Consistency

Your child needs to know that no matter what happens, you are always going to be a consistent parent. Maintaining consistency means that you are going to be patient, connected, adaptable, and edutaining with your child all the time, so your child knows what to expect from you, and you know what to expect from them. Here are some pointers on parental consistency:

  • Do not sway in how you react to your child day to day, even if your child makes mistakes or has a temper tantrum. Instead, a consistent approach in your parenting is crucial. Especially how you react to and resolve these types of situations.
  • Be Predictable. An inconsistent parent may yell at their child one day for a particular behavior, but the next day reacts with patience and use a similar situation as a teaching moment. This inconsistency only creates confusion for your child’s expectations.
  •  Don’t let your moods interfere. My mother was very inconsistent because of her feelings. If I wanted to ask her a question, I knew not to ask when she was on the couch with a migraine, but when she was busy baking, I knew that it was an excellent time to ask. I had to assess her mood before approaching her because she was very inconsistent in her attitudes and her parenting.
  • Let your child know that they can rely on you. By being consistent, they will always know what to expect from you and that they can depend on you to help, teach, and motivate them.
  • Don’t be a Lawnmower Parent.  This method is the type of parent who cuts a path or “lawn” for their child by finishing everything for them, such as completing their child’s homework for them or resolving all their mistakes for them. In the end, their child never learns how to fix their issues or errors. While this is a “consistent” approach, it is not a healthy one. A better, consistent approach is to let your child know that you will always strive to be connected, fair, attentive, patient, and adaptable with them.

When you think about consistency, ask yourself how you typically react in different situations with your child. Do you lose it when you’re in a bad mood, or do you keep your cool? Be as consistent and reliable as possible with your child as you can, regardless of your mood, and they will learn to be consistent and authentic with you, too.

Adaptability

Adaptability is about how you respond to your child, especially when things do not go as planned. Your child will have a variety of great days, bad days, and everything in between. Here are a few ways you can apply adaptability to your parenting and keep your child motivated:

Intrinsic Motivation

1) Choices

What do you do if your child does not want to do something?

You can intrinsically motivate them by allowing them to make choices or small decisions. Before I began using healthy competition to encourage my child to brush his teeth, I had to physically put the toothbrush in his mouth and brush for him. I eventually realized that I had to adapt because it was not working. He needed to learn to brush himself.

I took him to the store and let him pick out two toothbrushes to get him more interested in brushing his teeth. Being adaptable meant giving him some choices, so he felt more involved and motivated. Now he has 24 toothbrushes!

 If your child is a picky eater, try giving them choices about what you buy at the grocery store for dinner. Let them pick if they want chicken or steak, for instance. Then, pick out a couple of good options and let them pick again. Now they have a vested interest in the meal. Finally, get them involved in making dinner, emphasizing that they helped to pick out the food for dinner. Take it a step further and work on creating a recipe together.

2) Make it Exciting

Build up the excitement when you want or need your child to do something. If you tell a bunch of 7 to 9-year-old children to do push-ups, for example, do you think they will be excited? Instead, if you give them options and motivated instructions, they will excel.

Do you think they would instead do just a few push-ups, or would they do more if you told them that they would become “one of the most awesome and strong students in the class!” by doing a few more? The chances are that they will choose to become awesome and reliable. This type of intrinsic motivation excites them to make an extra effort.

3) Compromise

Another form of adaptability through intrinsic motivation is compromising when responding to your child’s requests. If your child comes home from school and wants a treat, but you want him to wait for dinner first, they may throw a temper tantrum or get upset because they didn’t get their way.

Providing a compromise that doesn’t affect their appetite before dinner but allows them to get what they want keeps the situation in perspective. For example, let the child know that they can have two gummy bears out of the bag now, and the rest after dinner. This incentivizing is a way to adapt to their request and keeps within your rules about not eating snacks that will spoil their appetite for dinner.

Extrinsic Motivation

Kids Like to See You Suffer!

