Dr. Magryta: Parenting 101
Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 4, 2018
Parenting effectively is an art form needed for kids in modern America, as it has been for generations past. Kids that are over-controlled/helicoptered or have no rules suffer equally in the long run. It has always surprised me that we birth children with no preparatory parental education.
Parenting education really began when my son Thomas was born. It was a complete departure from my traditional medical learning. It was on the job training. Trial and error. Frustration and joy. It was real.
Whether a parent is a teen or twenty/thirty something, there is no easy way to learn parenting unless you have a mentor or are willing to read a lot or learn from others. As a society, we need to find a way to focus on aspects of life that are child-growth centric. Older generations who have the wisdom of parenting and learning from their mistakes would be a great place to start. If you have access to older parents, siphon information from them frequently. Expose yourself to mentors of parenting. Utilize the professionals at our office or other pediatric providers for information. Read often and from different sources.
When parenting, you have to metaphorically put on your oxygen mask first before preparing to save your loved ones. If we as parents are in a good mental and physical place, then we are more prepared for a child’s antics. Be ready. They will have them. Frequently!
The keys to effective parenting are discipline, love and patience. So we as parents need to be well rested, nourished mentally and physically and then educated on best practices.
When we are sleep deprived, stressed or feeling rough from a standard American diet, we are poorly prepared to handle a child and his normal petulant mood swings. Remember that they are children and we are the adults. They are supposed to be testing the electric fence, while we are supposed to be the guard rails of safety and education.
1) Ground yourself every morning before the day starts. Meditate and pray on a peaceful and fruitful parenting day. If you are off, let your spouse know that you will need extra help. Let your kids know that you need their help because of your less than ideal state. Honesty goes a long way.
2) Be prepared by having some ground rules in place as the day starts. Set boundaries and rules with consequences. Enforce the consequences, no matter what, if the rules are broken. You are not raising a lawyer to argue the fine for the violation. Have a published set of rules, if necessary, to refer to if your kids are tough little lawyers. Non-verbal, pointing to the rule and consequence will suffice.
3) One thing is for certain, counting to 10 and thinking always helps prevent a regrettable event. When a child has transgressed against the house rules and you are fired up, stop and put on your oxygen mask. Take a deep breath. Count to 10 or more to balance yourself before the response. Respond in a calm and stern voice.
4) Natural consequences are useful — for example, if your child leaves a favorite sleep animal downstairs only to have you retrieve it for the 30th time, then it sleeps downstairs tonight and every night thereafter that it is not well cared for.
5) Consequences by removal — if your child does X, it is known that they will miss a family event, friend event, etc.
6) Use positive rewards for good behavior — never food. Praise is an excellent motivator. Praise goes a long way to reducing negative behavior. It should never be all correcting commentary.
7) Kids should be doing work around the house at young ages. They can pick up after themselves at 1 to 2 years old. Unpaid chores are a part of being a family member. Developing a work ethic is critical to self growth.
8) When the household gets chaotic, consider having a 10 minute family guided meditation to cool down the whole environment.
9) Distraction for toddlers — understand what is age appropriate and what is not. This can help with parental frustration.
10) Remember to eat together and discuss the day. This is very important for children to remain engaged in the family. No devices at meal time — ever! Devices stay in the car when you eat out.
11) Have conversations often with your kids. Use difficult words to expand their vocabulary. Talk about topics above their pay grade to stimulate their mind.
12) Expect the best from yourself and everyone in your family. Accept failure with a keen learning and overcoming style.
13) I read the Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday every morning with my kids. After age 8 or 9, they seem to grasp the basic concepts of self ownership and non reactionary behavior. Their implementation of the theory is an ongoing and lifelong process.
Parenting is an art that is learned over time. Be patient and loving,
Dr. Chris Magryta is a physician at Salisbury Pediatric Associates. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org