"I do, I do!"
So much for the play on words based on the 1980's Trident Sugarless "Who Wants Gum" commercial. The Canadian version added the following line:
"Me too, please!"
My translation: Not only do I need help with children, but as an American immigrant living in Canada, I apparently need help with manners, too.:)
But seriously folks...
Last week I started a series on improving relationships with our children by learning how to communicate better. In an attempt to understand and/or justify my own position, I wrote out several possible reasons (OK, excuses) why I work so well with other people's kids, but sorely lack the necessary skills to succeed with my own step-daughters at home.
After another week of pondering, reading and researching on the subject, I have to tell you that I feel so much better now. You see, we ALL need help with children from time to time. I learned that even the best parents in the world 'lose it' every now and then.
Hopefully, that little tidbit of information will make you feel much better, too! After all, that's what this article is all about.
Above and Beyond Help With Children
The primary focus of this series is to offer you help with children in the form of better communication skills with proven results. You'll find, as an additional bonus, that reading and applying these words of wisdom will help you in just about ANY relationship. (I just love unadvertised bonuses, don't you?)
Before we get into the actual skill sets, we're going to take a look at two huge potential road blocks to improving your relationships. By being aware of and understanding these possible traps, you'll greatly accelerate and augment the benefits of any help with children advice you acquire.
When It Comes to Getting Help With Children, It's Impossible to Judge Not
I don't care what you call it - evaluating, comparing, contrasting - they are all forms of judgment. Human beings operate on a moment-to-moment basis by making continuous choices non-stop, all day long. In order to choose, we must be able to evaluate, compare, contrast and yes, judge. In that sense, humans simply cannot 'judge not'.
How does this apply to help with children? Just about everything. For instance, comparing children is something we know we shouldn't do, yet many - if not most - of us do this instinctually. Even if we don't compare our children to other kids, we may have a set standard - an expectation - in our mind. This becomes our point of comparison, one that more often than not leaves us utterly disappointed and totally frustrated.
As crazy as this seems, we also can have directly conflicting expectations. As an example, I would like my girls to obey my every command immediately and without question. (Talk about setting yourself up for utter disappointment and total frustration) However, I also want my girls to be strong and independent with minds of their own, taking @#$% from nobody! (With such conflicting ideals, can you see why I desperately need help with children?)
Is there a way out of this 'judge not' conundrum? Of course, there's a solution for every problem. These seven simple suggestions will definitely help with children.
- Know what you want. We all want 'more' and 'better' but have we precisely defined this for ourselves? Does 'better behavior' mean saying please and thank you? Does it mean play quietly?
- Notify your children. Kids are natural pleasers... most of the time. But they have to know what you like first. Too often, parents tell their kids about all the things they DON'T want because... well, go back to #1.
- Reward good behavior. You know the old saying, "Behavior that gets rewarded, gets reinforced." That means that if negative behavior is the only thing getting rewarded with your attention, guess what's getting reinforced?
- Allow them to do it their way. Know what you want, and notify your kids... then back off! Let your children surprise you and deliver what you want in their own way.
- Help them be 'right'. We all get off track. In fact, we're off course most of the time, what with constant changes and distractions. Your kids are no different. Help them be right by using face-saving tactics such as, "Were you trying to fool me?" Said in a playful way, kids will suddenly 'remember' what they were supposed to do. By keeping the atmosphere light and happy, they will be more willing and able to give you what you want in the long run.
- Be consistent. There is nothing more confusing to a child than a bar that's constantly being raised without them knowing about it and having a chance to adjust to it.
- Be realistic. A four-year-old won't do all the dishes, wash and iron the laundry, whip up fabulous meals, keep everyone in the house entertained, and show a surplus in the family budget every month. Neither will a teen. Heck, neither will most of us adults! Yes, set high standards, but don't expect the impossible. That way, no one gets hurt.
I Can't Get No Satisfaction
The second huge road block to building better relationships is that humans are naturally expansive. We all want to continue to grow. As such, we never get 'there' because when we arrive, we realize there's still 'more' and 'better' to be had... and we want that.
This is why parents constantly raise the bar without keeping their kids informed, making this perhaps the biggest area where parents need help with children. I see this in my private music practice all the time. I've even written about it on several occasions. In an effort to encourage their kids to improve, parents keep increasing the standard until the children conclude (quite correctly) that they will NEVER be good enough.
Even if the child gets 100% on a paper, the parent then expects (unrealistically) that the child should get 100% on ALL papers in every subject.
If the child keeps his room clean, he is expected to keep all other areas of the house clean, too.
If the child excels at music, she is expected to be the star of her sports team as well.
Here's another insane conflict - after all this "You're NEVER good enough" programing, parents expect their children to be grateful and appreciative for all the parents do for them!
The parents' main fear (and I've noticed this in myself, which is why I need help with children) is that the moment they reduce or eliminate the demand for the child to be all that s/he can be, there is a tendency in the child to slack off... to take the path of least resistance. God forbid, our kids become like US!
STOP THE INSANITY
OK, you'll have to forgive the old TV clichés and references ranging from Trident Gum to Susan Powter. See, I told you we all spend most of our time off course!:)
Back on track: Once again, when it comes to getting help with children, the solution lies in the seven points recapped below. In addition, you'll need to apply a healthy dose of the Universal Law, 'Give and You Shall Receive'. For example, if you want that grateful and appreciative attitude from your kids, you'll have to GIVE it to them first!
I know the argument; I use it myself all the time. "I can't give what I don't have."
FIND something... CREATE something in your kids for which to be grateful and appreciative. Then GIVE IT AWAY as much and as fast as you can. Give always comes BEFORE receive. ALWAYS! (Sorry, I didn't make up the Law. That's just the way it works. Oh, I apologize for shouting, too. It's just that I really need to hear this myself!)
These seven points will get you past the hurdles and road blocks of 'judgment' and 'NEVER good enough'.
- Know what you want.
- Notify your children.
- Reward good behavior.
- Allow them to do it their way.
- Help them be 'right'.
- Be consistent.
- Be realistic.
Now that we're off the runway, all the skills and techniques you read about to help with children will be of much greater value and benefit. You gotta Love That Feeling!