We are busy working through a series where we look at Tips for Parents and these are the next five tips:
40 Tips For Parents: Tip #6
Present a united front.
This came from a comment one of the parents shared on the discipline survey i shared last week, but feels like such an important one.
i remember as a child the whole idea of trying to play one parent off another. So if you get a “No!” from your mom you quickly hurry to your dad and see if you can get a “But dad said yes!” to take back to the mom court. Seldom worked for us if i remember, but i have seen children do that successfully against their parents.
This plays into the areas of Trust and Consistency which are so important for children as they grow up. And i imagine there might be many times when both parents don’t exactly think the same on how something should be handled or what should be allowed and so there are important conversations and negotiations to be had behind the scenes [any stories of those you would like to share? Comment below!] but when it comes to giving the children a response or a boundary or a form of discipline, it is so important that one parent doesn’t undermine the other.
Discipline is often a confusing thing for a child to receive [which is why discipline with explanation feels super helpful to me] but if it feels like they are receiving mixed messages from their parents that will only heighten it. If they are confused but see that both parents are in agreement then from a space of being loved and feeling trust towards their parents that will be a lot easier to take on board.
i imagine there will be times when you disagree with what the other parent has given consent to, or maybe turned down. My suggestion on that would be to back them in the decision in front of the child and then find a time behind closed doors to speak through the difference and see if you can land on the same page. If, after that, the decision changes, there is space to sit with the child and acknowledge that a mistake was made and we are going to do things differently because, or else to set up a different rule or boundary for the next time. So again it won’t seem like a huge contradiction to the child.
Presenting a united front as a couple can be difficult at times without even having any children, so i don’t imagine this to be the easiest of things when you do – and guess some people probably find it a lot easier than others. You may get it wrong at times and see that as an opportunity to model owning up to stuff to your children and talking them through what happened.
Let your “Yes” stay “Yes” and let your “No!” remain “No!” and when it comes to your children and permissions, boundaries and discipline, do your best to present a united front.
Parents, what are your thoughts on this one? Easy or hard, or continuously a work in progress? Share some stories below!
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40 Tips For Parents: Tip #7
Discipline creatively and appropriately [and never out of anger!]
This for me, feels like one of the hardest aspects of being a parent. One where i imagine many parents watch other families and think they have it all together while feeling completely at sea themselves. But also one which i imagine for some parents turns out to be quite an easy thing and for others feels like an ongoing nightmare.
Firstly, all children are different. So even in the same family you might find that you have to use different forms of discipline with different children. While in others sometimes one size will fit all. And as we’ve seen in a number of the comments already, when you have a child who is autistic or has some other kind of special need or unique way of interacting, well then you have to get creative to figure out what is going to work best for you.
Secondly, i have witnessed some really creative ways that friends of ours do discipline and so if i was to have a suggestion on how to discipline your children i think i would start with, “Ask around”. Chat to your friends [flip, chat to strangers even] and ask how other people discipline their children and steal the best ones.
i do think that probably is a huge key to being a great parent – keeping your eyes open and ‘borrowing’ good ideas from those around you. Because parenting doesn’t come with a handbook and it can be really tough and why should everyone have to reinvent the wheel every time. Collaborative parenting feels like an easier win. So ask people how they do discipline and how it works.
So when thinking about discipline, my encouragement is to get creative. The two major ways it typically goes would be ‘Give a negative consequence to an action’ or ‘Remove a positive benefit’. So a timeout or the naughty chair or missing out on screentime or dessert would be some examples of those.
One thing i’ve seen with a few of my friends that i like is a designated discipline space [eg. the bathroom] so setting up the expectation that when i call you to that space you know what it’s about. But also i think i like the idea of private discipline [depending on the situation obviously] as opposed to what can feel like being shamed in front of everyone, so moving off to another place and dealing with it one on one.
The idea of age and situation appropriate discipline means that as the child ages the form of discipline might change to be age appropriate. What works at age three is unlikely to also work at eleven. And so again finding out what others are doing, doing the research and then trialing and erroring til you find something that works for you and your child.
‘Don’t discipline out of anger’ feels like the kind of statement that will have many people rolling their eyes and going, ‘Nice idea, but you try it’ and i imagine if we had children that this would be the toughest one for me. The idea of moving to a set location might be helpful here because it slows the whole process down and serves the same function for you as the adult of counting to ten… Many of us say and do things we don’t really mean when we’re angry and so working on ways to separate your discipline from your anger feels like a good thing.
The idea of discipline is never to hurt your child [sadly, some parents need to learn this] either physically or emotionally. The purpose is generally to address an unhelpful or hurtful or destructive behaviour or attitude and to hopefully help the child to live better in the moment and going forwards.
i do love the idea of explaining your actions and process to the child. “This is what you did wrong and this is the consequence.” And in there will often be space to ask your child if they know what they did wrong and figuring out a suitable consequence together.
