Tips from Teachers: How to Improve Your Parenting Skills
Behavior management is essential in the success of any classroom. Teachers work hard to establish behavior management systems that are clear and concrete so students will know what to expect. In the beginning of the year, teachers often ask students to develop a list of rules that should be in place so the classroom can be a safe and comfortable environment in which to learn and grow. Surprisingly, children are very good at making up rules! Many children enjoy having rules as they establish boundaries within the classroom community and make kids feel safe. This, of course, can be done at home as well.
Begin by encouraging your child to brainstorm as many rules as he thinks are necessary. The next day, return to the list reminding your child that it can be hard to remember rules if there are too many and narrow the list down to four to six basic rules. Be sure to word the rules in a positive way. Avoid starting rules with “no” or “never.” Rather than writing, “No running in the house,” rewrite the rule to read, “Walk at all times in the house.”
Find a place in your home to post the rules so that you can refer to them if a rule is being broken. “Having the children involved in the whole process is important. Too often we tell children what the rules are but don’t explain why the rules are in place. Involving children in the process of making rules helps them understand why the rules are important and why they need to be followed,” says Stadler.
Brainstorming basic house rules naturally leads to a conversation about what should happen when the rules get broken. Ask your child what he thinks is a reasonable or logical consequence for breaking house rules. Often good consequences include the suspension of a privilege (watching a favorite show or playing with a favorite toy), a time out, or taking away something for a concrete amount of time. Additionally, decide if a warning system should be in place. Allowing even your youngest child to participate in this conversation gives him ownership in the process. He is more likely to follow the rules and respond to any warnings if he knows the consequence of misbehavior.
While it may seem like a lot of work to put this system in place, the rewards are worth it. Establishing a structured behavior management system can take the emotion out of dealing with poor behavior. When you see a rule being broken, calmly give your warnings, remind your child of the consequences, and move forward. If you do find it necessary to give a consequence, your child will know what to expect. It is vital that parents remain calm and matter of fact. Once the child has taken the consequence, move on by reminding your child that we all make mistakes and she is now starting with a fresh slate.
Choose Your Battles
As a teacher, it is tempting to constantly be on the lookout for ways to instruct, manage, and help students every minute of the school day; however, this is impossible to do. Children like to act funny, goofy, and silly. Some cut corners or make poor choices. If teachers were to put all of their energy into constantly redirecting such behavior, we’d be left with a nation of burnt out, ineffective educators. Teachers learn to choose their battles. So should parents.
Marion Pollack, a communications teacher at the Cabot School in Newton, Massachusetts, has applied this principle in all facets of her life. “I try to pick my battles in school and at home. When working with my students there are behaviors that are not acceptable and not respectful which deserve my immediate attention. As a mom, it took me a long time to learn to pick my battles. I used to agonize about the cleanliness of my girls’ rooms. It would make me furious if they did not clean up, make their beds, and so on. This would lead to many unnecessary arguments. I finally just shut the door and told them that if they could not find something it was not my problem. This left more energy for so many other things that were truly more important than a clean room.”
Decide what is most important to you and prioritize. This may require you to look the other way or ignore certain behaviors, and that’s OK. If you invest all of your energy in constantly redirecting your child it will wear you down. Take a deep breath, take a step back to survey the situation, and then make a decision about how you’re going to respond. Choosing your battles will give you the energy to focus on other things that are far more important.
A common thread found in all of these principles is to find a clear and structured approach. Children will be more invested if you involve them in the process of setting up these structures in your home. Many teachers tell parents that they work hard to be flexible and reflective. Every day may bring a new challenge or situation, and taking the time to slow down and analyze the best way to handle these situations is essential. Keeping some of these principles in mind as you approach each new day can help keep things running smoothly in your home!
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