Just wanted to share what we learned from the Parenting Seminar we attended, something we both have to work on and struggle with if we're to be better parents and a closer family unit.
Anyway, before I gve the ABCs, it was greatly emphasized to us that we need structure (routine) in the family. Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to give the following correctly and consistently.
A is for ATTENTION-GIVING
It's attention given to each child. It's attention given without doing anything else, or without your mind being on something else. It's the breastfeeding schedule, the nighttime readings, watching videos together, etc. It's how you greet each child each time you see her (esply if he just came home from school or you just came home from work). It's being there for their first experiences, after gimmicks/play time, before bed, when they are most apt to need you, or want to talk about what happened to them.
This is where structure comes in. Structure is necessary to enjoy your children. And yes, parents have to tailor their schedule around their kids... at least for their first 7-10 years. Work/play when they're at school or asleep or doing something else.
We were told that parents are only allowed ONE NIGHT each week without touching base at bedtime with their kid. Which is why, when Pappie can't be home to say goodnight, we now let him talk to Yakee on the phone before I nurse him to sleep.
B is for BUILDING SELF-ESTEEM / BEING ENCOURAGING
Structure again is necessary when you want to build your child's self-esteem. Knowing what will happen when, and being explained why, will give them a sense of security. Set rules which will help everyone in the family to achieve higher goals (for the family).
Parents are encouraged to avoid malls but rather focus on activities with their kids, even if it is just playing with dough. Also, being positive goes a long way and parents shouldn't go for 48 hours without finding something to praise about each child. Think along the lines of, "You know baby, I really appreciate that you played nice with cousin Ice and shared your toys with him, eventhough I know that must have been hard for you." instead of, "You're so cute! And handsome! And intelligent!"
Lastly, we were told to accept our child for who he is now, not what he could be. Again, enjoy that child that is in front of you right now.
C is for COMMUNICATION
Communicate regularly and well. And know that parents need to earn the right to be heard by their kids which is why they should be involved with their kids. There isn't getting to C without going through A & B. When you do more of A & B, there will be more cooperation from the child when you do C.
Usually, when kids act up, they do not feel validated. So acknowledging that had you been in their place, you would be feeling angry and sad too helps more than we realize.
D is for DISCIPLINE
Kids, even babies, are too smart and resilient not to be disciplined. And discipline is basically the structure and rules your family lives by, it's a lifestyle, not a punishment.
Parents should also remember that there are family rules, but that they are not the rule. Kids shouldn't stop playing because you told them so, but because it's time to wash up for bed. Kids shouldn't eat veggies because you want them to, but because veggies are good for them and will keep them healthy. Plus, we're more likely to take it personally when we think we're the rule (What did Mommy tell you?) and the child misbehaves.
Some areas that house rules should be clear (even to you and your spouse) include morning routine, eating, TV/computer use, play, family activities, visiting friends, sleepovers, interaction with household, telephone use, allowance, study time, prayers and bedtime.
It's also very important to think of the Natural, Logical Consequences when a child misbehaves. Again, structure is key. Say, if he isn't finished eating by a certain time, he might have to go to bed hungry, or there'd be less time for reading with Mom. When he doesn't play nice, he is taken away from the scene for a timeout (1 minuter per year, till about 7 years old, and time resets when child doesn't take the timeout seriously. Yes, parents can hold their child during the timeout, but talking to them about what happened will have to happen after the time's up.) so he'd realize that not being nice gets him to lose precious play time.
Natural consequences are directly related to behavior (when a child does not eat, he goes hungry). Logical consequences are those that violates the social order (not at the dinner table in time, he'd have to prepare his own food).
Of course, all rules should be clear and simple, age-appropriate, enforceable and builds self-esteem. And yes, in time, you can offer (consequence) choices and ways for the child to make amends. And always, you dish out 'punishments' away from an audience and as immediately as possible (he played an extra 30 minutes today, his playing time the next day is reduced by as much).
E is for ENHANCING CAREGIVER RELATIONSHIPS
As important as attention-giving to each child, caregivers should also have a good relationship with each other. There shouldn't be a power struggle between Daddy and Mommy, or Mommy and Grandma, or Mommy and Yaya. Again, kids are smart and sensitive and their self-esteem will be affected by any conflicts between their caregivers.
How can parents parent as a team if they don't have regular talks and dates? And how can your discipline be effective if your yaya does not understand the house rules and end up breaking them when you're away?
Structure provides consistency, which builds a child's esteem and character. It allows him to know his limits as well as be confident about what he can accomplish. It allows him to make better decisions and in time, contribute more to the family's well-being. Why do you think having dinner as a family keeps teenagers away from drugs, crimes and teenage pregnancy? :)
What a challenge, is it not? Then again, an ounce of prevention (all the sacrifices and diligence and vigilance now) is worth more than a pound of cure (seeking counseling for troubled teens, driving around your area looking for your child who hasn't come in days, dealing with a grandchild when you're only in your 40s, having criminals for kids, etc).