and taught others) was helpful but it did not prepare me for the role as a parent. So I have been adding to my toolbox and helping others build/add to theirs.
I have been putting a great deal of thought into this blog post (my husband and children may think a little too much thought) in the hopes that the Parenting Tools I describe can help you add tools to your Parenting Toolbox.
In my opinion, the 4 R’s of Parenting are reflecting, reframing, rephrasing and redirecting.
Reflection is usually a good thing. It is the art of thinking back on something that happened. You can look back and see what was good and what can be changed for next time. A very important thing to remember is that you cannot change what you did; however, you can learn from it. Beating yourself up for it will not change it, it makes it worse.
Example: Reflecting back on our Christmas day 2013, our 2-year-old was pretty proud of everything he received including the dental floss wands in his stocking. Everyone in the family got an up close view of them as he shoved them in our face excitedly. We all showed our excitement for him. Even his teenage/adult brothers (14 and 18). It was very cute. Then the overload started to kick in. The look on our 2-year-old’s face started to change, so I dropped my presents and focused on him. He appeared to calm quickly, then got re-engaged in the fun. Opening a gift and running to play with it. Then he would get frustrated because someone had to put it together!
What did I learn by reflecting back? Overall, I was pretty darn pleased with the way things went. Next year we will assemble the toys before they get wrapped and I will make sure there are lots of floss wands around.
One of the things that my experience did teach me, is that you can find a positive in most situations. Sometimes you have to search for a positive; however, I believe things are easier to deal with when you can focus on the positive side of the situation.
Example: About ten years ago I facilitated a workshop for parents at the Junior High School I was working at. The focus of the workshop was to help parents deal with the changes in their child’s behaviour. One parent expressed her frustration with the fact that she seemed to constantly be at odds with her teenage son. She talked about the fact he was very “stubborn” and would get very angry if he did not get his way. We talked about how to look at the situation differently to reduce the anger and frustration she was feeling.
We discussed the fact that there will be times when her child would not agree with what was expected and that it was okay for her child to express his frustration. Here goes the reframe: I stated: “It sounds like you have a very persistent son.” She agreed, I then went on to describe a situation in our school where her persistent son used his skills in an amazing way. I explained that her boy spoke to many people in his class about treating another student in his class in a different manner.
Her son was very frustrated with another child in his class. He came to me to find out why the child acted the way he did. I could not say a great deal, but due to her son’s persistence, I explained that the boy in question had a difficult childhood that affected his ability to deal with other people. The day after our conversation her son made an effort to speak with the other student and told his friends to leave the other student alone. With tears in her eyes, the mom thanked me. The next day her son came into my office saying, “What did you say to my mom? Whatever you said stopped us from arguing and she thanked me for being persistent!” (I still tear up over this one.) He then thanked me and left my office.
Some of my favourite reframes are as follows:
- stubborn – persistent
- emotional – expressive
- inattentive – multi-tasker
- always thinks they are right – stands up for themselves
These reframes are all great qualities for our children to have!
This is an amazing tool in my humble opinion. I use this a great deal in my house, especially with our 2-year-old. He is such a concrete thinker that he will do literally what you ask or he will state “no” when given the opportunity. I recommend phrasing your questions or requests in such a way that your child follows through with the request without the opportunity to say no.
Example: We are in the midst of introducing “the potty” to our 2-year-old. Whenever he is asked, “Do you need to use the potty?” the automatic answer is “NO!” I was not born yesterday. When you cross your legs and jump up and down, you need to try the potty. So we state, “It’s time to use the potty” instead, which often gets the desired response of him running to the potty. Other times he refuses, so I ask, “Do you want to walk or hop to the potty?” Off he goes hopping to the bathroom. Now actually using the potty is a different story I will blog about later.
There are many times that a child just needs to get their mind refocused and directed on to something else. Infants and toddlers will benefit from this technique a great deal. This would be when you change an activity you are engaged in, change the scenery, or move on to a different topic of discussion.
Example: Our toddler will have a full on tantrum if he cannot help in the kitchen. There are times when he wants to do absolutely everything that we are doing. Well, I am not prepared to let my 2-year-old cook something on the stove. So I give him bread to spread butter on, I let him “wash” the dishes, and there are times when I have to take him into a different room and get him engaged in a different activity altogether to stop his meltdowns.
Continue building your Parenting Toolbox with tips and tricks that work for you and your family. Hopefully, some of these tips make their way into your Toolbox.