Thursday, April 12, 2018

Top 5 Parenting Mistakes I'm Making

A week ago I went to my daughter's 4 year check-up (only 4 months late, but who's counting). At this check-up I had a host of concerns and questions for P's doctor. Most of them were behavioral questions. These questions stemmed from issues that we have been having with our little Princess at home. As I was asking each question and she was addressing them--I already knew the conclusion. These were not problems with my child. They were weaknesses within my parenting.

I'm not afraid to admit that I'm not the perfect mother. I make mistakes each and every day. If you think you are perfect, then you are not being honest with yourself. Ultimately my daughter's doctor was helping me realize that a lot of the issues that I was having with my daughter were a direct result of things that I could change with parenting strategies.

I want to also point out that there were many suggestions that she made that I was already doing, but that were not fully effective because I was having a hard time following through. That can be the toughest part of parenting--consistency. Which leads me to number 1.

1. I'm not always consistent, and my husband and I are not always on the same page with discipline

My daughter has clearly learned that I am the easier parent to manipulate, and she is exploiting that on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Her doctor was explaining to me that by giving in to her and by being the "good cop" I was actually doing her a disservice. I do not want to create a situation later in our relationship where she thinks it is ok to walk all over me. That is not teaching her to respect me to other adults in her life.

But I don't always want to deal with punishments in the same manner as my husband. But I do understand how this can be confusing for a four year old. She needs consistent feedback on her actions, so that she knows the consequences before she acts.

2. My time out strategy was weak and inconsistent.

I kinda had a feeling that his was the case. When your kid voluntarily goes to time out without much of a fuss--you know that it is not a good sign. At the end of every time out I was spending time talking it out with P. I was explaining to her what she did wrong. We ended everything with an apology and hugs and kisses. Ultimately, the doctor helped me realize that my child is throwing tantrums out of a desire for more attention from me. So when I was putting her in time out--it was actually what she wanted. She knew at the end that she would get that undivided attention with hugs and kisses at the end. I don't know how I hadn't figured that out. I was actually reinforcing the bad behavior! It hit me like a ton of bricks.

Instead of addressing the behavior in time out. I will now try to address it at a separate time, so that she is not earning attention by behaving badly. It is a separate conversation.

The doctor suggested doing time out for 4 minutes (which is what I was already doing), but she suggesting putting P in an old car seat in the corner and strapping her in. This is genius. She also suggesting doing it without making eye contact or saying a word. Just pick her up, strap her in, set the timer and walk away.

3. I was enabling my kid's emotional outbursts

One of my biggest concerns that I addressed at the doctor was how much more emotional my child seemed in the last few weeks. Every little thing would result in a fit of tears. Things that were small and wouldn't have caused a massive scream attack before--were big deals now. I just didn't understand why this was occurring.

So the doctor asked my about what was spurring these outbreaks (mostly simple things like her stubbing her toe, someone telling her no, or spilling a tiny drop of milk on the table). She then talked about how I responded to them (usually by picking her up and consoling her). The doctor suggested that I might be enabling these outbursts by coddling my child. While I don't want to be cold with her, I do want her to be able to control her emotions. She suggested that I stop responding all together. To not make eye contact, touch, or talk to P when she has one of these fits unless I feel that she really has hurt herself. If it persists and becomes an all out tantrum, to then put her in timeout. It's just so hard to hear your baby cry, no matter the age.

4. She needs more sleep

P's doctor is a stickler about sleep. When we first starting talking about behavioral issues that was the first question, "what time does she go to bed every night?" busted!! We are in this stage where my child is trying to drop her afternoon nap. At home she really just won't do it. But the doctor was explaining that children at 4 years old still need 12 hours of sleep at night. I KNOW! It's so hard for working parents to get this accomplished. If I put her to bed too early--then I don't get to see her hardly. If I put her to bed too late--then she doesn't want to get up in the morning, and we are all late. It's so tough. But again, if we want to have a happy girl--we need her to be rested. So back to being the bedtime nazi I guess. It's harder on me than it is on her.

5. I need to be more present

I love blogging, and part of that is social media. But it is hard to find enough hours in the day to do everything well. Be a good teacher, wife, and mom and grow a blog following. But I am realizing that a lot of the issues we have are attention related. My child wants to be around me, and I am not always present. She is responding to that.

So it was a gut wrenching epiphany. One day soon--she will not want to hold my hand, or play a game with me, or lay on the couch and watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And on that day--I will mourn for the dozens of days when I asked her to play alone or to give me a few minutes so I could post on Instagram--because these moments I will never get back.

So these will be the things that I will be working on over the next few months. What about you? What parenting mistakes are you guilty of?

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