The right tools for parenting job


It doesn't matter what your affliction is -- there's a support group for it.

Even if your particular affliction is children.

I signed up for a six-week parenting class. Personally, I need to find a middle ground between outright bribes and murder.

I saw the title: "Parent's Toolbox," and it sounded perfect. The tools I thought I'd be getting were duct tape and soft muzzles, maybe a coordinating case to keep them organized.

Boy, was I wrong.

What works in theory and what works in actual practice are two concepts divided by the Mississippi, so we were given tools to start bridging that gap.

And it starts with me.

There's another mistake I made.

I thought we were going to fix my children.

No-oooo, we have to fix me. That, I didn't sign up for (and is totally unnecessary, if I do say so myself).

An example was given: A woman takes her son to the grocery store where he begs for a candy bar repeatedly and is repeatedly told "no." Then, he upgrades to tantrum mode, after which his exhausted and embarrassed mother finally gives in.

Her actions taught several poor lessons: "No" doesn't mean "no" and negative behavior results in getting what you want.

One alternative action that class facilitators suggested was to leave the store and finish your shopping at another time.

I liked that idea. My question, though: How long before you have to go back and get your child?

Positive reinforcement of good behavior is the key to reducing negative behavior.

That, I can do. In fact, I can overdo that.

While in Arizona, I scored major points with a friend when I was outside with the children and 2-year-old baby Justin threw a rock at another child with amazing accuracy.

I automatically responded "That was a good aim, Justin, but we don't throw rocks at other people."

After I got home, I set about using my new tools.

I explained to Katie that when mommy was talking, she need to wait and get my attention politely by saying "excuse me."

She's a smart girl, but she's also only 4, so I didn't expect she'd understand what I was talking about.

I mean, she still doesn't understand the difference between a question and a demand.

"Katie, do you want a cracker?"

"No, thank you."

"Katie, pick up your toys."

"No thank you."

Anyway, the instant I explained about interrupting, she jumped of the chair, ran to my side, tugged my sleeve and said "Excuse me."

I was elated.

And I admit, I went a wee bit overboard and the positive reinforcement.

Getting her a treat, twirling her around the kitchen, covering her with hugs and kisses and telling her how smart she was and how polite was a little overwhelming for her.

"You like me, Mom?" she asked.

"I love you, Katie," I told her.

Later as I was tucking her into bed, she told me smiling, "I said 'excuse me.'"

That warranted another round of hugs.

It's hard to focus on the positive and ignore the negative. Parenting is a tiring job, and it's often not people's only job.

Sitting in a chair after an 8-, 10-, 12-hour workday, you figure the path of least resistance is the easiest traveled.

I've been there often.

"Of course I'll give you what you what if you just whine a lot.

If you let me sleep just 15 more minutes, you can have the whole dang box of Froot Loops and eat them sitting three inches from the TV."

But, I'm more interested in the long-term than the short-term, in permanent changes versus a little time or a little silence.

So that's what I'm going for.

And, if you've every seen the smile on children's faces when they earn effusive praise from a parent, you know the road is worth it.

There are just too many benefits to ignore from using the property tools as you go about the job of parenting.

Wish me patience!

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