1. Set up consistent, predictable routines.
Be careful not to confuse this with being rigid. You are aiming for a safe and nurturing environment where children know what to expect.
2. Have clear, consistent, age appropriate expectations.
Children will push, test and manipulate when boundaries are inconsistent or do not make sense to them.
3. Spend time bonding and attuning with your children.
Children sense their value when parents authentically find pleasure being with them.
4. Identify and help children through transitions.
Each time your child has to stop one activity and begin another he goes through a critical transition period. These are the times when breakdowns often occur.
Examples of transitions sound like: “Stop. Clean up. Put it on. Hurry up. Get in the car. We have go to. Right now. Sit at the table. Wake up. Go to sleep.” These are the times they need you to be present, to be patient and not to jump to the conclusion that they are simply not respecting you.
5. Encourage choices.
“Would you like to wear your red shirt or blue shirt?”, “Do you want carrots or cucumber slices?” “Do you want to brush your teeth before or after you take your bath?” Some children are more ‘power seeking’ than others. This is not a bad thing; just challenging for parents. These children need to know that they do have a voice and there are plenty of opportunities for being heard.
6. Use natural consequences as teaching moments.
Punishments are a form of control. They often result in immediate obedience that creates an illusion of positive learning. It is helpful to allow children to feel the natural consequences of their choices as long as their health and safety is not at risk.
7. Give language to feelings.
It is human to experience a full spectrum of emotions and it is vital that children be encouraged to express their negative feelings without experiencing rejection or sensing they are a burden to their parents.
Here is an example of language that is helpful: “You look angry. Are you mad that you have to put your toys away? It is hard to stop doing something that is fun.”
8. Lovingly re-direct negative behavior.
Children are constantly figuring out the ‘rules of life.’ Using shame, guilt, fear or threats to encourage positive choices creates a rupture of trust between parent and child. You can develop a habit of helpfulness rather than an environment of punishment to teach children positive expressions of their needs and feelings.
Here is an example of language that is helpful: “Something important is happening here. I’m coming to be with you. I wonder what you need from me right now. I want to help you.”
9. Allow and enjoy your child’s unique perspective of the world.
Do not insist that s/he see or experience life from your vantage point. We all want to be loved and accepted exactly as we are. You do not have to agree with their points of view but you can respect your children’s expressions of individuality as long as their safety is not at risk.
10. Be the model you wish to see.
Children notice just about everything their parents do. We cannot demand that they control their own emotions while we are shouting, screaming, ranting or cursing. It is, indeed, a great challenge to live a life of high integrity when our kids are watching. By the time they are teens children have decided if their parents are hypocrites or authentically striving to ‘walk their walk.’