By HALEY DROSTE
ADVICE FROM YOUTHFIRST
Life is busy. Most parents feel stretched by stressors related to work demands; organizing family schedules; and managing household functions like grocery shopping, planning meals, cleaning and laundry. When we’re stressed as adults, those feelings have a way of spreading through the home and creating an atmosphere where attitudes and short tempers can seem to come out of nowhere. Stress is part of life; at times, it is even good for us. But how can we manage the stressors of parenthood and be the positive parent we always thought we would be?
Managing and coping with our feelings are so important because our children look to us for guidance on handling similar situations. Teaching children to regulate their emotions begins with us. So how can we model positive self-regulation? Become familiar with using an intentional pause when feeling overwhelmed so that we respond to situations with intention. Often, we are reacting versus responding. Reactions usually come from a place of frustration and anger. Taking a moment to pause and reflect will foster an intentional response, one rooted in patience and understanding. Once we’ve regulated ourselves, we can parent in a productive, meaningful and respectful way.
Below are some tips and ideas for implementing positive parenting strategies into your routine.
- Utilize everyday moments to build connection. This can be accomplished in many ways, and one simple way is to own our mistakes when we make them. This illustrates to our children that even adults make mistakes, and we all have growing and learning to do. Having these honest conversations with our children builds connection and helps them problem-solve for the future.
- Be loving but firm. So much of positive parenting is in our tone and the way we speak to our children. We can speak in a loving and respectful way while still being firm in our expectations. A calm, firm no is more effective than shouting no in frustration. Set boundaries. Decide what rules are important to you, clearly communicate them to your child, and be consistent with enforcing those rules. Being a positive parent doesn’t mean letting your child walk all over you. It does mean trying to maintain a calm tone when your child needs reminders about the rules.
- Change the lens through which you see your child’s behavior. All behavior is communication, and under that communication is a need. Often, the underlying need is a bid for connection. Take a moment to practice that intentional pause; then, get curious about what may be occurring for your child that is causing that behavior. If we can start seeing behavior problems as stress behavior versus misbehavior, we can help our children communicate their needs and feelings in a more productive way.
- Give yourself grace. Step away and take a breath if you need to. Doing this will allow you to come back and respond in the way your child needs.
Positive parenting takes practice, awareness and patience. Don’t expect perfection. It starts with the simple step of making a commitment to show up every day with the intent to parent with understanding, empathy and respect.
Haley Droste, LCSW, serves as Youth First social worker at Westside Catholic School in Evansville.