Last week, one of Georgie’s teachers almost made me cry. It was during a parent-teacher meeting, the second this year. Let me just say that Georgie is in preschool so these types of meetings are short and sweet, addressing basic issues; weaknesses such as not writing in a straight line and confusing numbers 6 and 9 and strengths such as good communication and independence.
So why was I close to tears? Well, because I was told by someone very close to my child that as a mother I am doing a beautiful job, I am raising a good little man and despite Georgie being an only child and more prone to behavior issues, he emits no such signs. He is kind, eager and helpful. Everything I do and strive to be as a mother was somehow validated in that moment. Not that I ever thought there was a need for validation. Any validation would perhaps come in years when my boy is all grown and expresses respect, love and kindness through his actions. But I’ll be honest and say that as a woman, in Cyprus, raising my child, without a career therefore financially dependent on someone else, at times I have felt knocked down and belittled. At times, I have wondered if quitting my job and dedicating my time to Georgie was ‘right’, whatever that means. But an unpretentious and unbiased honesty, evident in his teacher’s words, struck a chord and reminded me why I have chosen this road.
Obviously, having one child does not make me an expert in parenting and besides everyone knows that every child and parent are different. However I do consider myself to be an informed parent, who looks into a matter whatever that may be, who searches for alternatives and solutions to a problem; perhaps it’s the journalist in me and my obsession with research.
Whatever the case, I would like to share five important ways I have found to help with good behaviour. These work for me and Georgie. These ‘habits’ if you like make communication and understanding smoother and bring about a positive change in behaviour, making your job as a parent fun and limitless.
1. Teach them how to be polite: Saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Simple yet effective. This is a habit that Georgie was taught at a very young age, in fact as soon as he could mutter a word or two. I remember him tapping his chest as a toddler, using sign language to say ‘thank you’. Sometimes I need to remind him to say ‘the magic words’, especially when he’s ordering me around but I believe that as long as papa and I do it, wherever necessary, he will follow suit.
2. An early bedtime: What does sleep have to do with it? Everything! Sleep plays such a massive role in kids’ behaviours. In everyone’s behaviour, actually. Just imagine what you are like or how you feel when you haven’t slept well. Hardly someone you’d want to be around, right? For kids, attention span is limited, thinking and learning processes are hurt, hyperactivity strikes and tantrums happen often. In the past, I have written about sleep importance and I am a firm believer in all it can offer. Aim for an early bedtime.
3. Acknowledge your child: Let your child participate in as many activities as possible and no, I am not talking about playground activities. Let them cook with you, let them help you with the laundry, let them make their bed. So what if you have to do it all over again! When you go out, treat them like an adult. Do not ignore them; a child who feels he has to fight for your attention will without a doubt cause trouble.
4. Give warnings and set limits: Georgie has tantrums, on occasions. I have noticed that this happens either because he’s tired or he wasn’t given a warning. Before we enter the kiosk, supermarket, restaurant or coffee shop, Georgie is warned: you may chose one item, you may have a juice, you may have an ice cream and so on and so forth. If we’re at a friend’s house or at the playground, I always let him know that he has five more minutes. Friends and family make fun of me because obviously Georgie doesn’t know how long five minutes are. But they’re missing the point; by giving him the five minute warning, even though it may be 3 minutes or 13 minutes, he has been warned that playtime is over and it is now time to go home.
5. Routine: Like sleep, I cannot stress the importance of a routine when it comes to children. They thrive! Routine also eliminates power struggles, helps them to get on a schedule, which let’s be honest will be a huge part of their lives and finally, it gives them something to look forward to. Georgie loves our downtime together, two hours before bedtime. He gets to choose a movie or a book or even a game. He feels he is in control because he gets to say what we will do. Get it?
Above all, remember that your child will not be a child forever and that certain habits that they learn to grow with will make your life and theirs much smoother and enjoyable.