Thursday, July 26, 2007

Practical Parenting (January 2007 article)

Those of us who are parents would probably agree that being a parent is likely the greatest gift we are given in life. There are just so many special moments we have the opportunity to enjoy – the first smile, the first steps, the first words, the first “I love you” that melts your heart.

But, while parenting is the greatest gift, it’s also the greatest challenge we face, as a new set of “firsts” accompany the uphill climb: the first time our kids break a valuable item, the first lie they tell, the first time they hit their sibling, the first time they hit YOU. The list could go on and on – particularly as the child ages.

One of the most frustrating things we, as parents, face is when our child seems “out of sorts,” or when they are just not “being themselves.” Many times this is manifested in their attitudes – this is when we hear the words “NO” or “I don’t want to.” Other times it’s witnessed in their behaviors – being aggressive towards others (pushing, hitting, teasing), withdrawing, or acting like little maniacs.

It’s true that all children have those trying moments when they are simply being kids. But, what about when this becomes a pattern? What do you do when your “perfect” child suddenly turns into the Tazmanian Devil? In short, you love ‘em.

Maybe that seems too simple to some of you. Perhaps it sounds a little too vague. Let me try to clarify. When your child is acting out of control, not only are they testing your boundaries, they are crying out for your love and your attention. NOT the words, “I love you,” but they want to FEEL loved.

In his book How to really Love Your Child, Dr. Ross Campbell explains that parents can demonstrate this love in three primary ways: focused attention, loving eye contact, and appropriate physical contact. In a nutshell, here’s what this means:

Focused attention means spending one-on-one time with your child. It could be 15 minutes, it could be several hours. But, the key is that it is time spent only with that child, and without distractions – no checking email, watching TV, or talking on the phone.

Loving eye contact is simply that – looking your child in the eye in a caring and pleasant manner. Psychologists have evidence that loving eye contact is crucial to a child’s emotional well-being. So, don’t just look into your child’s eye when you are upset at them (Johnny – look at me when I am talking to you!) – but make sure you communicate your love to them through eye contact when things are “peachy.”

Finally, appropriate physical contact is key to ensuring that your child feels loved. Dads, this means you too! (Moms are already wired to show affection for the most part) Fathers should hug their sons, give them “high fives” and pats on the back as often as possible. Same with daughters (in an appropriate manner) – even throughout adolescence, as her self-image is what will drive her as she approaches adulthood.

For more detailed information on how you can begin to show your child how much you love them, please pick up Dr. Campbell’s book. When your child genuinely feels your love, you may be shocked at the results!

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