Monday, September 24, 2012

Raising two boys: My experience so far

It has been almost five years since I had the Engineer and it's a constant trial and error period for me to figure out what kind of parent I am to my boys. Sure, some things didn't work out for our family, even though it worked for other moms I knew (or was suggested in the countless numbers of parenting books I read), but I'm confident to say that I have finally figured out five principles that I follow daily for raising my children.

  1. A child spells love, T-I-M-E.
  2. Discipline
  3. Be a role model
  4. No anger for mistakes and/or accidents
  5. Listen (H.A.L.T)
1. I cannot stress enough how important it is to play with your kids! I know this seems like an obvious statement, but how many times have you told your child, "Not right now, let me finish (laundry, cooking dinner, dishes, changing a diaper, cleaning, etc, etc, etc!!!)!" I know how busy I am just running a household with two boys who are both in several activities and how easy it can be to not have the time just to play. I try to set aside at least an hour a day where I sit with the Engineer and play trains, work on puzzles, play hide-and-seek or go the park and actually play with him while there. Yes, I stuff myself through the tunnels and smash my hips into the slide, and you know what? He loves it and I do too! No amount of toys or games can replace actual spending time together. Now, I know an hour a day is hardly feasible for most people, but even 15-20 minutes can make a huge impact on your child's life. Sit down and play while dinner is cooking or create a silly scenario together while you are driving around. When your kids are grown up, do you want them to remember how clean the tile and grout was in the bathroom or how much fun they had with their parents, everyday!

2. Consistency is essential while disciplining. In other words, follow through with your consequences! Never threaten something that you can't or won't follow through with. If I tell the kids to stop fighting in the back of our SUV and threaten to turn around and go home if they don't stop, I will turn around and go home if they don't stop. Maybe we were headed to a lunch play-date or Grandma & Grandpas house, it doesn't matter, we go home and miss our activity. However, this is why you must be selective in what the punishment will be since going home isn't feasible if your heading to school, daycare or running errands or maybe you don't want to go home. Either way, whatever you choose, follow through!

3. By being a role model for my children, I make sure that they see me treat others how I would want to be treated. I say "Please" and "Thank you", hold the door open, help someone when they need it and occasionally pay for the person behind me in the drive-thru (Planning a post about helping others in celebration of my birthday coming in a couple months!)! I want them to see that I enjoy being helpful to others and treat others with respect. Another way that I role model for my boys is choosing my words carefully in front of them. The Engineer has the skill of "being occupied" but is really listening to every word I say and to anyone else in the room. My husband unfortunately suffers from Diarrhea of the Mouth and will start telling me awful stories from the news or an inappropriate story from work. I constantly have to remind him not to talk about those things in front of the kids!

4. Mistakes and accidents are just human nature, especially with children. Maybe it's just me, but my first natural reaction when something of mine is broken, stepped on, destroyed or used to dig in the dirt is to become angry. As the boys have grown older, I have worked on taking a step back from the situation, taking a deep breath and reassuring them it's okay, it's just an accident/mistake (depending on the circumstance, of course!!). This is essential in potty training! Accidents will happen and anger just makes the situation worse. Take a deep breath and handle it as cheerfully as possible!

5. My favorite piece of advice my mom gave me about parenting was to use H.A.L.T when one of my boys is having a meltdown. When they do, I pause (or halt, ha!) and ask myself, is he Hungry? Is he Angry? Is he Lonely? Is he Tired? More than likely he is one of those and I'm able to address that specific need to help diffuse the situation much more quickly.

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