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Thinking More About Raising Great Kids

Thanks for all the great feedback on my post on Saturday on how to stop temper tantrums before they start! I appreciate it. The point I made in that post was that quite often kids act up simply because they're bored. We haven't been interacting with them, and they can't keep themselves stimulated without acting up. We can't expect children to be perfect without us paying any attention to them. I gave some examples and strategies, and if you haven't read it, do breeze through!

But I want to take it a little further today. It occurs to me that in most of the parenting books I've read, and in most of the parenting books I see, the parenting techniques focus on stopping certain behaviour. We're focused on how to react when kids do something wrong. Our starting point is already the negative: how to deal with negative behaviour.

As I said, I do believe we need good techniques for that, and I'm a firm believer in consistent discipline. However, I know a ton of parents who know how to give a good time out who at the same time do not know how to actually play or interact with a child. I think we have focused so much on discipline that we have neglected the happier parts of parenting--just how to interact.

I have to confess that I absolutely HATED playing with my kids. I hated playing when I baby-sat, too. I'm not one of those sit on the floor and play Barbies moms. I never have been. What I could do, though, was talk to my kids, read to my kids, and listen to my kids. And I found that the more I talked to them, especially outside the house, the more they would play when they were inside the house without demanding that I participate. So it was a win-win!

I'm not saying, then, that a good parent is one who is always playing anything and everything with her kids. Not at all. I know many of you, like me, struggle with stuff like that. But do discover how and when you are best at interacting.

I always found it easier to involve the kids into my life than I did to try to enter theirs. So when I was cleaning the kitchen, for example, I'd give them a cloth and a spray bottle of water and they'd go to it with the bottom kitchen cabinets. We'd talk and laugh and they would be "helping Mommy". They really liked cleaning time, because they got to spray water!

We also folded laundry well together. While I was folding, I'd throw sheets up in the air for them to run under, like a balloon. And then, when they were done that, they always got to fold the pillow cases and the facecloths into nice squares. They could do that even at 2, and they were quite good at it.

And even though they were entering into my sphere, they were "playing". They were laughing, and having fun. And they felt as if they had my attention because I was laughing with them and talking with them. I figured I had to clean anyway, so if I could involve them, then I was playing and doing my own chores at the same time. Then later on, they might let me have some downtime!

Sometimes I think we demand too much of ourselves, thinking that good parenting involves getting into the sandbox, or acting out Barbie's wedding. There's nothing wrong with that, but that may not be who you are. But if you involve them where you can, where it's more natural for you, as often as you can, then they won't feel abandoned if you make them play by yourself at times.

A child feels secure when parents pay attention and talk and laugh with him or her. When parents talk to them and try to teach them things about the world, they learn, "I am important. I am loved. The world is an understandable place, where someone will always help me to figure it out. And my Mommy thinks that I can handle it."

Isn't that we want?

On the other hand, if your view of parenting is to raise a child who is completely obedient, and who does not make demands (because that means that they are "spoiled"), you're setting yourself up for failure. Your child won't feel secure, which means that they will become even more demanding (they're searching for love and for affirmation). You'll become more frustrated with them and more frustrated with your own parenting. And you set up a downward spiral.

We've heard a ton in parenting literature about three things, it seems to me: the importance of having a schedule, the importance of discipline, and the importance of touch. These are all wonderful. But I'm not sure we've heard enough about the importance of just talking to your child and involving them in your life.

I see so many parents who really don't know how to interact with their kids; they go for the more appeasement model of parenting. Kids act up and whine, and they try to get the kids to stop by offering bribes, or trying to distract them, or feeding them. The only time they actually talk with the children, then, are when the children are whiny. When they're not whining, then the parents leave them alone because now they can grab some time to themselves.

What I don't think parents realized is that if they took some time when the kids are in a good mood and just talked to the kids--even if you do it while you're already doing a chore that needs to be done, like cleaning, or making the bed, or dishes--then your kids would be less whiny at other times of day, and you could get those minutes to yourself. But it needs to start with you putting a priority on interacting with your kids. Your job is not to stop all whining; it's to have fun with your kids and teach them things so they're less likely to whine in the first place.

What do you think? Let me know how you involve kids in the everyday things of life!

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At 9:42 AM , Blogger The Roberts Family said…

Love this post! I especially appreciate how you talk about including the kids during the things you already have to do!! So true for moms that are with their kids 24/7. We don't fit into the mold of "do your chores while the kids are in school and be sure to greet them with cookies when they get off the bus". However we CAN laugh/love with them while doing those things that have to be done anyway! And you just never know what great 'lil conversations will come up as you spend TIME talking together. :) ~Shelly


At 10:48 AM , Blogger Laura said…

Thank you so much for this post. I have always felt guilty that I never felt like playing with my kids, and I'm glad to hear I am not the only one. I feel like a fish out of water when I try to play with them. I mean, I have boys after all, and I don't know what I'm supposed to do with a ball, or a Transformers figurine. But I have discovered that board games I CAN do. Whenever they ask me to play a game with them, I drop whatever I am doing and play. That I can do. And I find that we have so much fun doing it and have lots of laughs.

I'm just really glad to know that I really don't have to be playing toys with them. That it's okay to find something I am comfortable with and do that with them instead.


At 2:45 PM , Blogger Berji's domain said…

I think you're quite right. My daughter isn't really into the whole dress-up thing or playing with dolls (thankfully!) but she does love having me read to her. She then talks about the books and stories and then uses her imagination to play. We have had a few tea parties, but mostly she just wants me to sit there and talk to her about what she is doing. And she loves going on walks because she can talk (oh my! can she talk!) to me about her world and I interact with her. Its fun to hear what she has to say.
I know when I have been too absorbed in other things because she starts "demanding" attention in less appropriate ways.


At 4:02 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Ladies, glad I'm not the only one who had difficulty "playing"! But we did play, we just didn't play the traditional way.

And Laura, we've done a ton of board games, too. I've always found that games & books I could deal with; Polly Pockets and tea parties I couldn't. And the kids really were okay with that! If you were to ask them, they'd say that I spent a ton of time with them. But I didn't spend ALL my time with them!


At 10:59 PM , Blogger Wendy Eckwielen said…

Thank you for this beautiful post, the time with our children is so invaluable. The time we spend with them may not always be playing dolls, etc., rather making a game out of chores, reading, music and other activites, maybe even homework as they get older. As my children grow, I always keep in mind they are in training to be independant someday. Be creative and make this training period fun and playful for them. Loved your ideas for laundrey with younger children. ~ Wendy

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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