Help for the Frazzled Mom!
Based on Dr. Glenn I. Latham's book The Power of Positive Parenting
"Behave well. Good parenting is first a matter of teaching, second a matter of modeling, and never a matter of reacting." Dr. Glenn I. Latham
I think most would agree that the most important job we have as adults is to be effective parents. Considering the enormous amount of variables that can affect the outcome and development of our children, it can also be overwhelmingly challenging at times as well. We are not given a manual or a guide book when we bring children into the world. We are most often left on our own to figure it out by relying only on our on the job training. Most of us will end up parenting the same way we were parented. The problem with that is the fact that the world is different now and those methods do not always work in today's world. Good parenting is a skill. It is not something that is inborn in us. Thankfully it is something that can be taught and learned. Thus, the importance of learning scientifically proven methods is vital if we want to be successful parents. Thank heavens Dr. Latham's to the rescue once again! Today's post will focus on the importance of spending one on one time with our children and how that can help significantly with many behavior problems.
When we have more than one child, the demands on our time can make it difficult to even sit down for a meal together let alone spend the one on one time we want with each individual child. But there is probably nothing our children want more. Often times children who are not getting the attention they want from their parents will act out or misbehave because they are assured they will most definitely grab our attention that way! With our busy lifestyles it may seem nearly impossible to squeeze in one on one time with each child, but it will save hours of time later in trying to manage inappropriate behavior. It is an investment with high dividends. It may take some creative time management but it will be worth the sacrifice. Children like to feel special and there is no greater way to achieve that than spending alone time with mom or dad.
It can be something as simple as leaving the dishes in the sink and instead taking a walk with your child. But the most effective way is to set a prescheduled time once a week or once a month with each child and have a "kid date" (what we call them). When we started doing this (years ago, before I had even heard of Dr. Latham), I wanted it to be a set date that the child wouldn't forget so they would make sure we made it happen. I knew full well that it would be harder for me to turn down an eager child even if something came up that interfered. We decided to have the date be the date of their birthday each month. So if they were born on July 22nd, then it would be the 22nd of each month. If it fell on a Sunday or a day that was really impossible to work around then we would reschedule it.
With five children, it was not always easy to always pull it off, but so worth it. At first I was the only one doing the kid dates, but then when my husband had more time, we were able to take turns. Just do what works best depending on schedules. The kid dates can range anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours or more. It always ended up working for us because the kids were the ones that made sure it happened! There was one month I took one of them out twice because they missed theirs the month before and they made sure they were not going to get gypped! It may seem impossible to add one more thing, but when you see the rewards that come as a result, it will take priority over almost everything else. And if you can't do it every month, then do it every other month. We have had times where we stopped completely for a while and then just picked it up again when we could.
I always let them choose what we do. We've done things ranging from going to a fish pond and skipping rocks to going over to our church and playing one on one basketball, or going bowling or mini-golfing, to just going and getting something to eat and window shopping. I say window shopping because I had to make the rule that on kid dates I wouldn't buy them anything. I knew it would set a precedence for the others and they would just turn into shopping trips for things they wanted. We could look, but not buy. Sometimes when they were younger we just went to the park and played on the jungle gym or swings. You can go bug collecting or to a movie. It will be different with each child depending on their age. One of my favorite ones was when I took one of them to play on a huge sand mountain we have near our home at the gravel pit. Now they are getting older, we usually just go out to eat at Subway or somewhere and just talk and then usually hit a pawn shop or a store to look at video games. When we are short on time we have sometimes just gone for a ride and got a drink and talked. Talking is huge when you have all sons. That is not something most of them do much of! I have noticed they open up much more when we are driving and they are eating or drinking something!
It gets much harder when they become teens because they are so busy, but teens need it just as much as younger ones, if not more. I have found I have to be available when they have a desire to talk or do something. The main thing is to just do your best and to not feel guilty if you can't do it perfectly or as you always plan. I have been feeling a little guilty just writing this post because we are in a lull right now and haven't been doing it for a while. Time to get back to it! Just do your best and always remember it's the many little things you do with your child - playing a board game, watching a video together, popping popcorn - that leaves the biggest impact.