I was lucky enough to grow up with a Nurse for a Mother, and two extremely active and involved grandmothers in my life. Losing my grandmothers was one of the toughest losses I have ever experienced because they were always an unlimited source of love and wisdom in my life. I find myself invoking this wisdom more and more when asked for advice by stressed parents. If you have ever spoken to me about parenting at least one of these ideas have probably been shared with you. Don’t take this as the end all be all of parenting advice but 3 generations of mothers can’t be wrong!
- You get what you get and you don’t get upset- I cannot even begin to imagine the number of times I was told this growing up. Basically life is not fair and you won’t always get what you want and there is really no point in crying about the little things. In OT we constantly teach our kids about big problems versus little problems. This saying was always used to tell my sister and I “this is a little problem, be grateful for what you have and move on”. It was often because someone got the bigger half of the cookie or didn’t get the special blue icing on the side of the cake. However, as I got older, I found myself saying it in my head when something didn’t go my way or I wasn’t able to get what I wanted. It taught me to be grateful for what I was receiving no matter what. This has made me a much happier person, and when your child learns this it will make them happier too.
- Give them two right choices- I give this advice ALL THE TIME. Kids often do not feel like they are in control of their lives, this usually results in a lot of stress and ‘bad’ behaviors. By giving them two good choices they will feel as if they actually have control over what they are doing even though they are doing exactly what you want them to do. So for example, your child gets home from school you would ask them would you like carrots or apple slices for a snack? This gives them the opportunity to make a choice based on what they want, and it will make them less likely to fight you when you don’t give them a choice.
- No matter what you call it or what you use it for, time outs work for all involved- My grandmas and mom always used the term time out but most of the time it was a break for everyone. Sometimes your child needs a break and you need a break. Sometimes siblings need a break from each other, especially when they are spending more time together than ever before. Most of the time a time out is a break for both you and your child to calm down and process. I usually recommend calling it a ‘break’ or calling it ‘calm down time’ since time out has a negative connotation in many children’s minds. Even in the clinic when a child is becoming frustrated you will hear their clinician ask them if they want to take a break and come back to it. Right now their brains and bodies don’t know when enough is enough so it’s our job to help them see that a break can be a good thing!
- Saying “Calm Down” has never made anyone calm down- Do you feel more calm when your partner tells you ‘calm down it’s not a big deal’? If I had to guess I would say no. Neither will your child. Acknowledging how they feel (I can see you’re upset, can I help?) and then providing a constructive calm down method (would you like a hug? Let’s take some deep breaths together) can quickly diffuse a normally volatile situation.
- Using “First-then” plans when your child needs to get something done- My mom would do this with my sister and I for almost everything, and it honestly worked. For example in the morning we would have 2 hours to complete our entire morning routine, this included packing our backpacks, getting dressed, making our beds, eating breakfast, and brushing our teeth. When we finished we could watch TV until the bus came. However it was up to us how much TV we got to watch. If we didn’t get out of bed and took forever picking out clothes, or got distracted while eating breakfast we wouldn’t have time to even watch any TV and it was completely our own fault. I use this in the clinic as well, if a child is dragging out a non-preferred activity I will say look we have half an hour left. If you finish quickly we will have time to play what you want, if you don’t then we cannot do what you picked. The important thing with this tactic is to stick to it. Your kids will catch on and actually get better and faster at their routines. My mom’s tip for this to really work is to make sure that what they are doing is of good quality, if it isn’t make them go back and fix it before they earn their reward.
- If they are driving you crazy send them outside!- I have been sent outside for being annoying a lot. Not in a mean way, but in a ‘you have to go play outside now until you have less energy’ sort of way. I never was upset by this, being outside is still the best part of my day. At first your child may not know what to do with themselves, but they will figure it out! Talk to your children about outdoor play safety such as only play in the back yard not in the front yard, come inside if someone comes up the driveway, don’t talk to strangers walking by etc. They can do it, they will love the freedom of being able to go outside without you right there every second, and they will learn that it will be taken away if they do not listen.
- Don’t let a hobby become your job- This was often told to me as I was a very artistic child and I love to make things. I always wanted to sell those things to try and make money and was always warned against it with this comment. My grandma would always tell me that if you make something you do for fun into your job, it’s no longer a leisure activity. This is important when we start signing our kids up for all manner of things. Does your 7 year old play soccer 5 days a week? If they do, then it’s become a job. If your child regularly expresses they don’t want to go to practice, then that sport is no longer fun for them. The primary occupation of children is play. If it doesn’t feel like play to them anymore, then they will burn out and so will you. It’s not worth pushing things you think they should be doing on them, they have plenty of time to do that when they are older and actually have to have a job.
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