Get ready for this: Studies show that behavior management techniques are INEFFECTIVE without a strong parent-child relationship.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it!
And...wait for it...negative behaviors decrease when parent-child bond increases! So...how do we build stronger relationships with our kids?
or1. Take the kids for ice cream
This is not as literal as it sounds. Its a technique I used time and time again as a parent coach. "Take the kids for ice cream" means find time in your day (yes, every day) to do something special with your child where they are fully loved, accepted, supported and valued. It's hard to get angry or nitpicky with your child when you're chowing down on a frosty sweet treat, right? Whether it's an ice cream break, a quick trip to the park, a foot rub, or coloring together, set aside a break from ALL distractions physically, mentally and emotionally and just BE with your child. During this time you are forbidden from anger, lectures,or threats. Its all about love and attention.
2. Make every hello & goodbye a special event
Whether I'm picking my kids up from school or dropping them off, watching them walk up the stairs to the slide at the park, or coming inside from taking the trash out, EVERY hello/goodbye is a special event sealed with an overdose of "I love you"s or "I missed you" and tons of hugs, kisses, and sweet words. These mini bursts of attention maintain excitement for togetherness and provide an ease in separation. They look forward to my departure just as much as they do my return and I'm also imprinting in their brains that although I sometimes leave, I always return, thus developing secure attachment.
3. Terms of endearment
This is not my own. I stole this from a British grandmother I observed while I was a summer nanny for her grandkids. She began (and ended) every sentence with a term of endearment to show love. "Yes, my darling boy, what can I do for you, sweets?" and "Love, please don't climb on the counter, angel. You may get hurt, darling". I remember thinking to myself how incredible it must feel as a child to receive so many affirmations of love throughout the day, but when I applied this technique myself I noticed how much calmer I was as a caregiver and how much love I felt in turn! It's really phenomenal, but it must also be genuine. Kids have some seriously strong bull-shit-o-meters so choose words and phrases that feel comfortable to you. I have been known to call my son "potato head" and "butter biscuit" and although it's strange, he knows it comes from love and its unique to us. His teachers crack up too, which seems to make him feel special, lol.
4. I thought about you...
Think through a dating relationship, or times in your marriage, when your partner did something to let you know you were thought about. I used to think it was romantic when my husband put his boots in the corner of the room instead of smack dab in the middle. I thought, "Awe, he knows I get up every night for water and doesn't want me tripping over his boots". Now, this happened once for every 4000 times I actually did trip over them, but that's another story! Try to use this sentence stem throughout the day when you do things for your child to let them know they were thought about. Children are natrally egocentric so saying it aloud helps to internalize the feeling of being considerate (thus making them consider others). "I thought about you and grabbed a book for you to read in the car" or "I made tacos tonight because I know how much you like them" and "These animal pajamas are because I know animals bring you joy". This is a powerful technique! Use to excess!
5. Tell your child what you see in them and what they will be
Sometimes I will literally tell my children, "I love you for all that you are and all that you will be", but otherwise it is not always as straight forward. One of my kiddos can be a real troll sometimes, but instead of giving him energy when he's acting like that, I'll wait for a moment he shows kindness and say, "I knew you were capable of kindness. I see such tenderness in your heart". When I watch them drag a chair over to the counter, turn the faucet on and wash their hands I may say, "You can do big things". By using statements like this, I'm relaying the message, "I see you, I believe in you, I expect great things from you" and that belief becomes a part of their inner dialogue.
"Discipline" is a word that doesn't translate directly in many other languages. Many cultures find it odd how much we focus on discipline and negative behaviors. It's because in many cultures, parents and caregivers simply love their children without worry of their behavior. They don't focus on what's wrong with them or what needs molding and "fixing". Their focus is on acceptance and loving guidance. Negative behaviors will naturally drop away when a child is being raised in an environment of love and acceptance and when a parent expects their child to be successful, they just are.
"Focus on the donut, not the hole" -Garry Landreth, PhD.
Parenting expert, blogger, inventor, single mom to twins, barefoot nomad, adventure seeker, boho spirit, advocate of play