I have two kids.
One is almost an adult, the other.... well... still have a way to go!
In the 18 years that I have been a parent I have learned a few things along the way. Being the youngest child, raised in a remote area, I did not have much effective child rearing knowledge when I started out. I had a lot of tricks that could not be used, like corporal punishment, and I had not been exposed to much current child rearing practices,so it was a long and tedious learning process. I made a lot of mistakes along the way. A LOT, way, WAY too many for my conscience, but it's too late now, they are mostly raised. I can only go forward, not back.
I thought though that I would share some parenting tricks that did and didn't work.
So here goes, first what worked:
1. Playing with your child, spending time with them being silly, listening to their stories, be a child with them. The more positive loving fun times you spend with your child, the less likely they will do something negative to try and get your attention. A child NEEDS their parent's attention, and they will devise many many ways of getting it, often negative ways. If you give it to them before they ask for it, you will be ahead of the game.
2. Keeping your promises as much as possible. This is a hard one. This means that you have to be very careful what you tell your kid as you never know what they will determine is a promise. When you do make a promise and life events mean that you can't hold it, make sure it does not happen too often and take the time to explain to the child.
3. Telling them do do something and if they don't right away start counting to 10. Give some vague threat of something bad that would happen at 10. OK I know that fear should not be a tool to be used in raising children, but really, I don't think it's possible to raise some children without. I find that children often imagine much worst scenarios that you could possibly come up with, let their own imagination do the work for you. I think I only made it to 10 once or twice in 18 years with TWO kids.
4. Time outs used properly. 1 minute of time out per age with complete and utter silence from parent and child. The parent must ignore the child during time out unless the child does not respect the time out. No yelling, nagging or lecturing. No time out lasting 20-30 minutes. If the child has not repented after the first time out, you can repeat the time out another 2 times. After that if you get there, it would be time for a bigger punishment.
5. Using clear language, sending clear messages. This one was a hard one for me, and considering my son's PDD-NOS, it would have been useful that I learn this one much earlier.What do I mean by this? For example, my son's coat is on the floor in the living room. What I used to say was something along the lines of : "Does your coat belong on the floor?". Well that incites a "no" response and nothing else. Getting angry at the child for not divining what you really meant is pointless. Speak for results. You want to coat hung up in the closet then say exactly that and MAKE it an order. Don't say, "Honey pie I would like it if you would hang up the coat in the closet, it would make mommy happy" Say "Child's name, hang up your coat it the closet, it does not belong on the floor" and thank the child when they have done it.
6. Reward your child for good behaviour. This can be as simple as thanking the child for doing something. Make sure you point out good behaviours done without the need to remind the child. THIS WORKS WONDERS! We are prone to punishing children for bad behaviour and we tend to give rewards only to "bribe" them into doing something we want, but we completely ignore the stuff that doesn't require work... If your child never needs reminders to put their dishes in the sink, thank them for doing it every once in a while. Tell them how much you appreciate it. The bonus that can happen from that is if you have other children, it just might motivate the other child to start up that behaviour to get the thank you too!
7. Make the reward accessible. Some rewards just seem too difficult for some children, especially the younger ones. Break it down into smaller chunks to rewards the steps taken along the way. One thing that worked for me for a time was Lego kits. My son adored Legos! So let's say my son had to keep his floor clean (a tall order for my son...) for a month to get that big lego set, well a month was MUCH TOO LONG for him, rather, I opened up the kit and gave him blocks for each day the floor remained clean. No blocks for the floor not being clean. He would get a bonus block or two at the end of the week if it had been clean all week.
8. Follow through. Be consistent. Some parents make threats but do not follow through or are not consistent. I once cancelled Hallowe'en. They never thought I would do it, but I did. They thought I loved Hallowe'en way too much to cancel it. As a parent, you must be willing to sacrifice your own joy and pleasure to score a point. If you say no about something, always say no to it. Giving in will only make the child keep trying... The punishment does not always have to be so extreme, but it must be something that has meaning.
9. Ignoring some bad behaviour. Not all bad behaviour, but some attention getting behaviour. Giving your child attention, even negative attention rewards this type of behaviour. Pick a bad behaviour that your child has. One of the things that kids do that drive me insane is the constant "Mommy, mommy, mommy" non-stop until you turn your attention to them. You are talking to someone and your child is in the background going "mommy, mommy, mommy". When the child is not doing this behaviour, explain to the child that you do not approve of this action, provide the child with an alternative that will provide the child with the right result, then ignore them until they have used the proper behaviour.. Ignoring is TOUGH! YOU WANT TO GIVE ATTENTION TO THE BAD BEHAVIOUR BUT YOU CAN'T. Stick with it, it pays off in the end. This child I was helping raise would often fake being hurt. She would always get a whole lot of attention this way. I noticed one day that she was not hurt, I explained to her that I didn't like her faking it and proceeded to ignore her every time she pretended to be hurt and asked others to do so as well. Well one day she was hurt for real, and did not get attention right away. She stopped faking after. I guess this was the boy who yelled wolf method. I did feel horrible when it became evident she was truly hurt, but the lesson was worth it.
Now for some stuff that doesn't work:
1. Yelling. Oh I know sometimes the emotions ride too high and you can't help it. If that's the case, step out of the situation until you have your emotions under control. I used to smoke, I would go outside and have a smoke until I could speak to my child in a reasonable tone. You are the adult, don't teach your child drama, and don't teach them to lose it.
2. Getting into an argument with your child. As long as you keep it up, so will the child. You are the parent, you are right, no need to keep proving it. Tell them once then ignore all the goading and walk away. Mind you, be aware of what your child is doing, for their safety, be around, be close by, but don't sink to their level.
3. Using maximum punishment all the time. You need to have various levels of punishment for it to be effective. Maximum punishment needs to happen only when all other options have failed or for the worst behaviour.
I wish I had known many of these things when I first started out as a parent. My daughter was a Guinna pig in so many ways. I did the wrong thing over and over, and she was a good child. She would have been easy to raise if I'd known what I was doing. It took me much too long.
Having children is a joy and a responsibility. I think that when having a first child, parenting courses should be made available and maybe even mandatory. With all the children benefits we get in this country, maybe withhold those benefits until a certificate of completion is produced? For some this would be an easy course, for others, it would give their kids a fighting chance. I could have used the course whether I liked it or not.
A refresher every few years as the child ages, again tied to the benefits...
Anyway, it will never happen, but what a nice thought, that parents like I was to my children cease to happen and kids get to have a better life...
Thanks for reading.