Saturday, March 26, 2011

Parenting conference thoughts

We went to a parenting conference today, despite lack of kids.

It was good and thought provoking. I'm not sure I can honestly say I learned anything new, but I definitely got food for thought and heard things that I feel I've always known but never quite knew how to express and got all kinds of ideas of how to put them into action. Pretty enjoyable, that. What I liked best was that they focused on understanding the heart of the matter and teaching children good attitudes above mere behavioural modification techniques.

Among the many interesting points they made, a few stood out in my mind:

You teach children life-lessons when they are young so that they know how to be good adults. I loved that this was one of the main themes throughout the conference. I wonder how many parents think about that. You aren't just training your child not to throw temper-tantrums because you don't want to deal with that while at a supermarket, you are teaching them that losing control and throwing oneself on the floor is not socially acceptable, as children or grownups.

Of course someone wants to have good, well behaved children, but they also want their children to grow up to be well-liked, successful and responsible adults. I think when you teach your kids with that in mind, it may give you a lot of perspective on what course you take as you raise them.

Yelling is what you do when you don't have a plan. This rung very true for me. I hate yelling as a means to teach children, because I don't think it actually teaches children. When you yell "NO!" either once, or repeatedly, all it does is get the child to stop for the moment. It's an instant gratification method but not a long-term solution. They stop, but it doesn't mean they won't do it again.
Now, I didn't grow up in a yelling family, in general, but there were occasional times when we got yelled at. And while it did cause us to get our butts in gear to clean our room right away, it didn't encourage us to keep our rooms clean, nor did it make us think "Well, I should just do this without being told."

Think about it; yelling at adults doesn't work, yelling at kids doesn't work.

Instead of telling them what they are doing is wrong or yelling at them, give them pointers as to how to do it well or what you want them to do instead. This really is good advice for anyone teaching anyone anything. It starts as redirection for very young children, I think. If they are destroying a book, take it away and attract their attention to something else; a child safe toy. When they are old enough to understand take them aside and tell them that books need to be treated with care; show them how to turn the pages gently and so on. If they are an adolescent aged child, explain to them that books need to be put on the shelf and not left on the floor, couch etc. so they don't get ruined or make clutter.

Anger is a signal but not a solution. Can you recognise the feeling of anger before it begins to take action? It seems like a useful skill. When I get angry or defensive, I feel myself get hot through out my whole body. Being angry is not necessarily bad. It's actually good if you take it as a sign that you need to stop whatever you are doing before you lash out.

Both adults and kids get angry. But when adults get angry, they recognise the emotion for what it is. Young children are still learning. They know they have a strong feeling and want take action because of it, but they don't know what it is and until they do they can't control it, indeed, don't even know that they should control it.

So first, it's important to teach your kids how to identify their emotions, particularly anger because it can be such a catalyst to some strong reactions. When they can identify it, you can move on to teaching them how to control it. The conference leaders mentioned three steps to controlling anger:

Identify it. Anger has a few stages, and the sooner your child (and you, for that matter) realises he is angry the sooner he can move on to step 2: Stop and pull back. Instead of hurdling towards destruction charged with emotional energy, stop. Instead of yelling or throwing something, walk away, breathe and so on. When you are calm you can start step 3 which is Think of a solution. And there are lots of solutions any one problem. But yelling, stomping, and or throwing things does not solve problems Help your child learn how to focus on solutions instead of being angry about a problem. Once you give them some ideas to get the ball rolling, most kids can probably come up with quite a few on their own. I love this because it totally applies to adults too.

Of course, the conference leaders had all kinds of good examples and stories to illustrate their points which I can't quite remember or don't have time to go into. But you're clever, you can think of your own, I'm sure. Especially if you have kids.

They had a lot more cool tips and really interesting points too. I felt particularly drawn to their advice about teaching young kids, since (obviously) I'll be dealing with that before I'm dealing with teenagers. And if everything goes as planned, if I teach them all the good attitude and responsibility stuff at that age, then when they're older, they'll only be perfecting it! (Haha, we'll see, right?)

But really, Any method to teach a child should be respectful and done in love and thoughtfulness. One of my personal thoughts is If it wouldn't work on an adult, it probably won't work on a kid. No good manager yells at their employees, or punishes them by hitting them repeatedly when they do the wrong thing or even sending them to "time out." Why do we think these work on children?

You can learn more about the people who put on the conference here:

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