In a Nutshell: Good Parenting can be symbolized by Windows for Light, Walls for Structure, Doors for Protection, and Stairs for Progress.
January is almost gone and some of us are struggling with disappointment over failed resolutions that seemed so easy on December 31. If I was in charge of the world, I’d call for a huge party the first day of every month. We’d all pull out the funny hats and noisemakers, put the old month behind us, and start over again with a fresh slate. Has your family made much progress this month? Guess what! It’s almost a new month, and you can do better! Here is a bit of a recap of some of the principles we’ve addressed in the last couple months on this blog, and some new areas to consider. To help in this review, let’s compare parenting to the structure of a house: Windows for Light, Walls for Structure, Doors for Protection, and Stairs for Progress.
Windows for Light
Can you imagine a house without windows? How would it feel to live there? Many families are living in the emotional equivalent of a home without windows because of the conflict, sarcasm, criticism, or general grumpiness inside. What’s the solution to a drab and dreary house? Push back the curtains, pull up the Blindster blinds, and throw open the window. Let in some light!
How do you let in more light? Overwhelm negative interactions with positive ones. In fact, for every negative comment, look, or conversation, we need to have at least 4 positive interactions with our kids. Start by showing your appreciation and giving attention to what kids are doing right. 99% of all appropriate child behavior goes completely ignored! Giving attention to good behavior increases the likelihood that it will be repeated. Being positive can be simple: “Thanks for playing so nice.” “I’m glad you’re home safe.” “How did you do that?” “Show me again!” Smile, pat them on the back, give high fives, listen when kids are talking nicely. It only takes a couple seconds every hour, but the results will be nothing less than miraculous!
If you start noticing that home is feeling a little dark and dreary, you may find that there is a little too much “You forgot the trash. Pick up your shoes. You smell. Stop it! Listen to me!” and not enough “You’re great. Thanks. I love you. I’m so lucky to be your mom.” Let the light shine through the windows of your home by having more positive interactions than negative ones.
Let the light in by having more fun. Oh, we parents can be a serious bunch! So much to do, no time to laugh. I can’t swing, there are dishes to do. I can’t run through the sprinkler, it makes too much laundry. Be careful! You’re going to fall out of that tree! What would happen to the feeling in your home if you decided it was okay to take time to laugh? To play tag with little kids and start water fights with older ones? To dance around with your children and let them make messes in the front room?
When you go home today, look at your windows. Enjoy the warmth that shines through them. And remember, a happy home has plenty of light.
Walls for Structure
How safe would a house be if it were made completely of windows? In order to have a secure and happy home, we also need Walls for Structure. A few years ago, my then three-year-old prayed, “Please help the kids to obey their mommies. And PLEASE HELP THE MOMMIES TO OBEY THEIR KIDS!” In today’s society, it seems too many parents think their job is to obey their kids. Paranoid about self-esteem, they forget to correct misbehavior. Afraid of a tantrum, they forget to say NO. We weaken our children by teaching that they can always have their way or that rules do not apply if we are too tired or too busy to enforce them.
How do we create appropriate Walls for Structure? Be Consistent! Kids are smart. If you are trying to teach a child to stay in their bed, it doesn’t work to get them seven drinks of water one night, and then crack down the next. If a child breaks curfew on Friday, it doesn’t teach them anything to hand them the keys to go out and break curfew again on Saturday. Stick to your rules and apply consequences if the rules are broken. If your kid throws a fit about a consequence, relax! It just means that you found an appropriately motivating consequence.
Consequences should be given out in a calm way. When children see a hysterical mother-monster yelling at them, they go into fight-or-flight survival mode. They are too distracted by the anger in your eyes to listen to the great lesson you are trying to get through to them. If you want your kids to listen, talk quietly. If you want your kids to remember what you say, use fewer words. If you want them to remember to behave, follow through every time with an appropriate consequence.
Walls in the home don’t need to be scary or harsh, they just need to be strong. Your children will thrive in an environment of Structure. Achieving a balance between Windows for Light and Walls for Structure will help you create a happy home.
Doors for Protection
This time of year, I’m constantly reminding kids to close the door to keep the cold out. But there is more than cold air trying to get past your door. Businesses are intent on making billions of dollars at the expense of our families. For example:
The average child spends 900 hours per year in school and 1500 hours per year watching TV. They spend more time watching TV and consuming media than they spend doing anything else other than sleeping, including more time than they spend with you. Every day, there are 68 million searches for pornography on the internet, 25% of all searches (see stats at http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html). Are any of those search results coming into your house through your computers and devices?. It is up to parents to stand at the door and growl at the media influences and materialism trying to enter our homes.
As you go home through your door today, resolve to only allow things in that will strengthen your family, and lock the door to the rest. Doors are for Protection.
Stairs for Progress
How bright are the windows in your home? How stable are the walls? Are your doors locked? I hope no one looks around their house and bursts into tears! It is easy to get overwhelmed and down on ourselves about what is not going well. That’s why there are Stairs for Progress.
Have you ever been in new construction before the stairs are put in? It’s quite a leap from the first to the second floor. It’s not fair to expect anyone to make it in one step. That’s why we have stairs! We may not be able to instantly change bad habits and get where we want to be, but we can take each step individually and gradually climb higher as we create a happy home.
If you lose your temper with a tantruming two-year-old today, tomorrow say “I’ll talk to you when your voice is as sweet as mine.” If you are a pushover with your bedtime routine tonight, tomorrow night say “No more sippy cups.” If you told your teenager his hair looks hideous today, vow to give him a hug tomorrow. Forgive yourself! Move on! Make goals and reward yourself for improvements. Strengthening and saving your family is worth it. Things can get better, starting today, with Windows for Light, Walls for Structure, Doors for Protection, and Stairs for Progress.