Well, it looks like we are all going to be home with our children for a while. While that reality brings great joy and excitement, it likely also brings feelings of anxiety, trepidation, and let’s be honest, panic. No doubt our patience, parenting skills, and sanity are going to be tested over the next few weeks to months. So, what better time than now to work on developing the parenting skills we have always wanted but didn’t have the time to work on.

When parenting my two girls, I try to focus on two things. One is safety and sanity (for everyone) and two is teaching and skill building. Here are a few questions to ask yourself about your philosophy or focus when it comes to parenting.

  1. Do I have a discipline philosophy? This is important because consistency is key. You don’t want to be all over the place with your discipline because your kids are smart and will capitalize on the holes in your plan.
  2. What do I want for my children? When you intervene, why do you do it? What do you want for your child(ren) in that moment? What values and/or life skills are you wanting to teach them?
  3. Is what I’m doing working? Do you find yourself repeating the same things over and over again? Are your kids struggling with the same behaviors over and over again? Then the answer to that question is probably no. Take some time to reevaluate and stay tuned for more blogs on parenting strategies that will work.
  4. Do I feel good about what I am doing? Disciplining always brings some level of guilt for parents. I mean, who likes to be the cause of your child’s distress. But remind yourself that parenting and effective discipline are very healthy and helpful for kids.
  5. Do my kids feel good about it? Of course, in the moment your children are not going to stop and say, “gee, thanks mom and dad for intervening and taking away my phone,” but, they will let you know directly on indirectly if your tactics have a negative effect. Their behavior will communicate if they continue to feel loved and respected through the discipline.

My hope over the next few weeks is to write a series of blogs about various parenting techniques that you can try on at home during this crisis. No doubt I will be utilizing many of the same skills myself in my home in order to write those blogs. My first foundational skill it to help you start becoming a responsive parent and stop being a reactive parent. That means being thoughtful in your actions when addressing behavioral issues instead of reactive. Thoughtful meaning that you think about your answers to the questions above and make sure you are following that guidance when making parenting decisions.

Below are a few short term and long term tools to help you work towards being responsive rather than reactive.

Short-Term Tools

  1. Mentally list 3-5 things in your head that you love and/or admire about your child before responding to a situation. This helps you to frame the behavior and remember that the behavior doesn’t define you child. Allow this to help you respond in a way that identifies the behavior as problematic and not your child.
  2. Count to ten before responding. Sounds familiar eh? How many of you ask your children to do the same thing? Well, it can be helpful for parents as well.
  3. Repeat a mantra. Maybe this is a favorite quote or a short version of your discipline goals. Allow the words to help you remain focused on the goal and what you want for your child and your family.
  4. Take deep breaths. This should also be familiar as a tool we teach our children.
  5. Release physical tension. I don’t know about you, but when I start getting mad, I clench my jaw. And, what we know is that physical tension often has a significant impact on our behavioral choices. So, in the words of Taylor Swift, take a moment to “shake it off.

Long Term Tools

  1. Self-care! I always encourage this for parents, but it is especially encouraged right now. Remember that you can’t take care of others if you are not taking care of yourself. Self-care is not selfish. So, get sleep, exercise, connect with your friends, and create your own fun at home. Have a mini-spa day while the other parent occupies the kids, outside preferably (thank goodness for spring weather!) No other adult support? That’s OK. That is what quiet time, nap time, or independent play time is for.
  2. Create a daily plan. Of course you won’t be able to follow it to the letter, but routine and schedules can create calm and ease anxiety during times of chaos.
  3. Write reminders. Find places to post your parenting goals around the house. Put reminders on your phone. The more you remind yourself what you are trying to do and why, the better.

And, remember that we are all doing the best that we can during these challenging times, including your children. Love them and hug them tightly and know that we will all get through this!

Reach out to Family Therapy Center of Bethesda today with your questions, comments or concerns and we'll be sure to get back to you as quickly as possible!

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