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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:
Show Them the Way

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: Show Them the Way

As children test boundaries and limits in trying to understanding their place in the world, they are sure to make mistakes and exhibit unacceptable behaviors. Sometimes unknowingly, sometimes intentionally. And because they are learning, usually repeatedly. We need to let our children know when their behavior is unacceptable, yet it is equally important to show them how you want them to act.

As a parenting strategy, punishment may change behavior, but often in ways that are uncontrolled and unpredictable. Punishment only suppresses behavior temporarily, and a child’s natural response to punishment is to find new and better ways to avoid it. Usually children will continue to do the same things they were punished for if they think they can get away with them. For long-term behavioral changes, it’s more important, and more effective, to tell kids the behavior you want to see, and praise it specifically and consistently.

Do not assume children know what you expect of them. “Don’t be so messy” gives young children next to no information about what you want, and what they have done wrong if they don’t understand what you mean by messy. Better to say, “put your shoes here, put all your crayons in this box, hang up your coat, like this, in this spot.”

And don’t forget to praise specifically to reinforce your message. “I like how you put every one of your crayons in this box – you didn’t miss a one!” Children need skills and knowledge, and encouragement to keep doing the right things. The result of your efforts will be a child who is more likely to act appropriately and feel pride in the success of “doing it right!”

Here are some tips on showing kids the way:

    • All behavior has a goal. Figure out the goal of your child’s behavior and help him find a way to achieve that goal.
    • When possible, give your child options. An angry child shouldn’t kick, but perhaps she can express her anger by drawing her frustration out on a piece of paper or breathing deeply to calm down. By giving her options you are expanding her skill set.
    • Redo the right way, and let your child practice. If your child whines, you may say, “That is a whiney tone (giving information). Listen to my nice tone (showing what you want). Now you try.” (note this can be patronizing after the toddler years).
    • After you teach your child a new skill, notice when he uses it and let him know how proud of him you are.
    • Your specific praise will help make sure he repeats this skill. Use “because…” so your child knows exactly what you liked. Your child will be more likely to repeat the behavior when he or she knows what you like.
    • Model the behavior you would like to see in your child. Children will learn from watching you, picking up on the language, the actions, and the attitudes you express to your partner, other family members and to others in the community. If your child consistently behaves in ways you don’t like, reflect on you own words and actions to make sure you aren’t sending the wrong message.

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

Abell, Ellen. Helping Young Children Behave. 1996. ACES Web Site: http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/H/HE-0719/

Michael F. Mascolo, Ph.D. Why Punishment Doesn’t Work (And What Does). 2009. North Shore Children & Families Web Site: http://www.northshorefamilies.com/whypunishmentdoesntwork.html

How to raise confident, resilient and well behaved children. August 27, 2009. Click A 2 Z Web Site: http://clicka2z.com/parenting/how-to-raise-confident-resilient-and-well-behaved-children/

 
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