The Internet is exploding with parenting advice.
Do this! Don't do that! You must do this! Don't ever do that!
It's overwhelming, to say the very least.
Parenthood is a constant negotiation between freaking the eff out and trying to give your children your very best self. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle, ping-ponging between the two.
Like you, I've been inundated with parenting advice from the very minute I announced my pregnancy. I've employed a lot of those tips along my 4-year parenting journey, some with more success than others.
Related: 10 things every mother should teach her daughter
But, there are three bits of advice I picked up that have served me very well. So well, in fact, that I really feel like they've made me a better parent. And they are so easy! Yup. In the end it wasn't some complex system of rewards (bribes!) and flow charts and gold stars that really made a difference, but three very simple things you can do every day that make a huge difference in the way your children behave and, more importantly, how they feel about themselves.
1. "Do you need a hug?"
Instead of lecturing or yelling when your kid is freaking out, tantrumming, and snotting all over the place, tell them you're sorry they feel bad and ask them if they need a hug. Nine times out of ten my daughter sobs "YES!" and falls into my arms for some mama love, effectively ending the tantrum.
2. "Do you want to talk about it?"
When either of my kids are upset and sobbing incoherent sentences, I tell them to take a deep breath and ask them if they want to talk about it. Sometimes they do and we work it all out, and sometimes they don't want to talk about it or don't know how to talk about it, but I think giving them the option to express themselves is important. I usually find that someone offering to talk about it with them calms them down.
3. "I am SO happy to see you!"
I read somewhere, and I wish I remember where because I'd link to you, that the way you react when your kid enters the room is so important for their well-being and sense of self. I've made it a rule for myself that, even if I'm tired, I light up and sweep my kids into a hug first thing in the morning, when I pick them up from school/daycare or just haven't seen them in a while because they were in their rooms playing. You should see how thrilled my daughter is to see me every day. It makes my heart burst. She's thrilled to see me because she knows I'm thrilled to see her.
Sounds simplistic, but I swear to you that these three things have significantly improved my parenting and the way my children behave. Hope they help you the next time your kid is jangling your last nerve… Instead of blowing up, ask if they need a hug. It'll do you both good.
Here's to hoping that, no matter what age, they'll always need a hug, always want to talk about it, and always be thrilled to see us.
It's all in our hands, you know?
- By Monica Bielanko
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