When it comes to creativity i wonder how many parents have tried to invite their children into discipline when they [the parents] have done something wrong. Do you apologise to your children when you get it wrong? Do you sit with them and figure out an appropriate consequence for your words or actions? That might be a very interesting one to hear more about. Because often as parents there can be a lack of accountability or consequence but we expect children to take it. Have any of you tried this?
i asked parents about discipline styles and stories and will share some of those in a separate post later, but if you have any to add [methods that have worked, ideas you gave up on, funny discipline stories] please share them in the comments below.
When disciplining your children, do it from a place of love, be creative and let it always be about moving everyone forward to a better way of living together [not to get back at someone for something]
Also, just be gentle on yourself. Parenting is an incredible responsibility and has to be one of the hardest things to do in life and so just keep doing your best and don’t be afraid to lean on those around you for help. Parenting is a team sport! Keep on!
[i captured some of the Parents stories, ideas and comments with regards to discipline in a separate post over here[
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40 Tips For Parents: Tip #8
Respect their “No!” and help them to say it.
This is a huge one. Especially in a country/world with such rampant abuse and sexual abuse. The majority of which tends to happen from people we know or trust.
This tip extends to those who don’t have children as well and the message is clear: if a child says ‘No!’ that means ‘No!’
Within parenting, this becomes a lot more nuanced i think because there is an overlap with bad behaviour and discipline, so it does need to be understood in context. There might be a ‘No!’ linked to eating vegetables or wanting to touch the hot stove despite your admonition where as the parent you are going to be more insistent.
i think this particular tip relates largely to times of play and things like touch and tickling. Tickling is a tricky one, because many of us tend to read a ‘No!’ as a ‘Yes!’ and sometimes a playful ‘No!’ in that case can be given even when the child wants you to carry on. But even then, i think it is helpful that when the ‘No!’ comes you immediately stop and if the child wants to be tickled some more they will ask for it. Tickling is also tricky because sometimes your body seems to be responding with a ‘Yes!’ [because laughter] but actually you are not enjoying the experience. All the more reason to respect the ‘No!’
We need to teach children from a young age that they have the right and permission to say ‘No!’ especially when it is family members or close friends. That if they feel uncomfortable or are not enjoying something or hurting or feeling strange they are allowed to, and encouraged to, say ‘No!’ And the adult needs to stop.
This might be a tough one to teach in-laws or close friends because it can be a bit of an awkward conversation but it doesn’t have to be done in a way that brings them shame. Just a quiet word on the side that speaks to how you are teaching your child to say ‘No!’ and how we all need to respect that.
Every time we respect our child’s “No” or “Stop!”, whether they’ve said it explicitly or through their body language, we help them learn that it’s their body and their right to decide what happens to it. [As a later bonus in life, this will serve them well when they are dating and figuring out sexual boundaries]
It feels like one of the hardest things in life for me to have this idea that we have to teach young people not to trust those around them, but we do need to be responsible in the messed up world we live in, and teaching our child how to give a respectful ‘No!’ and then maybe a louder, more forceful ‘No!’ if the person doesn’t listen, and then to go and speak to an adult they trust if it persists.
Another helpful tip i read in an article on tickling, which maybe could relate to other areas is: ‘Come up with a signal that means “Stop” if they’re laughing too hard to speak.’
[i wonder if it’s helpful in general to have a silent signal between you and your child where if they ever feel scared or in danger or uncomfortable they can make it to you and you can jump in and rescue them? Has anyone tried this?]
Respect their “No!” and help them to say it.
Melissa Labuschagne: We have taught Ally that she doesn’t have to hug or kiss friends and family hello or goodbye. It has been tricky sometimes because without context it may come across rude. She has to say goodbye and hello but she can choose how. It’s also difficult if friends or family don’t understand the reason behind it and we have to constantly have Ally’s back if she is apprehensive. Often it becomes, “Ally, you need to say goodbye to [insert person], and you can choose how that will look: a wave, fistpump or just saying goodbye. Too many (often girl) students are put in awkward situations after high school because they were taught that the most important thing is to listen to what someone older than you or in authority tells you to do. Tricky though to balance being polite and asserting a boundary…
Janet Chadwick: When Joshua was little, one of our family members took a photographs of him which was one of his ‘no’s at the time. Our family member didn’t know. I noticed that Joshua started being a little harsh on his sister after that and I asked him if he was upset about the photo. He was, so I held his hand and encouraged him to tell them how he felt, and they apologized and asked if he would allow them to keep the photo, for their own collection- not to be shared. He was happy with that assurance. I wanted him to confront the situation himself and also to know that I supported him, because it’s a scary thing to confront someone older than you, especially if everyone likes them (he likes them too, so it was an internal conflict
Janet Chadwick: Another situation that we encountered was a little friend of Charlotte’s used to run after her and hug and kiss her, which she does not like. When it happened in front of me, I chatted with both of them about how to show affection in ways that they both like, because Charlotte is not a big hugger. We negotiated that, rather than hugging or kissing, they would offer a high five or “baked potato French fries” (fist bump with jazzy fingers) instead.
