Last night I started a new parenting class. If you have been reading here for a year or more you may remember that I did a parenting class last Winter/Spring. It was a decent class, overall, but it had a terrible "my way or the highway" instructor and the material did not quite fit my situation, which was incredibly frustrating. I then wrote off all parenting classes and books, figuring that no one knows my child as well as I do and I don't need any darn generalized books or classes to help me deal with a very specific child.
Then I found a new therapist for Iris and she recommended a class that was geared directly towards kids who are more of a challenge to parent. It looked like a very intense course with a lot of reading and homework and many hours of instruction. It sounded like it was right up my alley, so I signed Matt and I up.
Last night was the first class and though it was long, it was a great start. It was relieving to shake my head in agreement every time a parent spoke of ways that they struggle with their intense child instead of sit and think, "oh, my experience is SO much different than that!"
Last night we discussed two different things which already really struck a chord in me. The first thing was that we need to be extremely careful what we say about our child when they are in ear shot and to not give our child labels. As I sat and thought about this I realized that I am constantly labelling my kids-- and not in good ways, even if I am trying to be funny (like calling Eloise a Drama Queen). We went around the class and shared labels we were given as kids that have still stuck in to our adulthood. It was a real eye-opener how pervasive it can be. If you call a child a label, they will start to believe that about themselves. And a child who believes they are slow, or lazy, or out of control, or dumb, or dramatic, or ANYTHING, will carry that with them and make it who they are.
So, do not apply specific negative labels to your child. You can say "I feel like you are moving very slowly" but not "you are always such a slowpoke!"
You CAN, however, apply specific positive labels to your child ie, "you are such a great helper!" or "you're so loving to your sister!" when you see them exhibit this behavior.
The other thing is not to speak negatively about your child if there is any chance at all that they can hear you. For example, if you are telling your friend about a way your daughter struggles in school, "So-and-so is always acting up in school, I don't even know what to do with her anymore! She is so hard to discipline!" then your child will internalize that message and make it true about herself.
Of course, you can talk about what you need to with other people, just don't do it anywhere near where your child can hear!
If your child is within earshot, then a way to speak about them, which will help increase their self-esteem, is this: "You know, little by little, so-and-so is working on being nice at school and making friends. She is really improving every day!" This is a message that your child will want to internalize and make true about themselves. You're not making things up, or ignoring negative behaviors, you're just putting a positive spin on them and sending the message that your child can improve, they can do a great job, and that you care enough that you are sharing this with someone else.
These two ideas really struck me because I totally do them both. I mean, I don't sit there and yammer on and on about how awful my children are behaving, but I definitely do mention things in front of them. From now on, nixing that behavior.
The second thing we talked about is making time daily to spend playing with our children one-on-one. Each parent needs to make a schedule to do this and put away all phones, computers and any other distractions and just let the child lead the play. Let them know that this is special mama/kid time and that you are fully there for them to play whatever they would like.
We need to make a schedule for this, but I am excited to work on it. I very rarely play with my girls, pretty much never with Iris (since she is so self-sufficient in her play) and when I play with Eloise, it's usually with one eye on my phone or the laptop. She rarely gets me, all of me, focused and playing with her.
So that's what we're working on this week. Looking forward to next week's class!