Sometimes you need to pull out the pain card! Kids like to see you suffer or pay the price in some way. You may use extrinsic motivation, such as, “If you can do this drill without any mistakes, I’ll do push-ups!” They want to see you suffer through the push-ups, and they will do whatever it takes to make you have to do them.

I use this concept with my son. If he starts to procrastinate just as we head out the door, I use healthy competition and extrinsic motivation to get him moving! I tell him that if he runs to the car faster than me, I’ll do ten jumping jacks. He wins the race every time because he wants me to do the jumping jacks. Then, he counts everyone one of them off as I do them. Being an adaptable parent means using external motivation when necessary.

As you consider your level of adaptability today, ask yourself if you ever apply similar intrinsic or extrinsic motivation to your child. If not, consider adding them to your parenting tool kit. Your child’s behavior will change based on their mood, so the best way to parent is to adapt to their day as best as possible.

Nurturing

Being a nurturing parent means adjusting your child’s behaviors, not trying to change them. In other words, change the behavior, not the child.

Let Children Know that Mistakes are Okay

I get excited when my son makes a mistake because it allows me to teach him, which is what parenting is all about. Address your child’s errors in a nurturing way to help them learn and grow without feeling bad about themselves. Let your child know that everyone makes mistakes. Don’t get angry at them when they make a mistake, but take the time to explain how they can do better next time. Look at it as a time to help your child improve so they can feel good about who they are. The most important thing is to let them know that mistakes are okay.

Redefine a Child’s Weaknesses

Every child has behavioral weaknesses. Some get mad when they don’t win and physically show their anger by acting out. Others are empathetic and cry every time they are disappointed or sad. From one end of the spectrum to the other, your child will have a range of emotions.

The first key to redefining your child’s behavior is to redefine your perspective. For example, you may think that the only thing you can do to alleviate your child acting like a poor sport is to remove them from situations that trigger these behaviors, like eliminating games from their schedule.

Or, if your child cries easily, you may decide that they should not participate in situations where they may cry yet another time. This perspective focuses on the child and not the behavior.

Instead, turn your attention to what their behavior means and create a course of action that helps them funnel their personalities and behaviors in a positive, productive way, which begins with nourishing and not negating their innate passions and skills.

Nourish a Child’s Skills

If you look ahead into the future, you can see how a bull-headed child or a bad sport might use that passion and fire. That passionate drive may help them become the best CEO of a company, dedicated and committed to being the very best.

Or, the child who cries a lot may become an adult of compassion and empathy, a caring parent, and a person who wants to change the world for the better. None of this can happen if their behaviors are stifled instead of explored.

Try not to stifle the passions and emotions that make your child who they are. Instead, consider how you can help them modify their behaviors to nourish their desires and innate talents. This nurturing requires providing ways that they can be who they are through positive reinforcement of who they already are, which ultimately helps them become thriving and successful adults.

Choose the Direction

How do we get from here to there? From the spoiled brat to a successful CEO? From crybaby to the caring parent and teacher? The key is to point their behavior in the right direction. The best way to deal with your child’s actions is to turn them into strengths.

For the child who gets upset when he loses, you might adjust their behavior by saying, “I love that passion that you have, but let’s work together on other ways you can express that passion and desire to others.” Instead of the ordinary “If you do that again, you’re out” mindset.

For the child who cries often, don’t shame them into thinking that they must toughen up. Instead, let them know that you love their heart. Tell them, “I love that you get sad when you lose because you want to do better. But, crying all the time makes other people sad, too. Let’s see if you can choose a better way to show that you are sad than just crying.”

Remember, nurturing means changing the behavior, not the child. No child is born with a proper sense of good behavior. Just like adults, they make mistakes, and that is how they learn. Make sure to look at their mistakes as opportunities for education versus punishment.

The moral of the story is that when you look at your child, don’t focus on their behaviors. Instead, see the child who will one day use their passion to become a fantastic adult one day. See your child as a great CEO or a person who is going to change the world for the better one day.

