10 Little Things Good Parents Do

 

Raising children demands a vast set of complex skills that can’t be
distilled into a Top 10 list like you’d see on Letterman. Still, the
lofty fundamentals — love, respect, morality — are surprisingly
easy to reduce to simple, achievable daily goals.

Hey, it worked for Moses, the other guy with the Top 10 list.

None of these goals will make you smack your forehead and wonder why you never
thought of them before. In fact you probably do many of them already, three
days out of four. It’s a matter of being mindful of what you’re
doing, rather than acting on reflex. Here are ten little ways to do something
good for your kids — today.

1. Really listen to your child.

Nowhere are we more likely to act on reflex than when responding to our kids’ talk.
Sometimes it’s the knee-jerk “no” — the easiest of
parental answers to a request. It also shows up in our tendency to half-listen,
giving our kids the impression that what we’re doing — even if
it’s emptying the lint trap on the dryer — is more important than
what they’re saying.

Or we interrupt them. “For some parents, there’s a tendency to
correct misinformation or try to teach as we’re listening,” says
Janice MacAulay, who works with the Canadian Association of Family Resource
Programs in Ottawa. “That doesn’t allow enough time for what’s
really important to come out.” If your preschooler says, “Mom,
I really gots to tell you something…” it’s not the time to
correct her grammar, or you may never hear what she gots to say.

MacAulay believes it’s important for every kid to get focused attention — that
means putting down the lint trap and sitting down to look him in the eye. “A
little attention goes a long way, and when we give it, it has to be 100 percent.”

2. Do Something Familiar.

It’s not just toddlers who love repetition — rituals and routines
are comforting for everyone. Some follow religious or ethnic customs, others
are weirdly idiosyncratic. Either way, they help shape a family’s identity.

Carolyn Monaghan and her husband, Glen, look forward to what she calls “a
pleasant, predictable sequence of events” each night with their five-year-old
daughter, Heather. “At bedtime we ask her, ‘What are you going
to dream about?’” says the mother of two from Langley, BC. “She’ll
say she is going to dream about something we did that day, or what she’s
looking forward to. Then we tell her what we’re going to dream about.”

Alyson Schäfer, a Toronto parent educator, says a fun family ritual — whether
it’s Sunday brunch at a pancake house or a weekly basketball game in
the driveway — can be an oasis for families where there’s a lot
of friction. “You may not be able to solve all of your family’s
woes,” she says, “but by doing more of what’s fun, you change
the ratio of good times to bad times, and just by doing that you have a happier
family.”

3. Kiss your partner in front of your child.

Yes, your kids may cover their eyes and say you’re being gross. But
public displays of affection nurture your marriage and model a healthy relationship.

As Schäfer notes, the arrival of children puts a whole new stress on
a couple’s bond. “There’s a mistaken notion that your marriage
will wait,” she says. “I’ve seen parents with six-year-olds
who have never left their child with a babysitter, never gone on a holiday
or even gone out for dinner or a movie.”

They might learn something from Kennan Silva of Edmonton. “My husband,
Todd, and I do little things for each other. Sometimes he’ll bring me
a chocolate bar, or I’ll have coffee ready for when he gets home from
work. We hope that when our children are adults, they find the same kind of
loving relationship and will not settle for less than what they deserve.”

4. Read together.

This must be the most common public service message out there (after the one
about erectile dysfunction), but regular story time can tail off as soon as
kids learn to read by themselves. For families who do continue, the rewards
go beyond literacy.

“My girls are seven and nine and we read to them about five nights a
week,” says Jen Hrabarchuk of The Pas, Manitoba. “Reading to them
gives us an opportunity to have cuddle time, which becomes rare at this age.
Plus, we get to see how much they actually comprehend from longer stories.
Over the past year we’ve read The Hobbit, Little House on the Prairie
and A Wrinkle in Time.”

Helen Whitehorn and her husband, Mike, of Newmarket, Ontario, take turns being
the narrator with their eight-year-old son, Matthew. “Sometimes he will
read a page, we’ll read the next. Sometimes we read and he just listens,
and sometimes he will read to us. He likes non-fiction and finds it fascinating
to learn new facts. If he doesn’t understand something, he and Dad will
talk about it together.”

