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Habitot Children's Museum

Habitot Children's Museum
2065 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 647-1111
www.habitot.org

Parenting Q&A
12 Things Great Parents Do:
Make a Clear Distinction Between Kids and Their Behavior

Loving our children comes naturally, but the art of parenting is a skill, and like any other skill it must be learned and practiced mindfully. Part of Habitot’s commitment to our community is to support parents in the crucial and precious task of raising young children.

For 2010-2011 we are expanding on parenting wisdom from local psychotherapist and parent coach Dr. Erica Reischer who has composed a list of “10 Things Great Parents Do.” We are adding two “great things” or our own and each month we’ll share research and our observations of tens of thousands of visiting families to illustrate how using the “great things” list will for work you and your child.

This month’s topic: Make a clear distinction between kids and their behavior. Always communicate with your words and actions that you love them no matter what (even if you don’t like their behavior).

Having to correct behavior is unavoidable with toddlers and preschoolers; our guidance is necessary for them to learn and grow. As loving parents, we must be thoughtful in how we correct our children’s behaviors, carefully choosing our words and actions so that we teach our children rather than wound them. To raise secure, healthy adults, our children must understand that their parents’ love for them is unconditional and that love won’t be diminished or withdrawn if they misbehave or make mistakes. Separating behavior from action allows children to learn from their mistakes rather than be condemned by them.  

Here are some tips on distinguishing between kids and their behavior:

    • Focus on your child’s words and actions. By directing your criticism toward your child’s behavior you make it clear to your child that it is the behavior that upsets you, not him.
    • Though subtle, there is a huge difference between saying “You’re loud” and “You’re being loud.” Calling your child loud is attaching a label to her, one that will likely stick. Telling her that she’s being loud gives her a chance to correct the offending behavior without identifying with it.
    • Watch your language. Be careful never to use derogatory names or labels, even in a playful way. Jokes about how “mean” or “naughty” your child is may be taken very seriously by your literal-minded toddler.
    • Do not correct your child in anger. If you are angry, all the child will hear is the anger -- your deep disappointment in her. Take a breath (or ten) before you speak. It’s ok for parents to take a time-out, too! When you are calm and collected, talk to your child and let him know that what you are saying is because you love him and want the best for him. And if you’ve lost it and spoken in anger, come back later and apologize for what you said. Then you may have another chance to talk about the behavior with your child.
    • After you talk with your child about changing a behavior, emphasize that you still love her unconditionally, and give her a hug.

To see the complete list of “10 Things Great Parents Do” or to learn more about Dr. Erica Reischer, please visit her website at www.DrEricaR.com. You can also get a hard copy of the handout in the purple parenting cart in the museum.

Parenting Resources

10 Techniques to Shape Children’s Behavior. 2006. Ask Dr. Sears Web Site: http://www.askdrsears.com/html/6/t061300.asp

Murkoff, Heidi et at. What To Expect: The Toddler Years. Workman Publishing: New York, 2008.

Christine Carter, Ph.D. How to Criticize Your Kids October 15, 2008. Greater Good - The Science of a Meaningful Life: Raising Happiness Web Site: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/raising_happiness/post/how_to_criticize_your_kids/#

 
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