Tough Tips for Parenting Success

October 18, 2010

As a Pre-school Teacher and Day Care Educator the change in season not only brings me new children to love and enjoy, but an onslaught of questions from apprehensive parents.  Let me start off by saying “relax!” When the children are small, the problems are small – trust me!

My child isn’t potty trained. The first thing I am usually hit with is the parent who is concerned because their 2 – 3 year old is not potty trained. Again – relax! No one walks down the aisle in a diaper (unless of course you’re 100 years old perhaps). If you are diligent and your child is ready – it will happen. Yes, it will be messy and frustrating for a period of time – but it will happen and quite frankly, in my opinion, no pre-school or daycare is worth its salt if it refuses to accept a child in diapers. Listen – none of us is guaranteed to grow old but we have all been children – that is a fact. So there should be empathy, and after all – as teachers working with this age level in particular, isn’t it our job to work in tandem with the parent? Ah – there’s another concept working in tandem. Parents – remember that you too have a responsibility in this business of child-rearing and you cannot expect your teachers to handle the job alone. This is an important point because no matter what lesson a parent is trying to teach a child or bad habit trying to help them overcome – you must work with your teacher. This is the only way to ensure your child’s success.

My child won’t go to sleep. Alright, now barring any medical condition (and it is extremely rare that it is a medical condition) we are talking about discipline. Discipline seems to have become a dirty word among parents but I believe it is because they have confused it with the word punishment. Discipline is the ultimate act of love and commitment. The word means to guide and develop a set of rules by which a child learns to behave in a socially acceptable way–making for a successful adult who contributes to society. Punishment is the act of inflicting a consequence for an action that is inappropriate…oh and parents – stop being afraid of handing some of those out too. It’s your job, step up to the plate. I hear parents tell me that they don’t want their pre-schooler to be angry with them…really? How many 4 year old friends do you need? And by the way, understand this –  the discipling you do now will give you teenagers and young adults who actually want to be with you – not want to run away and find some stranger to love and guide them (for the things, by the way, that they know are inherently wrong). So back to the sleep issue…put them to bed – simple as that. Put them to bed – maybe you ‘need to lie down and tell them a story. Yes I know you are tired after a long day of work – so am I – and I spend it with other people’s children -but those ten uninterrupted minutes with my 10 year old opens the door to communication and information – giving me that room to talk, one-on-one with my child about school, troubles or the fear that she has turned a double digit.

They don’t want to stay in bed? Well, who’s in charge – the 4 year old or the 34 year old? Keep putting them back to bed, even if it takes you 33 times in one night (yes, that’s right – that was me with child #1) and don’t bribe them! Going to bed is a part of life and they have to learn to do it – don’t give them the oppourtunity to negotiate this with you, otherwise you are only teaching them to manipulate people – and worse, people they love.

One thing I know for sure – children are “small” for such a short time – I know that right now you’re up to your eyeballs in diapers, Lego etc and can’t see the light at the end of tunnel…well, that light will come- in the form of a spotlight on stage as your child accepts their high school diploma – better have laid the groundwork now so that the “after party” is at your house – where you know what goes on.

My child is such a picky eater.  Ok – this is a tough one, I admit, because this started when he/she was an infant. Some people are just born picky eaters – and there’s not much you can do to change that except encourage them to choose at least a couple of items from each food group that they like or somewhat like and go from there. That is teaching them to take responsibility for their health. I don’t particularly like broccoli, but I know it’s good for me so I eat it from time to time – sometimes you have to eat food that is good for you but that you don’t love; and please – don’t disguise vegetables thinking you’re so smart to get them to eat banana bread with pureed spinach in it. Food is food. It can be presented in different ways – but present it properly, don’t be deceitful. After all – they will have to learn how to eat different foods in the real world (weddings, important business dinners and in-laws-to-be!). The worst thing you can do is teach your child that the world will cater to them – it won’t – be honest.

If you are really concerned about your child getting his nutritional requirements, speak to your pediatrician – but generally speaking, even picky eaters get what they need to build strong bodies.

My child is too shy to say hello/goodbye. Guess what? No matter how shy – any child can learn to respect another human being. Don’t excuse rude behaviour – once again, this is manipulative behaviour “he/she doesn’t feel like it” Really? How do you think that’ll go over when they are young adults looking for jobs? Acknowledging another person is not only polite – it’s the right thing to do – and the funny thing is, that I often find with kids like this, is that if YOU don’t acknowledge them….boy oh boy – fireworks! You’re never too young to be respectful – Respect for others, and for ourselves is the foundation of a successful society.

So yeah – a bit of tough talk on some tough issues. But I will tell you this – I love children unconditionally and after 20 years still find them amusing, still learn from them. I have three children of my own – my son is almost 2o and is in his first year of University (yes – I know – I can’t believe he used to need to hold my hand to cross the street…or to be put back into his bed 33 times in a row!). My daughter is close to 18 and just started College and my “baby” is 10 years old, facing high school in 2 years. Although my “big kids” have lives of their own – they still enjoy being home. They respectfully let me know where they’re going and are always happy (ish!) to lend a hand when I need my  youngest looked after – oh and 24 years later – my husband and I still speak and, we even have a date from time to time….so it take heart – it can be done. It’s hard work – but it can be done.

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