Edutainment

Be the parent your child needs you to be. They need you to be in their world. That means interacting and playing with them on their level to prompt them through the tasks and chores they don’t want to do. Here are some tips and examples of using effectively using edutainment with your child.

Practice Healthy Competition

The child’s brain loves novelty. That is why healthy competition and games get them excited. You can help your child accomplish the daily tasks they do not necessarily want to do by adding a fun edutainment component.

Edutainment in daily tasks may include incorporating a game or competition into their nighttime routine to prompt them to get ready for bed, pick up their toys, or brush their teeth long enough.

 For instance, when it’s time for bed, create a healthy, fun competition that gets them excited. You might tell your child, “Okay! It’s time to get ready for bed! Let’s see who can race to the bathroom the fastest!” Once this completed, follow up with “Who can get their toothbrush out and put the toothpaste on the fastest?” or “Who can brush their teeth the longest?” For toothbrushing, when you know the two minutes is up, you can finish first, allowing them to win the competition of brushing for at least two minutes. Then, follow up with how surprised or excited that you are that they won.

Be Playful with Your Child

Your child is not going to behave all the time. They are not perfect. When your child throws a temper tantrum, is upset, or is insistent on something, add something playful to the mix that takes their mind off it.

If my son throws a temper tantrum, sometimes I pretend in a silly way that I am falling and hurt my foot, and he laughs. Or, if he sits in a chair that I specifically told him that I am going to sit in, I playfully act like I am going to sit on him. He likes the silliness, and it detracts and redirects him away from his original temper tantrum or harmful behavior.

Think Outside the Box

Playfulness and silliness work, but other times creative solutions help your child accomplish their tasks and chores. Homework is one thing that your child may not enjoy. Think outside the box to what excites them and incorporate that into their homework time.

Younger children love tents, so building a shelter or fort in the living room together where they can go to do their homework is an exciting way to mask the doldrums of homework. For teens, coffee shops are typical favorite hangouts. Going to one where they can have their favorite coffee drink and do their homework is a treat that they enjoy. Both scenarios change your child’s negative outlook on homework to something positive.

How edutaining are you as a parent? Whatever your level, you can better implement healthy competition, fun, and creative approaches to motivate your child. A child’s way of interpreting things is rarely ever black and white, usually because they are not eager to learn. When you edutain, you help them learn in a behavior that they embrace.

Prompting

How can you set your child up for daily success? One of the most effective ways to do this is to focus on prompting instead of punishment. Here’s what you need about inspiring your child toward ethical behavior and decisions:

Friendly Competition

One of the ways to encourage your child toward good behavior is to create a simple competition where you dare them to turn a negative behavior into a positive one. If your child is fidgety and doesn’t sit still or tends to be disruptive, for instance, create a friendly competition or prompt that steers them to better behavior.

To have them sit still, you may ask, “Let’s see if you can sit better than me!” This challenge puts his or her focus on trying to do better than you. They learn how to sit still without even realizing it.

A Dose of Praise

If your child wins the friendly little competition, or they do something well, give them a good dose of praise. A few encouraging words such as, “Look at how good you are at this!” are positive reinforcement that makes them feel good about themselves and their accomplishments.

Set Your Child Up for Success.

The whole goal behind prompting is to catch your child doing good things. How often do you find them doing something proper rather than bad behavior? Every time you catch your child doing something right, let them know. Along with praise, setting your child up for success means you recognize and reward their good behaviors. In fact, the more you catch them doing good things, the more their brain tells them, “I like this!” which gives them a good reason to continue.

Brain Power

The more you punish your child’s behavior, the more cortisol (stress hormone) is released and goes to your child’s brain. So, what kind of mind do you want your child to have? A mind that is excited about doing good things, or a brain that anticipates getting in trouble? I know my choice. I want my child to be always enthusiastic about doing good things.

