Mum confession: The one positive parenting trick I found most useful with my own kids
Struggle to find time for yourself?
I think for me, certainly up until quite recently, finding time for myself was one of my main concerns as far as motherhood went.
Living far away from my own family, I found it – and still do sometimes – extremely hard at times to carve out time for myself, often feeling like there simply wasn't enough hours in my day for just me – be it to get to go to a yoga class, hit my local park for a run, wander around the shops for a bit or even sit down and enjoy my coffee while it was still hot.
But, maybe, as it turns out, it wasn't so much my children being the issue here, as it was myself – and the way I saw my job as a mum.
Today's kids, unfortunately, are not exactly great at doing things for themselves, often a result of us parents thinking that having children requires complete self-sacrifice, and pretty much end up doing everything for them.
And while this might feel like you are being a good parent, actually – you would be doing both them and you a favour if you starting taking a rather different approach.
Keen to try a few positive parenting techniques that might help you raise more independent and competent kids? (That could, in turn, make sure you have some more free time for yourself too, parents)? Here are some great suggestions that ended up really helping me.
1. Let them be bored
This is one of the secret hallmarks of positive parenting. Since positive parenting focuses on getting at the root cause of our children's misbehaviour, we often find boredom at the end of this process. Some parents believe the answer to boredom is to find more ways to entertain the kids, but positive parenting looks at this from another angle.
By allowing boredom, we teach our kids how to cope with that uncomfortable feeling so they learn how to handle it. Once you get past the initial "whining phase" of boredom, kids will often emerge much more resourceful than you expect. They find a toy they haven't used in months, make up a new game, or otherwise entertain themselves. This is when the magic happens.
When we do not "rescue" them from the uncomfortable feeling of boredom, their world opens up to a whole new set of skills they didn't know they had.
As with self-regulation, the skill of coping with boredom takes time to develop. Once you allow yourself and your kids to be open to the possibilities that boredom brings, you will find yourself with more free time instead of trying to distract your kids with new activities.
2. Dish out chores
Yet, there are real challenges in encouraging kids to help with household tasks. Kids are often not motivated to complete them, they tend to be slow and they may not be finished the way you prefer. Some of these challenges can be overcome with positive parenting.
Kids who are raised with you as their "emotion coach" will begin to have more empathy for you and the work involved with running a household. This may not happen overnight, but by school-age kids have strong empathy skills if they've been coached along the way to understand others' emotions.
Similarly, toddlers are often very motivated to be helpful and copy the actions of adults. Many toddlers would love nothing more than to get their hands on a real mop, broom or dust wand. By starting chores at a young age, you can capitalize on this age when chores seem like another game. Even elementary-age kids often feel empowered by being given a task normally reserved for adults.
3. Pick your battles
I know this one sounds controversial.
Why would you ignore obvious misbehaviour from your kids? It requires a little discernment on the part of parents, but once you get the hang of it, it can save you a lot of time and struggle. This approach really is about prioritizing which behaviours are serious enough to require your intervention or boundary-setting and which ones are just annoying.
With positive parenting, our goal is to try to maintain a positive interaction with our kids whenever possible. If that means ignoring a few frustrating behaviours, it helps to serve this larger goal. The nice side effect for parents is that you don't have to intervene in every little misstep your kid makes, which frees up your time. You can go to another room and read a book or have a few moments to yourself without guilt.