Nine Critical Keys No Matter Which Parenting Approach You Use

Raising children is a complicated job. There are times when every parent and caregiver can use some help. There are many books available to parents to help you get through the day-to-day issues you face with your children. In this article, parent educator Elizabeth Pantley outlines the nine keys which are critical no matter which parenting approach you use.
Elizabeth Pantley

No cookie-cutter solutions to parenting
In the vast assortment of books and articles about parenting, you should be able to find ideas for just about any problem or issue you are currently dealing with. Every child is different, and every parent is different. Because of this, there are no cookie-cutter solutions that will work for everyone. I suggest that you review all the solutions you discover and take a few quiet minutes to think about them. Modify the suggestions to best suit your family, and don't be afraid to try out more than one until you discover your best answer.

Keep in mind that following a few important rules will make every situation with your child easier to handle, regardless of which solution you choose to implement. I call these the Perfect Parenting Keys.

Key #1: Take charge.
If your child doesn't clearly understand that YOU are the boss, even minor issues can cause you major headaches. Your first response to this statement may be, "Oh, but my children know who's the boss in our house." You may think they do, but there are many ways we give mixed messages and confuse our kids over this issue. The keys presented here will help you identify the areas where you can make some changes.

The first step to taking charge is simply to give yourself permission to be in charge, and begin expecting your children to obey you.

With this solid foundation you will build a loving, trusting relationship with your children. And, perhaps even more important, you will be able to lead your children into adulthood with values, wisdom and life skills that only a strong, supportive parent can impart.

Key #2: Tell, don't ask.
One popular mistake parents make is asking instead of telling. The way you phrase your words determines whether your children see your request as optional or required. Banish all wishy-washy phrases from your vocabulary.

When you want your child to do something (or stop doing something) make a clear, specific statement that leaves no room for confusion.

Take a look at the difference between these two types of requests:

Optional: It would be nice if somebody cleaned up this family room.
Required: Steven, please put all the toys back in the playroom. Kyle, please gather the dishes and put them in the dishwasher.

Optional: Kids, it's getting late, don't you think it's time to get ready for bed?
Required: It's eight o'clock. Time to shut off the TV and put on your pajamas.

Optional: I sure wish you'd get down from there.
Required: That's not a place to climb. Please get down.

Optional: Gather up your stuff now, okay?
Required: Please get your backpack, jacket and shoes, and get in the car.

Key #3: When you say it, mean it. The first time.
Some parents are in the habit of repeating a request over and over and over (and over!) before taking any action to see that a child complies with the request. Do you know anyone like this? (Perhaps intimately?)

Children have radar that tells them exactly when adults really mean what they say, and when they don't. Some parents really mean it only after repeatedly ignored requests. This is usually highlighted by a red face, a tense body, a child's middle name clenched between gnashing teeth, and a fist pounding the table to the tune of, "...and I mean it young man!"

Make yourself a promise to mean what you say - the first time you say it. What this means is that after you've made a clear statement of what is required (see Key #2) you take action. For example, if you call your child in from the yard and he doesn't immediately respond you will have to put forth the extra effort to go out to the yard, take him by the hand and announce, "When I call you I expect you to come."

The beauty of this style is that you only have to "prove" yourself once or twice for your child to understand that, indeed, when you say it you mean it. The first time. (For those with older children who have already learned that they can ignore you the first few times with no repercussions, it may take more "proving" before they believe that you have really changed.

Your children can learn to believe that when you say it you mean it. Hang in there. Be consistent. It's definitely worth the effort.)

Read more: Keys #4 - #7


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