Redirect

Helping your child improve their behaviors involves more than prompting them, setting them up for success, and catching them do good things. Sometimes prompting requires redirection. Redirection is merely redirecting their attention in a different direction when they are upset, worried, or anxious. Completely change the subject to something positive and engaging. If they are upset, redirect them to look out the window at something exciting, or ask about a favorite toy. This type of prompting helps divert their attention to a positive experience that supersedes their other challenging emotions.

The final question to ask yourself is how well you prompt your child for successful interactions and behaviors. I think we can all agree that children will not have the very best discipline all the time. To improve their level of discipline, we must prompt them all the time. Then, catch your child doing good things and set them up for success.

Patience 

Take a few extra seconds when responding to poor behavior. These seconds demonstrates compassion, empathy, and self-control on your part. Sometimes all you need to do is think about responding in the most patient manner to help re-direct your child. A few seconds can make a big difference.

Ask, Listen, Explain

Patience helps you to establish better solutions for difficult moments with your child.

If your child has a temper tantrum, for instance, take a few seconds to calm down before reacting. Then, ask questions to help determine what is driving the behavior. Listen to what they say and then explain what they could have done instead.

Patience can lead to understanding and solutions. Be patient and ask the right questions to get your child back on track.

Give a Do-over 

A do-over is precisely what it says – the chance to do something again. Using patience means allowing your child to act in a better way than they did the first time around.

The perfect time to implement a do-over is when your child says something out of anger, such as “You are not my favorite mommy!” A do-over begins by telling your child that this is not the proper way for them to speak to you. You may start with, “Let’s do this over. What is a nicer way to talk to me when you are upset?” This question gives them the chance to explain why they are upset in a different way. It may be as simple as they didn’t want to stop playing to eat dinner. Allow them the chance to re-phrase and then go from there, such as letting them know that they can play more, just after dinner.

When you allow your child a do-over, you use patience with your child and apply patience to the way that you react to their behavior.

Provide Teaching Moments

Many people assume that discipline means “to punish” when it means “to teach.”

When your child makes a mistake, you can either punish or discipline through patient teaching moments. In a soccer game, if a player misses the ball, the coach doesn’t yell and get angry with them. Instead, they explain what went wrong and help the player by letting them know how they can improve the next time.

A parental teaching moment is the same. When your child makes a mistake, use patience to explain what they did wrong and provide them information that will help them improve or not make the same mistake again. A teaching moment offers options and solutions, while punishment does not.

The question to ask yourself today is how patient are you with your child. How many times do you give them do-overs? Try to provide them with as many do-overs as possible so they can learn how to behave and communicate better. In the long run, both of you learn valuable teaching moments through patience.

Attunement

Do you ever feel like you can read your child’s mind? You know what they are going to do or say next because they have had the same reaction before? This profiling is attunement. Improving your attunement skills will allow you to create a more patient and understanding relationship with your child. 

Modify Your Child’s Behavior: 

Be attuned to your child’s anxieties and try a creative approach that allows them to focus on positive behaviors and interactions instead of their fears or stresses. 

Your attunement to the fact that your child has anxiety about going to school in the morning, for instance, help them relieve their stress by adding some interactive playtime with them before school. This playtime will boost their endorphins, so they feel good and less stressed. Allowing them to run off some of their energy in the morning creates a positive and consistent change in their behavior. 

Wait for the Right time 

Applying patience is an attunement-builder because when you understand your child’s mood, you can eliminate some of the everyday struggles you have with them.

If your child wakes up happy most mornings, but grumpy after naps on the weekend, you already expect that behavior. It might be better to wait or to be patient until they feel a little less irritable to talk to them or ask them to do something. You will get better results that way, and they will be less grumpy when they respond. 

Understand Your Child’s Stage of Development 

Being attuned to your child’s stages of development will break some of the assumptions that you have about them, which will improve your relationship and understanding with your child. 

When you ask a 3 to 4-year old to sit on the floor, they seem to roll around a lot. Are they not paying attention? The chances are that part of their behavior is due to their physical stage of development. Physically, it is uncomfortable in their core muscles to sit on the floor for long without rolling back. 

