1. Wear them out. We talk frequently about the importance of exercising and "getting our energy out." Most days we go on at least one walk. When it's too icky to be outside, we go upstairs into our attic. It has a huge playroom with a swing, rope ladder, gymnastic rings, poor man's trampoline (twin mattress on the floor), old couch, foosball table, pool table, and all of the kids' toys. The kids are encouraged to jump on the bed and couch. They sometimes run laps for minutes at a time around the pool table.
2. Send them outside. Besides tiring their little bodies out, playing outside is marvelous because I hardly have to do any parenting. They play with rocks, sticks, dirt, and bugs and are occupied for hours. Once we fence in our yard--hopefully this summer--I can send everyone outside without having to be out there every second supervising.
3. Let them "help." Nothing is as fun for kids as mopping the floor or washing windows or scrubbing toilets. It will probably take you longer, but your kids will be happy and will learn valuable skills. (I have met teenagers who have never cleaned a toilet! Seriously, what is wrong with their parents??)
4. Give them responsibilities early on. My 5-year-old now plans and cooks dinner once a week. I tell her what to do next and help with tricky tasks such as splitting large vegetables or turning on the gas burners. Otherwise she does everything from start to finish: peeling, chopping, measuring, stirring, sauteeing. She is so proud of herself.
5. Don't expect a 2-year-old to act like an adult. Little children's brains are wired differently than adults'. And a 2-year-old's brain functions much differently than a 6-year-old's. Tantrums, meltdowns, and other big emotions are a normal part of childhood. I love the book The Science of Parenting for explaining age-appropriate responses to children's behavior.
6. Turn off the TV. We're working on this one. I sometimes use movies to keep the kids occupied during the "witching hour" of 4 pm until dinnertime. Eric likes to turn on a movie in the mornings when I'm teaching and he wants extra sleep. As a result, our screen time has been creeping up and up. I'm resolved to bring it back down, though, after watching this pediatrician's TEDx talk about media exposure. It is definitely worth viewing.
7. Set boundaries and stick to them. Children crave structure and consistent boundaries. I'll refer you to this excellent post by a mother of five and former elementary school teacher: Don't ask, tell. Don't follow, lead (Au lieu de demander, dire. Au lieu de suivre, mener). Her post arose after she read this Wall Street Journal essay about French parenting styles.
8. Help them get enough sleep. This seems like a no-brainer, but many North American children are sleep-deprived. If you want to know why, for example, Dutch children sleep 1-2 hours more per day than their American counterparts, read Sleepless in America.
9. Give them constructive outlets for their emotions. We practice making mad, sad, and happy faces. We show them how to hit pillows instead of each other when they're mad. (it doesn't always work, but we keep trying!) We draw how we feel. We teach our children that it's okay--even good--to feel emotions, but they can't hurt other people in the process.
10. Love, touch, cuddle, and kiss your children. No further commentary needed!
|Eric and 1-day-old Zari|
Please share your best parenting techniques!