For the past 20 years, I have partnered with parents in raising their children. From working as a nanny to writing parenting books, I have had the opportunity to come alongside families, desperate for change, and help to point them in the right direction. As I consider the questions I am asked most often, the responses can be summed up with these 5 things I wish all parents knew.
- Consistency is king. Be consistently wrong but be consistent. Kids thrive on structure and routine. It breeds safety and security. It builds trust, anticipation, cooperation and expectation. While I certainly don’t think kids should be eating dinner at 9pm, if that’s what you do, do it every night. If you allow your kids to eat cereal on the couch (which is a no for me), make it the rule, not the exception. When kids sleep and eat on a predictable schedule and live with consistent expectations, there is a huge decrease in behavioral issues. Well-fed and well-rested kids tend to be well-behaved kids.
- What goes in comes out. This is widely accepted when we talk about what we feed our kids, but in this instance, I am not talking about the food we eat but the food we feed our minds and souls. I am always surprised when parents are surprised at what comes out of their children’s mouths. More often than not, it is the same thing as what their children are exposed to in the music they listen to, the shows the watch and from the people who have influence and authority in their lives. Choose carefully what your children see and hear; they absorb it and regurgitate it.
- Give choices you can live with. Wondering why your child looks like she’s going to a night club rather than to school? Because you’re giving her inappropriate choices when it comes to attire. The simple solution? Only provide what you want your kids to wear. Sick of fighting with your child over dinner? Instead of asking what they want, ask them if they want their applesauce on the same plate or on a separate plate as their pork. Have major concerns about the friends your kids hang around with? Ask them if they want to invite their friends to your house on Friday or Saturday, rather than allowing them to play unsupervised or at their friends’ home.
- Paying attention matters. From eliminating- or at least significantly decreasing- preventable injuries (think not securing a child into a car seat properly) to ensuring that you are truly listening, rather than just hearing what your child has to say, paying attention goes along way in keeping your child physically and emotionally safe and secure. Over the years I have found myself in the position where parents believe I am on the only person that their child listens to. They often believe it is because there is something special about me. They are truly surprised when I break the news to them that I am not as special as they think! The difference is that I notice when their child needs attention and give them the appropriate attention that they seek. When kids feel listened to and heard; the things they share with you are amazing!
- Know your world view. Every child wants to know where they came from. When kids begin questioning the meaning of life and how creation came to be, eventually the response of mom and dad will not be enough. Kids have in innate desire to know how the world came to be into existence and will eventually wonder why the world doesn’t bring them the type of life fulfillment that they seek. When they ask these tough questions, what will your response be? As a follower of Jesus, I can certainly say that the answer to these questions and more have been more than satisfied with His name.
You can learn more about these tips and other responses for your child rearing dilemmas, check out my book, Nanny to the Rescue! Straight Talk and Super Tips for Parenting the Early Years.