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Habitot Children's Museum

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

Parenting Q&A
12 Things Great Parents Do

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.

Beginning this month, our Parent Q & A will expand on parenting wisdom from local psychotherapist and parent coach, Dr. Erica Reischer, who has composed a list of “10 Things Great Parents Do.” We’ll add two “great things” of our own and for the next year share research and our observations of tens of thousands of visiting families to illustrate how using the “great things” list will work for you and your child.

This month we will start with the theme of parenting with empathy in an installment we call: Appreciate that your child is doing the best he can.

Seeing the world through your child’s eyes and living in your child’s shoes would be a shock many parents. It’s been a long time since we adults have been so small, so uncoordinated, so powerless, so confused about the world, and sometimes, so scared. It’s no wonder then, that young children are frequently slow, distracted, unresponsive and frustrated. And we parents are frequently impatient with them, wanting them to hurry up, be neater, be more decisive, be more careful!

Wanting those things is not going to make them happen until young children are developmentally ready, physically and intellectually. Being impatient and frustrated with our young children, or worse, punishing them, won’t help either, and may unwittingly communicate a dissatisfaction with them. Talk about an esteem-buster!

Here are some tips on parenting with empathy:

    • Think hard about what your child is actually capable of doing and what you can expect from her developmentally. Even the brightest of children may not be able to effectively communicate their needs with words. Try to understand where they’re coming from.
    • Allow enough time so that you are not always rushing. Young children need extra minutes so they can move closer to their own pace. Everyone will be more relaxed and will enjoy the “getting there” together.
    • Remember that young children are swept with passionate feelings many times a day. Respond to your child’s strong feelings with empathy, reflecting back to them what they are experiencing. Saying ‘you are feeling angry’ will help her understand her own feelings, and ultimately, help her manage them in appropriate ways. It is a kindness to do this for children and produces children who are empathetic and kind to others.
    • Try not to take things personally. Even the most well behaved child will engage in power struggles with you as a necessary act of individuation.
    • Look for the underlying causes of behavior you find maddening. Hunger and fatigue are the big ones, but also over stimulation, too many changes at once, your own level of tension or frustration (which can be picked up by children). Resolve those issues before giving your child a hard time for not cooperating.
    • Patiently allow your child to struggle with something hard or new. Of course, it’s faster if you put on your child’s shoes and socks, but at some point he will want and need to learn how. Break the process down into do-able steps so your child has success at each level. Practice each level until he has confidence before moving on to the next step. Commend him for succeeding at each level -- picking out his socks, wiggling his toes into the opening, pulling up the tops, etc. He’ll be motivated to try to improve instead of frustrated and wanting to give up and let you to do it for him.
    • Talk to your child about your own feeling to encourage him to talk about himself. When you model healthy expression of emotion you are also showing your child that other people experiences the same emotions he does.
    • When starting to feel angry or frustrated with your child’s pace or ability, remind yourself that, most likely, “he’s doing the best he can.” Be OK with that.

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

Farber, Adele & Elaine Mazlish. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. HarperCollins: New York, 1980.

Ways to Foster a Good Relationship With Your Children and Influence Their Behaviour Without Intimidation or Violence. (2008) Dr. Ben Kim Web Site: http://www.drbenkim.com/good-relationship-with-children.html

Empathy: Foundation of emotional health. (2008) Aha! Parenting Web Site: http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/raise-great-kids/emotionally-intelligent-child/emotional-health

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