Toni Schutta, Parent Coach, M.A., L.P., continues to work tirelessly in her efforts to educate parents and strengthen families. Toni's Web site, Get Parenting Help Now, offer her readers parenting tips on a variety of subjects. A well-known parenting coach, Toni was kind enough to share some of her parenting techniques with LoveToKnowKids.
What are some skills parents need to learn to become better parents?
I've worked with hundreds of parents over the years as a parent coach and as a psychologist, and while most parents do a great job overall, there are common mistakes that I see. The biggest one is being inconsistent in discipline. Many factors come into play when you discipline your children: How tired are you? How persistent is your child? How were you disciplined? What kind of parenting style do you have? Does the other parent agree with you on discipline methods and follow-through? We hate being the "heavy".
- Inconsistency- Inconsistency, however, creates problems. Children learn that they can't trust us, they lose respect for us, and they learn that we can be manipulated. A child's self esteem is negatively affected. Children need structure and firm boundaries to feel safe and to flourish in the world, so a parent must set firm and consistent boundaries.
- Discipline- I also find that parents often feel stuck when it comes to discipline. Many people use time out, yell or take away privileges, and after that, they don't know what to do. To help parents learn other discipline methods, I produced two CDs that give parents 10 positive discipline methods they can use with their kids. Parents usually feel a great sense of relief when they know there are other options they can use.
The CDs are called, Kids Driving You Crazy? 5 Great Ways to Get Your Back in the Driver's Seat and Kids Driving You Crazy? 5 MORE Great Ways to Get Your Back in the Driver's Seat. They're available at Toni's website.
How can parents deal with defiant teens?
Defiance is the number one complaint that parents share with me. No matter what the age, it's very difficult for a parent to feel like they have to say things two or three times. When dealing with a teenager, however, the stakes are higher because of the trouble she or he can get into. I think it's helpful for parents to look at several things:
- Parenting Style- First of all, it's time to reexamine your parenting style. Are you allowing your teen greater independence in making decisions? Have you become more "democratic" in some matters? For instance, are you allowing your teen greater freedom in making decisions about clothes, friends, activities, music or spending money? Some of a teen's "defiance" may be because you're still holding a very firm rein on matters that you could lighten up on. On other issues like attending school, meeting curfew, abstaining from tobacco, drug and alcohol use and no premarital sex, you should still set firm limits, however.
- Quality Time- Also, check to make sure that you're spending time with your teen. Although your child may resist some of your advances, still find ways to spend time together. Sometimes defiance comes because the two of you are not connecting and having fun together. You want the scale to weigh more heavily on positive encounters rather than negative ones.
- Listen- Pay attention to whether you're talking more or listening more. At this age, it becomes even more important to listen. Try to get to the bottom of some of the "defiance" and you may learn a lot from your teen.
- Attitude- Don't take it personally. "Defiance" is developmentally appropriate for a teenager. Tell yourself "It's just developmental", so you don't get as mad. It's the way that teens separate from a parent, show independence, and carve out their own niche.
- Choose Your Battles- The bottom line is: What battles are most important to you? Fight the big battles and let some of the skirmishes go.
What can I do to help my children get along better?
There are lots of things that you can do, but the best advice I have is to buy the book Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mavlish. Hands down, it's the best book written about sibling relationships and how to help them get along.
How can I strengthen the bonds within my family?
I highly recommend that you do four things:
- Eat at least four meals together as a family each week.
- Schedule a minimum of one hour of family time together each week.
- Sit down and really listen to your child each and every day.
- Spend at least fifteen minutes each week of "special time" alone with each of your kids.
When you do these things, color them in on a calendar to build in accountability. If you're married, don't forget to schedule time alone with your spouse, too.
What is the best way to handle a tantrum?
- Step Back- The short answer is to remove yourself or the child from the situation. A tantrum will last much longer with an audience, and your child needs a break to calm down. You also want to prevent anyone from getting hurt.
- Expression- The longer answer is that parents need to teach their kids how to express anger in a healthy way. That takes a long time, but it's well worth the effort.
- Communication- Parents should teach their children how anger works, methods for communicating feelings before the explosion occurs, how to calm down when they start to get mad and how to problem-solve.
- Prevention- It's also helpful for parents to try and prevent some tantrums from occurring. I have parents keep track of what the "triggers" are that set off their child's anger. Common ones are sharing problems, feeling left out and being tired. Then you can problem solve around that trigger.
Let me give you an example. I have two children. When the oldest child has a friend over and the youngest one doesn't, there are going to be problems because my youngest feels "left out." That is one of her triggers. So, to avoid problems I either: make sure she has a friend over at the same time; I hang out with her; or I set her up with a very interesting project. I prevent many meltdowns from occurring by taking these positive steps.
Don't forget to check out the above Web sites to read more of Toni's wonderful advice on a variety of parenting topics. You can also purchase her CD called Children's Anger: Triggers and Solutions for Coping that offers helpful strategies for parents. It's available at her website.