Tuesday, January 29, 2019

5 Successful Parenting Phrases I Use Over and Over Again

I grew up in the days of discipline that involved standing in a corner, a spanking, and/or grounding.  When I was a teen and college student (often working as a babysitter or nanny), parenting evolved to include "time outs," clip charts, and not telling children "no" for fear of ruining their self-esteem.  

Today there are many different types of parenting, often a mix of whatever the parent is feeling on any given day and what they've been raised to believe is best.  But I'm here to tell you, consistency and science-based parenting works! 

The number one book I recommend won't come as a shock to many of you.  If you've been in the adoption or foster care community for any amount of time, you've heard of The Connected Child (and check out the free videos on Empowered to Connect).   When a hopeful or new parent asks me what they need to know, I tell them, read The Connected Child first.  Learn what trauma is and how it changes the brain.  Grow to understand that connective parenting is SO important. 

The main idea of The Connected Child is that we, as parents, first and foremost connect with our kids, and THEN we correct them.  It's a parenting approach that helps kids who have experienced trauma (which arguably CAN extend to children adopted at birth) grow up to be adults who know how to connect with others in a healthy way and succeed in life.

Given our connective-driven approach to parenting, you won't be surprised (though maybe inspired?) by these five successful parenting phrases we use on repeat.

1:  "Try again with respect." 

I say this dozens of times per day.  Granted, I have four kids, so yes, lots of attempts at disrespect.    

This phrase comes directly from Empowered to Connect.  Karyn Purvis encourages us to prompt our children to correct their original attempt by re-stating, in a respectful way, what they need to say or ask us.

The more we have used this phrase with our kids, the more they know EXACTLY what to do next.  Here's an example:

Child:  I'm hungry!  Get me a snack, mom!

Me (acknowledging the child's blood sugar is low after a four-hour gap between lunch and arriving home from school):  That's not how we speak.  Try again with respect.  

Child:  May I have a snack, please?

Me:  Good words!  Absolutely!  What can I get for you?  We have yogurt, or I can get you some trail mix.  

Note that I used a few Purvis/ETC phrases here (I bolded them for you.)  I also offered two choices for my children, so I don't overwhelm them with choices, I give them the power of choosing, and I don't create a situation where they ask for options that I either don't have or don't allow (as a healthy snack).

Why use this phrase?  It trains kids to ask the RIGHT way for what they want or need.

2:  "I'm feeling ____."

When my child is struggling, I offer a prompt.  I say, "I'm feeling..." and the child fills in the blank.  (Sad/mad/angry/hurt.)  Then I say, "Ok.  Why are you feeling sad?"  The child can articulate the events leading to the feeling.  Then we work together to solve the problem and meet the child's need. 

There is NO reason to tell a child how he or she should feel or try to dismiss those feelings.  Rather, addressing them head-on and as a team works!  Plus, we don't want to raise children who are constantly working to repress their feelings OR allow them to build and build until they explosively manifest in unhealthy, inappropriate actions.

Note: a child might be in a place where he or she is too dysregulated to articulate their feelings.  If this is the case, utilize a calm-down space, or lead by saying something like, "I can see you are upset right now.  Let's take some deep breaths together and then talk about how I can help you."  Remember, with ETC, you don't isolate your child or rep reprimand them for having feelings.  You work through the struggle WITH your child. 

3:  "R-E-S-P-E-C-T." 

Sometimes I get really sick of saying, "Try again with respect." (Point #1).  My kids LOVE the fact that they know how to spell respect (thanks to Aretha), so a simple spelling of the word is a great reminder for them to "straighten up."  Plus, spelling a word can be fun and silly, and thus, attention grabbing. 

There's been many times I'll say to my kids, "Come on!  You know!  R-E-S..." and they say, "P-E-C-T." 

4:  "I'm sorry for _____."

There's a lot of apologizing around here!  A lot. 

When I usher my kids into an apology session, we first discuss what happened so I can get to the bottom of the situation.  I give each child a chance to tell his or her side of the story.  I always ask, "Tell me what YOU did wrong, not what your sibling did wrong."  This prompts the children to take ownership of their own actions.  

Then the offender says to the other child, "I'm sorry for ____." (The blank is for the offense.)  They must be making eye contact with each other, and they must use an appropriate tone and volume of voice.  If not, I go back to, "Try again with respect."  After an apology is offered, the receiver says, "I forgive."  Then we move on.

I find that many parents see something happen between kids and force the offending child to "say sorry."  It's superficial and ineffective.  

Take the time to work through the situation.   And keep in mind, not every situation means you have a big come-to-Jesus conversation.  But some situations are certainly important enough to focus on.

5:  "Get it together." 

I know this sounds dismissive, but truly, it's a simple reminder that shenanigans won't be tolerated and instead, will be called out, but in a way that's direct and a bit silly.  Sometimes playful love is exactly what a child needs:  a reminder to be brave, be strong, and act appropriately.   This is NOT a phrase to use when a child is dysregulated for any reason (sensory, fatigue, low blood sugar, etc.).  Rather, this is something I use when a child is on-the-edge of making a series of poor choices, and I don't feel it's serious enough to share #1 ("try again with respect").  

Also, don't get caught up in "correction" so much that you never have fun with your kids.  Affirming your children, spending time with them, cheering them on at their concerts and games, oohing and ahhing over their impressive test score or art project, etc. are all important.  

Remember, you're working to CONNECT and then CORRECT (when needed).

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