Similarly, 10 to 14-year olds seem lazy. They look like they do not have enough energy to take the trash out after watching a movie. What’s going on here? Research shows that they are physically, scientifically exhausted. Their body and brain are changing from kid versions to adult versions, which makes them seem less than smart and overly lazy. 

By being attuned to their stages of development, you can communicate better with them, knowing what to expect and why. 

Anticipate Language Barriers 

Being attuned to your child’s development in language skills will help you understand their responses and reactions, and not get frustrated if they only respond to bits and piece of what you ask. If you learned a foreign language for only a few years and heard a conversation among fluent speakers, would you understand it entirely or only be able to pick out a word, phrase, or topic here and there? 

If several children hear, “Molly, can you come here” it is possible that several of them will come running instead of just Molly. This reaction is because they only heard the instructional phrase and not necessarily the name. Kids apply the only language skills that they have at their age of development, which for a 3 or 4-year-old is only three or four years! 

Practice Response Flexibility 

Probably the best thing you can do to improve your reactions as a parent is to practice response flexibility. Being flexible with your child’s mood and deciding what requires action immediately and what can wait. Or, realizing that it is not necessary to be harsh every time something terrible happens. 

Recently my son decided it was a good idea to do a flip on top of me when I was on the couch and busted my nose. Instead of yelling at him, I used response flexibility and kept my reaction in perspective because I know that he didn’t do it on purpose. He was playing, and I had to keep that in perspective. Explaining what happened to them and using it as a teaching moment is a more responsible way to respond using response flexibility. 

Attunement all comes down to how well you know your child and their moods, and how well you know yourself. Start thinking about how you can help your child use the right behaviors by being more attuned to their development, behaviors, language skills, and mood, and most importantly, try to practice response flexibility when the unexpected happens. Sometimes your child will learn more from how you respond than from what you say. 

Connection

One of the most important things that you can do as a parent is establishing a connection with your child. Children need connection more than anything else. 

Here are a few ways that you can begin to build a great connection with your child: 

Daily Interactions: 

  1. Make one-on-one connections with your child. Instead of asking a question from across the room, take an extra 15 seconds to walk to your child, get down on their level, maybe tap their shoulder or touch their arm, and ask the question. Chances are they will engage right away (instead of ignoring you) and answer you because you have made that personal connection. 
  2. Connect with your child as many times per day as possible. Every positive connection with your child means fewer disconnected or frustrating moments for both of you. 
  3. Begin positive connections when your child is young. The more positive relationships you make early on, the better they will respond and communicate as they get older. Over time they will have a strong enough connection with you that you no longer need to be right in front of them for them to answer your question. 
  4. Reduce stressful interactions. Good connections reduce stress or cortisol, which is the stress hormone. If you get upset with your child, it makes them angry, too. By improving your connections daily, you begin to eliminate some of the obstacles in your communication with them which also reduces stressful interactions

Boost their Neurotransmitters! 

You can “up” your child’s neurotransmitters to build a better parent-child connection, which means improving your relationship with your child by giving them positive reinforcement in a variety of ways that will allow them to thrive, feel happy, and be healthy. 

  1. Tell your child about something that is going to happen that is exciting so that they can look forward to it. This expectation improves the neurotransmitter Dopamine, which is the anticipation chemical. 
  2. Hug your child and let them know they are essential. Oxytocin is the chemical that reacts through touching. 
  3. Give your child praise for good behavior or a job well done. Recognition improves Serotonin, which is about feeling satisfied. 
  4. Finally, give your child the chance to run and play or engage in a fun physical activity, especially when they are stressed or feel anxiety. Active movement involves endorphins. 

The last crucial bit of advice is to self-assess. How connected you think you are with your child right now? On a scale of 1 to 5, what grade would you give yourself? Put these tips into action and make a better connection with your child because the more you connect, the better.