By Chuckie Hessong
Wildcat Extension District
Family & Consumer Sciences Agent
The Holiday season has passed and the New Year has been ushered in, a worthy New Year’s resolution may be on your mind. Many set goals to stop an undesirable habit, eat better, lose weight or exercise more. However, have you considered New Year’s as a great time for personal observation and reflection of your parenting practices? Of course, the job of parenting never stays the same. Our children constantly grow and mature. This means we must constantly adjust our practices to match their needs.
This New Year as I evaluate my own parenting practices, I share some of my weakness with you and some techniques for being better. Both to help you and to hold me accountable for being the parent my children deserve.
• Respond to children calmly: Many parents are guilty of raising their voices, lecturing and “pitching a parent fit”—a fit that would make a toddler stop and stare. Remember, becoming emotional only tells your child that you have lost control of your emotions and given into him. However, calm discipline will dramatically increase your odds of success. Before speaking (or yelling), take a deep breath or even take a short time out for yourself to get those emotions under control. You will better handle the situation and get better results once you have regained control. Often parents can anticipate children’s misbehaviors. Make it a practice to think ahead and make a plan. As an example, my boys, ages 11 and 14, have developed a habit of delaying when asked to do something. It goes something like this—
Me: “Please put your clothes in the hamper.”
Child: “Ugh… Ok…”, but does nothing.
Me: Repeat. Repeat. Get angry and repeat.
Child: “Ok!” and finally puts clothes in hamper.
Sound familiar? Now, notice what has happened. The child has achieved what he wanted. He delayed having to do what was asked. Sometimes Mom will forget to ask again or just do it herself! That’s when the win really occurs for the child. The cost of getting yelled at is worth the payment of delay. Or, possibly the real bonus,—getting out of doing the chore at all. Plan ahead for the next time this occurs. My new approach is to be upfront with the boys by telling them I will only ask once. Each time I have to ask after that will result in 10 minutes loss of screen time (or 10 minutes earlier to bed, or another privilege they enjoy). It is essential to stick to your statements here. You have made a promise to them. Do NOT make a statement you are unwilling to enforce.
• Limit your child’s “screen time”: Oh… the constant battle of screen time: TV, Xbox, iPad, iPod, cellphone, Snapchat, YouTube, and the latest, greatest, newest app parents don’t know about and don’t understand… the list is extensive. This is an ongoing battle for most parents. Now is the time to wrangle this technology beast! Set a healthy limit and, like all parental limits, stick to it. According to parentingpress.com, “Studies tell us that the less time a child spends entertaining himself with screens, the better his achievement in school and his cooperation at home. When kids don’t use screens, they do things like read, play outside, ride bikes and participate in other wholesome activities”.
• Encourage Healthy Eating: According to Kids Count surveys for Crawford, Labette, and Montgomery counties of the Wildcat Extension District, 28% of children are either overweight or obese. Studies show there are lifelong health impacts from obesity. Remember, families who have dinner together regularly have a much higher percentage of healthy, well-adjusted children. Kids need predictable time to talk with their parents about their day, the opportunity to help with family chores (preparing food and doing dishes), and the opportunity to eat homemade food. Dashing through a fast-food drive-through and eating chicken nuggets on the way to practice is no substitute for a real family dinner.
• Read a new parenting book. If the last book you read regarding parenting was What to Expect When You’re Expecting, it’s a good time to expand your bookshelf. There is a wealth of knowledge available on line—all for free. Just be thoughtful about your source of information. Check out parentingpress.com and childtrends.org for a great starting point for credible parenting information.
Our children deserve to have the best parents possible. Congratulations to you for caring enough to self-evaluate and improve on your ever-changing job of parenting.
Happy New Year to you and yours!
The mission of K-State Research and Extension Family and Consumer Sciences is to link education with life experiences to help people improve their lives, their families and their communities. Family and Consumer Sciences professionals support essential life skills including Community Development, Healthy Lifestyle Choices, Leadership & Volunteer Development, Relationship Development and Resource Management.
For additional information, contact the Wildcat Extension District, Crawford County, 620-724-8233, Labette County, 620-784-5337, Montgomery County, 620-331-2690, Pittsburg Office, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education (EFNEP), 620-232-1930.