Last Monday, December 1st, we held our very first Smart Parent Session at our Bedson Campus.
Our speaker for the evening, Dr. Steven Feldgaier, C. Psych., shared with us an introduction to the Power of Positive Parenting through Triple P (Positive Parenting Program). Using examples provided by the group in attendance, he illustrated some of the concepts outlined in his presentation, which really brought the topics to life.
He outlined some topic areas around Positive Parenting, which we will touch on briefly here:
- Your Hopes and Dreams for Your Child
- Creating a Safe, Interesting Environment
- Having a Positive Learning Environment
- Using Assertive Discipline
- Having Realistic Expectations
- Taking Care of Yourself as a Parent
Your Hopes and Dreams for your Child.
As parents, we all hope to raise happy well-adjusted children. In order to do this, we need to provide them with an opportunity to develop life skills. According to Triple P, these skills include “being able to communicate their needs, get on well with others, try to do their best, manage their emotions, and feel good about themselves as they grow up.”
To many of us, those may not be the first things that come to mind when we say ‘life skills’. We may think of the skill to navigate our surroundings, make change when handling money, reading and comprehending, or other “common sense” skills. Those skills are undoubtedly important, but the concept of positive parenting gets even beneath that and speaks to the premise that we need to create that stable, positive core inside of our children, in order for them to best achieve those next-level skills. Simply put, when we create a loving, reassuring environment for our children, they will feel safe enough, and confident enough to step outside their comfort zones and learn.
Creating a Safe Interesting Environment
We all know the feeling when children are left with nothing to do and they completely run amok. This isn’t because they’re wild. It’s not because there is something wrong. It’s because when children are not provided a safe, interesting task to do (like colouring books, puzzles, toys etc.) then they will find something to do (like colouring on the walls, pulling all the food out of the cupboard, flushing things down the toilet etc.). As parents, it is our job to provide those safe activities for our children, which will in turn, alleviate some of the headaches we face when creative children find their own sources of entertainment.
Having a Positive Learning Environment
For children to learn effectively, we not only have to provide a loving environment, but also allow our children to learn some things (even the hard way) along the way. The best way for children to learn life lessons is in a loving, low-conflict environment…but they also need to be able to figure out what they can do, and make mistakes so they can learn what works and what doesn’t.
At our Smart Parent Session, we discussed the concept of allowing our children to learn new activities incrementally, learning things one piece at a time, like following a recipe. First, learn to crack the eggs, next, learn to measure the ingredients and so on. Similarly, Feldgaier suggests keeping your parenting radar on to identify incidental learning opportunities when they arise.
One parent gave the example of his son wanting charge $10 to shovel driveways for all their neighbours. The father’s first instinct was to just say no, because he knew how much work would be involved and that his son may overcommit himself and be unable to complete the job. However, instead of just saying no, the parent suggested to his son that he practice on his own driveway and see how much time and energy it takes.
By doing this, he allowed his child to determine – on his own – how much work would go into this job, how many driveways he could realistically complete and how much money he should charge for his time. Through this process, his son will learn many great skills, while avoiding the frustration and potential embarrassment that may have occurred if he had overcommitted himself. Simultaneously, the parent will likely have a strengthened bond with his son, as his son will be proud that his father respected his idea and assisted him in finding the right course to take.
Using Assertive Discipline
According to Triple P, “Assertive discipline involves being consistent, acting quickly when children misbehave, and teaching them to behave in an acceptable way. It involves staying calm and using fair, predictable consequences that match the problem behaviour. Discipline helps children to accept necessary rules and limits and to develop self-control. When children are misbehaving or upset, it is best to remain calm and avoid yelling, name calling, threatening or spanking.”
This may all seem like common sense, but when problem behaviour occurs, it can be difficult to stay calm as a parent. You may feel lost or frustrated whether your toddler is having a tantrum or your teen is pushing boundaries.
Feldgaier says, “When you build a house, you have a blueprint. For parenting, you may have a plan, but it’s not as rigid as a blueprint. You’ll have to be flexible with your plan.”
Children all have unique perspectives, and they may begin to misbehave if they feel you are not considering their viewpoint as valid. Try talking to your kids and letting them express their views so you can work through issues together and they will feel involved in the process. This can work with almost any age of child. When you come across specific problem areas, Feldgaier also suggests reaching out to other parents in your community with kids the same age. Together, you can discuss your challenges and turn them into opportunities for growth.
Having Realistic Expectations
All children develop at different rates and have unique interests. When a parent believes that their child should always behave perfectly and with perfect manners, they are likely to be disappointed, as this is an unrealistic expectation.
According to Triple P, you should “ask yourself what rules or expectations you have. Too many rules can mean there are too many opportunities to break them. Consider whether rules are necessary. Sometimes problems can be solved by deciding a behavior is not really a problem.”
Check what other parents and your school expect of your children. You may be surprised to find that your expectations may be either higher or lower than others. With this information, you can reflect on your own expectations and determine if there are any adjustments you can make.
Taking Care of Yourself as a Parent
For some, the idea of becoming a parent means your life has to completely revolve around your children. This doesn’t have to be true, and for most families, it’s a good idea to have a certain amount of balance between work, family, recreation and alone time. Parents should still be able to pursue some of their own interests, or carve out some time to spend as a couple.
Triple P suggests, “be prepared to reduce unnecessary or unreasonable commitments. This can apply to work, such as reducing work hours if possible, and also to family activities, such as limiting extra activities at busy times (e.g. not coaching football for a season).”
To create balance in your household, try to ensure that parents are working as a team and backing each other up. Try to create routines so children know what to expect, especially during peak times like after school when helping with homework/preparing supper can be conflicting.
Triple P also suggests taking notice of any negative thinking, as it can affect the way you parent. “It is harder to be calm and consistent with children when you are feeling stressed, angry, depressed or anxious. Our emotions are strongly influenced by the way we think about things. We can change the way we feel (and act) by challenging unhelpful ways of thinking.”
The bottom line is, when we focus on the positive instead of the negative, we’re more likely to end up with more of the good and less of the bad. So when your child is constantly doing the old “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Moooooom, Mom, Mom, Mom…” or causing a ruckus in the next room, instead of getting irritated about it, recognize that it’s a call for attention – even if it’s negative attention. This may be a signal that you need to carve out some time to engage with your child in a positive way.
On the flip side, sometimes, when the kids are playing quietly, the temptation is to just leave them be, as we don’t want to break the spell. However, this can actually be a great time for reinforcing the positive behaviour that you desire. By saying “Honey, I’m so proud of the Lego tower you built, and for playing so nicely with your sister.” Your child will feel accomplished and pleased that you noticed what they were doing. This will most likely encourage this behaviour to reoccur.
Improving Upon a Strong Foundation
Our hope, in putting on the Smart Parent Sessions, is that we are providing information and tools to parents so they can constantly improve upon what they’re already doing and enhance their parenting skills. These sessions are open to anyone who wants to add some new tools to their parenting tool chest. If a parent is already doing many good things, coming to a Smart Parent Session, or reading/sharing tips and tricks with other parents means they’re striving to be a GREAT parent and we support that success and continual improvement in our students as well as our parents.
Share your great parenting ideas using the hashtag #SmartParentTip