5. Touch your child.

No one needs to remind parents to cuddle their infants. But like bedtime
stories, hugs and kisses often taper off as kids get older and find them
embarrassing. Even so, physical affection doesn’t have to mean
giving your 12-year-old a zerbert on the belly while his skateboarding
pals are
visiting.

“For some people it’s awkward, so find the ways that are OK with
you,” MacAulay suggests. It may be lying down together at bedtime, a
relaxed hair brushing, a wrestling match or even a half-hour on the couch in
front of the tube. MacAulay knows of a mom with lots of teenagers who once
told her, “I don’t really like television, but I do sit and watch,
mostly because I’m hip-to-hip with a couple of kids.”

6. Laugh during a tense moment.

Leah Johnson of Chilliwack, BC, learned first-hand how a laugh can defuse
a volcanic situation. She was in the minivan with Graham, six, and Sydney,
four, when the bickering got to her. “I felt a yell starting in my throat,
and I tried to think of a good threat. Since I couldn’t follow through
with the old ‘knock it off or you’re both walking home,’ well,
I barked at them!”

Johnson says there was instant silence in the back seat. “Four very
round eyes looked back at me in the mirror. Graham started giggling, and the
next thing we knew we were all howling with laughter. They both started barking
right back at me, and it was a very noisy but happy trip home. I’ve used
it quite a few times since then. I wonder if it will still work when they’re
teenagers.”

7. Find out one important thing about your child’s
day.

For some parents and kids, catching up comes naturally around the dinner table,
before bedtime or in that most popular of family meeting places — the
car. Others may need a conversation starter. “One way to get kids to
open up is to briefly share your own experiences with them first,” MacAulay
says. Some families even have a ritual in which parents and kids share one
good thing and then one bad thing that happened to them during the day.

Like everything else, though, there needs to be a balance, MacAulay says.
As kids mature, they need space to grow and that means we shouldn’t be
involved in every aspect of their daily lives. “It’s important
to become comfortable with not knowing.”

8. Resist the urge to be a saviour.

This isn’t the best advice when your preschooler decides to try out
dad’s acetylene torch or explore a divided highway. However, when your
11-year-old forgets her school project (after you reminded her twice), or when
your son’s T-ball swing isn’t going to get him to the majors, you
sometimes just need to back off.

“I like to talk about developing a child’s psychological muscle,” says
Schäfer. “We want to prepare our kids for life, not protect them
from it. Otherwise we interfere with important developmental processes.” When
the consequences aren’t huge, allowing our kids to fail helps teach them
to succeed next time. And we can give a nudge to their problem-solving abilities. “You
forgot your homework today? What do you need to do so it won’t happen
tomorrow?”

9. Do something nice for your caregiver.

Finding and keeping good child care is difficult, but the payoff is big for
your peace of mind and your children’s comfort. Whether they’re
live-in nannies or workers at a daycare centre, caregivers don’t like
to be treated like indentured servants. Take the time to let them know you
appreciate what they do for your kids.

A survey of nannies on Todaysparent.com revealed that many don’t even
get a gift on their birthdays or at Christmas. Those who did made it clear
that it meant a lot. “One family I worked for would leave me little notes,
flowers or baking as a way to show that they valued the work I did for them,” says
Vicki Sims, nanny to two girls. “It does take a bit of effort, but it’s
worth it.”

10. Don’t worry about the previous nine items.

Half a century ago, a guy named Dr. Spock told parents, “You know more
than you think you do.” Then along comes a blasted magazine article to
point out all the things you’re forgetting.

Of course, that’s not the point. All the goals we’ve listed are
worth striving for, but no one will ever accomplish all of them, every day.
So don’t beat yourself up trying to do the impossible. And while there
may be dads who have hang-ups about bringing the best cupcakes to daycare,
this is mainly a chick thing. “Their expectations are going through the
ceiling,” Schäfer says of moms. “Look for improvement as opposed
to perfection.”

It’s easier to be realistic if you spend time with others in similar
situations. “So many women tell me one-on-one how awful they feel because
they don’t like to play Barbies for four hours. They think that’s
what good mothers do, and that every mother is doing it.”

Schäfer feels it comes down to cutting yourself the same slack you give
your children. “Parents get the concept of encouragement when it’s
applied to their kids, but they forget they need to be self-encouraging as
well.”

 Source : todaysparent.com

 

By Dan Bortolotti