"What if I mess my kid up?" And other parenting fears you can put to rest

It is tantrum number three for today. Your child runs over to the newest home décor item, smashes it down on the floor and looks directly into your eyes. You are exhausted from lack of sleep, trying to keep the house clean, and annoyed by the never-ending list of “to-do’s” rattling around in your head.

You cave and give your child exactly what they want even though you know deep down that’s not the best course of action. That’s when it hits you, “Have I ruined my child? Is it too late to correct this behavior? Did I just teach them that the best way to get what they want is to scream and break something??”

Sound familiar?

Good news, you’re normal.

Your parenting experience is so normal. This work is hard and exhausting! Your child didn’t come with a roadmap or manual that shows you the step-by-step directions of how to successfully correct them in these moments. 

Asking yourself these questions is a good sign. It means you care about your child and your relationship! It also means you’re actively seeking more knowledge about positive parenting styles and general parenting tips. Now, it’s just time to figure out how to make small changes that will correct and improve your child’s behavior in a healthy and productive way.

This is exactly why we developed Just Parent in the first place! We’re developing resources for parents who want the best for their kids, but get discouraged when their well-intentioned techniques aren’t working. Parents need a roadmap!

Trial and Error Parenting Method

Parenting is a great experiment. No one knows exactly what they’re doing until they’re in the thick of it. Returning to the example above, you made a “mistake” and gave your child what they wanted after behaving poorly. We all make mistakes! It’s impossible to research every topic, be 100% disciplined in your own behavior, and consistently react to every situation in a way that won’t either encourage poor behavior or break your child’s spirit. 

A trial and error approach is essential to allow yourself to navigate the waters and then decide if your own behavior was a success or mistake.

The biggest error (and the one that’s most essential to avoid) is continuing to make the same mistake after realizing that it was the incorrect response.

Your Child’s Learning History and Adjusting for the Future

Every child has a learning history that is composed of all their experiences with discipline. What stands out most in learning histories are things that are consistent and happen often. If you made a mistake once, the chances of it standing out are slim if you were more consistent with an alternate response.

The younger your child is, the easier it is to change the course of the learning history. As your child gets older, the responses that they associate with behaviors are stronger as they have been connected to more instances in both frequency and time.

With older children, the communication piece is essential as it can supply clarity as to why an association is changed. Acknowledge your mistakes with your child if they’re old enough to understand, and adjust for similar future instances. Teens can especially call out changes in parenting behavior, be open and honest and communicate:

I made a mistake by letting you continue to go out after you didn’t finish your house chores. This time you can’t go until they are finished.

What is the best Discipline Style?

I’ve gotten this question so many times from parents that I can’t even give an approximate number! The biggest thing to understand as parents about discipline is that every child is different so their discipline should also look different.

When you run up against a problematic behavior, think about why your child is doing it. If they can communicate with you effectively, explicitly ask them, “Why?”

Understanding the “why” behind your child’s behavior can guide your disciplinary actions and can tie directly back to the behavioral episode. This process is part of what’s called “constructive discipline.” If you understand why a behavior is happening, you can address the root cause and make changes accordingly, rather than treating a behavior that your child will continue to struggle with if you ignore the root cause.

General parenting tip is to be gentle but firm:

Example: You tell your child that it is time to turn off their technology device and get ready for bed. They yell and continue to play for an extra hour partially because you are tired of telling them to do the same thing and getting ignored. Ask your child why they yelled at you. Label their feelings (You sound angry that I asked you to turn off the Xbox). Discipline based on their response. Child- I wanted more time to finish this level. Your response: You can ask for more time or earn more game time. Since you yelled, technology time will be decreased to 20 minutes tomorrow.

Finding the right discipline style for you and your child.

There is not a one-size-fits-all here! Every parent is different and every child requires different types of discipline. Sometimes we split general parenting styles into 5 general categories commonly labeled “Attached, Free-Range, Gentle, Slow, and Tiger.” None of these styles are inherently bad! It’s all about understanding how to communicate with your child, understanding their behavior prior to an incident, and providing consequences that make sense.

In fact, you can take our short quiz to determine which of those 5 parenting categories you most likely fall into!

Positive parenting can provide your child with the support, guidance and parent child relationship that they need.

You’re going to make parenting mistakes. It’s all about what you do next.

As parents, we are all going to make mistakes from time to time. The cause of our mistakes can be vast. Perhaps you had a busy day, felt exhausted, had a sting of terrible events or were simply fed up. Or maybe your child was hurtful, mean, or intentionally combative. Whatever the cause, after a mistake happens, take the time to figure out why it happened and make a plan for how you will act differently the next time you’re in a similar circumstance.

We are not going to have the answers to it all! A trial and error approach is a common path to handle novel situations. But again, reflection on our actions is key to deciding the effects it will have on our child’s behavior long term. Remember, children have learning histories and the longer a behavior is connected with a response, the harder it will be to change.

General Positive Parenting Tips

Let’s face it, even with active reflection and extreme self-awareness, you will still hit bumps along the parenting road. These small blips won’t hinder your child showing developmental signs or influence their outcomes on being a well-adjusted child.

When you parent with the purpose to win your child’s heart, that’s what will influence positive outcomes, not your mistakes.

Positive parenting captures parenting with reason and takes into consideration your child’s own feelings and emotions. It relies on you as the parent to be a role model while teaching, leading and guiding your child through life’s challenges across all developmental stages.

Toddlers experience the challenges of not getting everything they want (“Mine!”), fighting sleep, and battle learning language. Adolescents face the harsh realities of friendship, developing relationships with others, and puberty. Teens face their identities, individuality, and social lives.

Across all of these stages, positive parents should:

  • Communicate often and regularly with open dialog
  • Be consistent and clear about expectations
  • Take the time to know who your child’s friends are and where they go
  • Support your child’s decisions and individuality 
  • Coach, guide and lead your child through difficult decisions
  • Love your child unconditionally 
  • Understand that your child needs you

If you’re interested in learning more about Just Parent and how we plan on bringing you more positive parenting strategies through the app we’re developing, be sure to sign up to be on our email list. We’ll send helpful parenting information to your inbox and notify you when the app is ready!

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