By Jennifer Scoby
Positive parenting does more than produce happy, emotionally healthy and generally agreeable kids. Being positive can change simple stressful situations into pleasant ones and make the stickiest parenting scenarios much more manageable. Here's a simple example from our house of how positive attitude, expectations and language can fix a problem:
Last night my 17 month-old Genevieve was busy in the kitchen getting into pretty much everything while I was cooking dinner. She has two designated lower cabinets that she is allowed to open and explore at will and she is fully aware of this. She also knows that the rest of the lower cabinets are off limits except for the one with the garbage, but then only to throw something away (and something that is actually trash).
I was feeling somewhat trapped at the stovetop with several things brewing at once and hurried, and definitely frustrated to see my little one going from one cabinet to the next as my voice followed her with "No, you can't go in that cabinet" at each one. She was getting seriously upset and letting me know how annoyed she was that she couldn't get into the coupon drawer and oh-so-fun lazy susan cabinet with all of the baking ingredients! Basically, although there was little understandable speech coming from her end, and there was no yelling, she and I were having a rather heated argument! It was a battle of wills and neither of us was getting anywhere good.
And then my light bulb finally came on and I realized that deep down I had let myself get pessimistic. I was expecting her to go to that next cabinet and to open it and complain and be upset when denied. And I was responding to what she was doing in a way that sent that message to her and perpetuated her behavior! I had chosen the wrong road and our argument was the result! On that path we had nowhere to go but down. OK, so no damage was done by this perhaps, but were either of us happy? Did it have to be that way? No!
As soon as I reminded myself that Genevieve is a great kid who actually wants to be good, and that positive change starts with positive steps, we did a turn around and it was easy. I asked for her help and I genuinely expected it - "Genevieve, mommy needs the drawer closed. Will you close the drawer?" (she closed it, gently even!) "Will you get mommy a bowl for the pasta?" (she found a bowl in one of her cabinets and handed it to me with a smile!) "Thank you Genevieve - what a great helper! Where is Genevieve's special book?" (cue to spend this time "reading") (…and she toddled off…).
This is such a simple scenario, but I've applied it everywhere and the rule holds. It's continually almost shocking to me how well this works! I actually get to decide in which direction a scenario is going to play out by careful parenting.
If you want to see a positive change in your children, start with yourself. Take the negatives out of your language (instead of telling your child what you DON'T want them to do, tell them what you DO want them to do.). Look at the situation from behind the eyes of your child. See your child as a good person who would be striving to behave better if only the atmosphere encouraged it. And forgive yourself when things don't go as planned and move forward. We all hit bumps in the road. What matters is where we go from there.
Jennifer Scoby is the mother of Sierra ('98) and Genevieve ('02) and is married to Eric, a professional firefighter. Jennifer juggles family life, leading an active chapter of Attachment Parenting International in Peoria, Illinois and working outside of the home full-time. The Scoby 's are outdoor enthusiasts and include hiking, camping, kayaking and mountain biking in their long list of favorite things to do. Jennifer's goal is to provide parents, including herself, with parenting tools for happier children and happier families.