The Counter-intuitive Parenting Trick You’ll Wish You Knew From The Get-Go

October 27, 2017

I’ll be the first to admit, when it comes to parenting, I don’t have all the answers.  I am a mom in the thick of it, just like all the others.  And although I have more child and adolescent development books in my home library than the average person, when it comes to parenting, it […]

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I’ll be the first to admit, when it comes to parenting, I don’t have all the answers.  I am a mom in the thick of it, just like all the others.  And although I have more child and adolescent development books in my home library than the average person, when it comes to parenting, it can feel like a total crapshoot at times.  
People often say, “there’s no manual for how to be a good parent.”  Well…no, I guess there’s not.  But there are a zillion and one parenting books out there with a lot of good advice (and some not so good), and I’ve read probably half a zillion of them.  Partially, this has been in the name of helping my clients and their families, but admittedly, there has been many a phase of childhood that has had me furiously flipping and re-flipping through parenting books as I wonder what the heck should I do about this? 

Sound familiar?  Trust me, you’re not alone.  Most parents (myself included) just want to know that we’re doing a good job, that our kids will be fine, and that this, too, shall pass.  The good news is:  all of those things are 100% true.  But what do you do when your child (of ANY age) is acting up?  Driving you crazy?  Misbehaving over and over and over (and over) again for no apparent reason other than to drive you crazy?  How do you get them to STOP IT ALREADY?
The answer is simple.  Simple, but extremely counter-intuitive.  When your kids are driving you APE and you want to run for the hills, here’s what you do:  planned quality time.  

Yep, you read that right.  When your kids are going bonkers and all you want is a break from them, you need to get out your calendar and plan a time to hang out with that child doing anything they want to do for at least an hour.  Go to the playground, go to a movie, go get a manicure, go out for ice cream…whatever it is they want to do, plan to do it.
Now some of you may be thinking whaaaat the what is she talking about?  Hear me out.  When your child has been acting up so frequently that you just about can’t take it anymore, what they are really doing is shouting at you:  “HELLO!  Over here!  Notice me!  Love me!  Tell me I’m great, tell me you want to spend time with me!  Reassure me of your love!”
Weird, right?  But true.  True for all kids, everywhere, whether they are in the terrible twos or the terrific teens (sorry, my kids aren’t teens yet and since the teen years actually terrify me more than the twos did, I’m choosing to refer to them optimistically until we get there).  
Kids want to know that our feelings for them aren’t performance based.  Kids want to know how important they are to us.  Kids want to know we aren’t going anywhere.  Kids want to know we would choose them, choose to spend our most precious resource with them…our time.  
As parents, we need to remember this, especially because most kids cannot and do not verbalize this, even as teenagers.  And while family fun is amazing, there is something so special about having one on one time with a parent that really “fills their love tank,” to quote Gary Chapman.  
So whenever you notice yourself feeling like your kid (or kids) are making life super unpleasant, take a deep breath and walk away for a bit.  And when you’re ready, after you’ve cooled down a bit, approach your child and ask if they’d like to hang out with just you for a while.  Watch your child’s face light up as they realize you have just offered them exactly what they never knew they needed.  
Side note:  This is not the same as taking your kid out for ice cream after they throw a huge tantrum and break some of your stuff.  Nope.  I’m not saying to reward your child for misbehavior.  I’m simply saying when you notice repeated misbehavior, your child is sending you a signal that they need some positive attention from you.  So go ahead and give them a consequence for that misbehavior.  And then, once you’ve both had some time to think about things, go ahead and give them some grace.  Give them a big ol’ heap of grace with a side of planned quality time, and believe me, that will speak volumes to that sweet little heart of theirs.  It will do more good than any punishment ever could.
Additionally, planned quality time is a great way to ward off future misbehavior.  That is not to say your kid will never do anything wrong again if you hang out with them every so often.  However, if you are regularly meeting your child’s needs for security and significance, there will much less of a reason for them to act out for negative attention.
I hope this has been helpful to you, my friends and mamas!  You are showing up everyday and doing your best at this crazy thing called parenthood.  And life.  And if you want my opinion, you’re killin’ it.  Fist bump.
Do you have any parenting advice to add?  Is there a parenting trick you want to share with us?  Please feel free to comment and help a mama out! 🙂

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