Zach Roy: This is so good. We taught ours to say “it’s too much” which they employ often while tickling, wrestling, playing imaginary games that may get scary, or if they’re getting an unwelcome hug from a sibling haha.
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40 Tips For Parents: Tip #9
Don’t force your kids to touch people.
Okay, that sounds a little weird, but i am thinking particularly of greetings here and i have seen this modeled so very well by a number of my friends which is why i am raising it.
i think it is amazing when a family with young children walk into a room that i am in and say to their child, “Okay X, please go and greet Brett – you can give a wave, or high five, or a hug, what would you like to do?” Also cos any time a kid is called X how cool is that?
So the idea of options. i have had children be forced to hug me, which is slightly more okay if they are family but kinda weird if i am a stranger to them and probably feels more weird for them as a little person. You don’t have to hug me, but you do have to do or say something that will acknowledge my presence [ha, when it’s spoken from my perspective it sounds so demanding!]
This builds a little bit on yesterday’s tip of respecting your child’s ‘No!’ and helping them to say it. It is about building healthy boundaries that feel safe both to the child and you as the parent.
i would love to hear if you have any different ways of navigating this greeting things with your children or any stories of when it has gone well or badly? But let me finish off with some comments that came out during these conversations:
Melissa Labuschagne: We have taught Ally that she doesn’t have to hug or kiss friends and family hello or goodbye. It has been tricky sometimes because without context it may come across rude. She has to say goodbye and hello but she can choose how. It’s also difficult if friends or family don’t understand the reason behind it and we have to constantly have Ally’s back if she is apprehensive. Often it becomes, “Ally, you need to say goodbye to [insert person], and you can choose how that will look: a wave, fistpump or just saying goodbye. Too many (often girl) students are put in awkard situations after high school because they were taught that the most important thing is to listen to what someone older than you or in authority tells you to do. Tricky though to balance being polite and asserting a boundary…
Hilary Alison Mushambi: This one is hard because often our friends don’t mean any harm when they ask our kids “can I get a hug?” and we don’t want to appear rude, but kids tend to feel obligated to do what adults say so it is so important. I noticed my daughter hesitate one time a friend asked this (I think she’d forgotten the friend who she hadn’t seen in a while), but she gave the hug anyway. After that we spoke about her not having to do so and rehearsed her offering alternatives… “I’d rather give you a high five /fist bump” or “can we high five /fist bump?” Such an important conversation to have. I can’t always be there to step in and say no on her behalf, so I want to empower her to say it herself.
Janet Chadwick: A situation that we encountered was a little friend of Charlotte’s used to run after her and hug and kiss her, which she does not like. When it happened in front of me, I chatted with both of them about how to show affection in ways that they both like, because Charlotte is not a big hugger. We negotiated that, rather than hugging or kissing, they would offer a high five or “baked potato French fries” (fist bump with jazzy fingers) instead.
Marilyn Jean Schott: So true – adults also need to learn to read the non-verbal signals kids give – especially when they are still learning to understand and vocalise their feelings – and back off or offer alternatives and let the child know their signals were noticed.
Don’t force your kids to touch people. Rather give them some options on how they interact with others.
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40 Tips for Parents: Tip#10
Apologise to your children when you get it wrong.
i’m not sure too much more needs to be said about this one, cos it is pretty self explanatory. Although i will say that if a parent is seen to never get it wrong (when the child has observed you clearly getting it wrong) then you are modelling and teaching your child to be inauthentic and false.
i don’t think admitting we made a mistake is ever easy. Because pride and ego tend to have such a strong hold on so many of us. But when you make a mistake, own it, apologise and move on.
Through this we can also show that making a mistake or getting it wrong is not the biggest deal in the world. But not facing up to it honestly may be. When we model this to our children we make it so much easier for them to do it when they make a mistake or get something wrong.
Besides this might just be a great tip for so many more of us adults to just take on board in general. Recognise when i mess up or let someone down, Acknowledge it, and then do something about it.
Parents, apologise to your children when you get it wrong.
[For the next 5 tips, click here]
[To return to the start of this series and catch up on any tips you may have missed, click here]