My 3 yr old daughter took this pic of me

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Successful & Present Parenting

"I wake up each morning and hope for the best. Are these kids gonna drive me crazy today? I hope I can get through the morning and make it til naptime. All they do is fight and whine and interrupt me. Maybe I'll just turn on the tv so that I can check my fb or talk on the phone or take a nap. Worse case scenario I'll have to get off the phone and break up a fight and then get back on the phone.

Finally nap time. I hope they don't quit taking afternoon naps, that'd be too stressful. Ugh, I feel like I can never get anything done. The house is a mess and I can never keep up. I just don't have enough time in my day to get everything done. When was the last time I did something for me? I feel like I always have a thousand things to do at once and it's just so overwhelming. I don't do schedules....or routines. They don't work for me. I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of person."

Is this what goes through your head each day? Maybe not all of it, but some of it? I admit that I have had all of these thoughts at one point or another. I have wondered why the kids just can't get along. Why I can't keep up with the housework, etc. I've been thinking a lot lately about distractions and parenting and I was going to write a post just about that, but then I stumbled across an amazing post here about distractions while raising kids and I couldn't have said it better. Be sure to jump over to Hands Free Mama to read it. You'll be glad you did!

I've noticed that when I get distracted or my kids end up watching too much tv or play video games for too long or are left on their own for too long without adult interaction and communication - they are HORRIBLE. Kids have needs and someone needs to meet those needs and if the adult in their life isn't meeting those needs, then they begin to communicate LOUDER that they have needs that aren't being met. Kids aren't great communicators - in case you haven't noticed - and screaming, hitting, punching, kicking, whining, making messes, etc top the list. The reason they use these behaviors is because it WORKS EVERY TIME. It always gets your attention, unlike when they stand next to you and say, ", mom, mom, MOM! MOM! MOM! MOMMMM!"  And we find that sooo annoying, when they keep "bugging" us when we are "busy".

When you have kids you need to be present and actually raise them.

Things you should know about each of your children:

  1. Their favorite things - toys, colors, books, foods, activities
  2. What makes them sad, happy, mad, frustrated, excited
  3. What's important to them
  4. Their love language - read The Five Love Languages of Children by Chapman & Campbell - Don't have time to read? Just print off the quiz and fill it out for each child.
  5. What they want to be when they grow up - even if it changes every week
  6. What kind of personality they have
  7. What motivates them
  8. What their dreams are
  9. What calms them down - how they self soothe
  10. What they are afraid of
  11. What they're good at
  12. What they struggle with
  13. Who their friends are and what those friends are like and into and those parents
This list isn't exhaustive, but it's a great start. Make up a list for each of your kids and see if you can answer these questions, and the ones you can't answer, ask your child.

Some ways to be present with your kids:

  1. Create a special tradition for when you get up in the morning. It could be a beverage you always share, a phrase you always say, or a song you play - whatever you can come up with.
  2. If a schedule is too rigid for your family, develop a routine - even a basic one. Kids thrive when they know what's coming next. Not having a routine will make your kids feel insecure and that will lead to a lot more negative behaviors. Even a basic routine is a discipline that you will have to work on, but develop this good habit and things will run much more smoothly - for you and for them. Adults feel better and have more energy and motivation when their days are planned out. This is what I use every morning and I get tons done in way less time than I did with the "wing it"  method I was using before.
  3. Say "I love you" as many times a day as you can.
  4. Thank your child for the things they do around the home.
  5. Read to your kids every day or every night. We use chapter books and try to read one chapter a day.
  6. If your kids watch tv after school, watch it with them. 
  7. Include your kids in making dinner and talk about their day, their dreams, their frustrations. Let them guide the conversation.
  8. When your kid is talking to and you are on your phone or the computer or watching tv, put down what you are doing and look them in the eyes. You usually don't need to finish what you are doing before you give them your attention. Really listen and respond positively.
  9. Plan dates with your kids. They don't have to be extravagant or cost money. Go for a walk, play catch, work out together, knit something, play a board game, read, just talk over a favorite beverage in another room of the house away from everyone else for a set amount of time. Don't bring along any distractions and be sure that everyone else is set up with something to do in order to minimize interruptions. 
  10. Laugh and tell jokes with your kids. Maybe come up with a new joke every day.
  11. Ask your kids how they feel about things (be specific) and help them positively work through why they feel the way they do.
  12. Let them pick the activity.
  13. Have a bedtime routine that is special for each child. We read to our kids before bed, sing them each a song of their choice, tuck them in and pray with them. After tucking them in, as I leave the room we always say to each other, "joobin-gaudin, elephant shoe, elephant dung". Don't ask me why, we just always do, and they love it.
  14. Spend time teaching your kids how to do life. Teach them how to do chores (and include them in the housework), how to do relationships (sibling rivalry produces tons of opportunities for this), work on character traits, teach them how to handle money.
  15. Set a good example by how you interact with other people, how you spend your money, how you make decisions, how you express yourself and deal with your emotions.
  16. If you do wrong by your kids, apologize and ask for forgiveness. Show them that you, too, struggle with things and are working on improvement.
  17. Focus on the positive and encourage your child instead of focusing on the negative and criticizing. Criticism is good but in small doses. Think about how it makes you feel when you are criticized. Think about how it makes you feel when you are encouraged. 
  18. Look at your kids as little people with feelings and passions. Love them no matter what they throw at you and help them discover who they are and what they are meant to do/be. 
  19. If you aren't going to do it, don't say it. Show them that your word means something and that you can be trusted. Not just with discipline, but with promises of activites, etc. 
  20. When they share something with you, no matter how shocking, don't react. They are confiding in you and even if you do not approve of what they are telling you, it's huge that they are telling you. Be calm, correct if necessary, and encourage them in the right direction. 
This is just what I have come up with and, again, not an exhaustive list but a place to start. Parenting can be overwhelming, but the truth is, we only have to deal with one moment at a time. Be present with your kids and help them figure it out. Often I think that my kids should know better or behave better, but really, they're just kids. I'm not saying that they should use that as an excuse, but I cannot expect a child to behave as an adult. Change is tough and building new habits takes time, so work diligently with your kids and over time you will see improvement.
Your kids need parents - BE that parent!  
Don't just hope they'll turn out - HELP them turn out!
 If you have anything to add to this, I'd love to hear your comments! 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. There were waaay too many spelling mistakes in my original comment!
    I like your list of ways to present with kids - it really is simple and easy to incorporate things in your list into everyday things we do, but sometimes we get caught up in taking the easy way out (which is sometimes in the end harder) and stuck in ruts and routines that we forget just how easy it is, how important it is, to sit and share a cartoon together etc.
    Also, on routine and structure - I know for my little guy it's just way easier in the end if I take the time to set up some structure for him instead of just letting him 'play' freely (which is okay too sometimes but for him at this point is really hard). It's more time, more mess and more effort on my part to pull out paints and paper etc. so I can make dinner or tidy up, but in the end he's calmer and happier and I'm less frustrated at his behaviours from being left on his own. Thanks for the post!