12 strategies to enhance positive engagements with your children
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As parents, our desire is to positively influence and mold our children. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could eliminate frustration for both parents and kids, eradicating any instances of yelling, negative language, or unhelpful responses stemming from impatience?
While we may not possess magical abilities, we do have access to incredible, intelligent, and insightful experts who can assist us in embracing positive parenting practices.
Turning to these experts, we sought guidance on incorporating positive language into our interactions with our kids. The goal is to encourage and inspire them to give their best, contribute, and actively listen.
Discover 12 strategies to enhance positive engagements with your children. These valuable suggestions come from Dr. Laura Markham, a parenting expert, author of "Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting," and the founder of Aha! Parenting.
1. Avoid making evaluative statements
Instead, focus on the process, highlighting the child's efforts. For instance, saying, "Wow! You've dedicated a lot of time to reading that book, and you persisted even when you encountered unfamiliar words!" is more encouraging than simply praising, "What a good reader you are!"
Statements like, "What a great painting! You're such a good artist!" may sound insincere to a child who knows they may not be an exceptional artist. Instead, observe specific details in the artwork, express genuine interest, and encourage the child to share their thoughts about the painting. For example, "I notice a lot of blue here and green there. Can you tell me about this painting?"
2. Provide detailed feedback
Provide detailed feedback by focusing on specific observations, expressing what you appreciate and highlighting your child's actions. This demonstrates a genuine appreciation for their efforts and helps them recognize the value in what they have done. Instead of a generic "Good job!" consider saying, "I noticed you organized all the blocks into their bin and placed all the Legos in their designated spot. Impressive!"
If you observe tasks that are still incomplete, always initiate with positive aspects before framing what needs to be done as another positive action. For instance, "I see you've done a great job organizing the toys. The only thing remaining is to drive the trucks up to their place on the shelf. Would you like to show me how you do that?"
3. Refrain from comparing your children or their friends
While you might believe you're offering positive reinforcement by saying, "Thank goodness you enjoy homework; I don't have to remind you like I do with your brother!" it inadvertently creates a situation where the child's worth is contingent on their brother's actions.
Avoid comparisons altogether. Instead, express appreciation directly, saying, "I love how you consistently sit down and tackle your homework when you get home!"
4. Acknowledge and empower your child
While it's acceptable to express pride in your child, make it evident that they are the one deserving of credit for their accomplishment and have the right to assess it. Say, "You must be incredibly proud of yourself!"
5. Infuse enthusiasm into your interactions
Every child thrives on encouragement and warmth. Throughout the day, express appreciation for various actions:
"I'm grateful that you brushed your teeth with just one reminder."
"I observed how you assisted your sister with her shoes. She was delighted, and it helped us leave the house more quickly. Thank you!"
"When you lend a hand during grocery shopping, it makes the entire experience much smoother. I cherish our teamwork!"
However, always ensure your child understands that they are valued beyond their accomplishments. Remind them, "I feel incredibly fortunate to be your parent, and I love you unconditionally."
These insightful tips are recommended by bestselling author and founder of Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond, Rebecca Eanes.
6. Provide motivation for your children
I've found that expressing specific appreciations and acknowledgments is more effective in motivating and encouraging my tween boys. When I say, "I believe in you, kiddo!" they give me a puzzled look (which I fully embrace, being a bit eccentric).
However, when I express, "I truly appreciate it when you put your towel in the hamper; it's incredibly helpful to me," they are more inclined to follow through (though, it's not foolproof – I'm not a wizard!).
7. Instill a sense of empowerment in your children
If I directly ask, "Can you put the dishes in the dishwasher?" I often get responses like "Right now? Seriously?" or a simple "Mooom." However, when I phrase it as, "Who wants to be my helper for a few minutes?" both of them eagerly come running.
To encourage their assistance, I choose to express appreciation, framing requests as, "You are a super helpful person, thank you!" rather than a more immediate "come do this chore now."
These insightful suggestions are provided by Child Development expert and founder of The Thoughtful Parent, Amy Webb.
8. Articulate the impact of your child's behavior on your emotions
As your children move beyond the toddler stage and develop empathy, conveying statements like, "It makes me feel really sad when you don't listen to what I say" or "It hurts my feelings and gives me the impression that you don't care about what I'm saying when you interrupt me" can have a meaningful impact.
It's important to note that the intention is not to lay a guilt trip on your child. These types of phrases also contribute to the development of their social-emotional skills. Over time, they gain insight into how their actions can affect the emotions of others.
9. Illuminate the broader perspective or rationale behind the rule
For instance, my son struggles with refraining from jumping on furniture and showing respect for our household items, such as refraining from scratching or banging on the table with utensils. Repeatedly scolding him has proven ineffective.
What has proven helpful is clarifying why it's crucial to take good care of our property. Emphasizing that if we need to replace items, it means less money for children's belongings and toys provides a meaningful context. When they were younger, I employed a similar approach, anthropomorphizing the table by saying, "You don't want to give the table an ouchy."
10. Shed light on the messages inherent in their behavior
This approach has proven effective in situations like tossing toys around. Previously, I used a more negative tone, simply telling them to stop throwing toys, but that wasn't productive.
Now, I communicate something like, "If you throw your toys, it indicates to me that you may not like them anymore." This perspective has provided them with a deeper understanding of the issue. The same concept applies to other behaviors, such as saying, "Your whining is conveying to me that you are tired, and it seems we may need to leave the playground."
These insightful tips are recommended by Dr. Tovah Klein, Director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development in Manhattan and author of "How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success."
11. Assist them in expressing their emotions
When you observe your toddler resorting to hitting or hurting their sibling or friend out of frustration, you can say something like, "That makes you so mad! (Oh, that is so frustrating!) You can be mad. You can hit this!" (Indicate a place on a pillow or a stuffed animal.)
Providing them with words (like frustrated or mad) and offering a designated space to release their feelings can help them manage their anger.
If your preschooler or kindergartener is anxious about being away from you at school, you can reassure them by saying, "It's okay if you miss me; I always come back. You have teachers at school who will help you, and I will be back at circle time." (Or I will see you at dinner, depending on when the parent will return.)
Reassuring them that it's okay to miss mommy and emphasizing that she always returns is crucial.
If your toddler feels they've "messed up" while creating something, like a drawing or painting, and becomes frustrated with themselves, you could help calm them by saying something like, "Oh! That is frustrating! But everyone makes mistakes! You can try again, or we can do something else now."
12. Avoid simply saying "no" — provide additional details
If your child persists in asking the same question despite repeated "no" responses, consider saying something like, "So you really, really want to be on the iPad? I wish you could. I understand how much you desire that. However, right now, we need to have dinner/go to school/etc."
In essence, acknowledging the desire and expressing empathy (I wish you could...) goes a long way in acknowledging the child.
And, keep in mind — transitions can be challenging. When conveying information you know they won't want to hear, such as, "You need to stop playing and come to dinner (or leave the playground, or it is bath time, etc.)," initiate with, "I know you don't want to hear this, but we have to leave the park (and provide a concrete closure). One more time down the slide, then we have to get the stroller and go."
Once again, acknowledge that they may not want to comply with your request and offer clear direction.