Successful parenting is proactive parenting – attending to the needs of your children BEFORE they cry out for attention.
As parents, we sometimes become confused about what our children need, but by paying attention to the signals our children give us, we can become more attentive, effective, and involved.
Most people know that when babies yawn and rub their eyes, they are tired. A proactive parent will address the needs of his or her baby and put the child to bed BEFORE baby gets fussy.
Babies get hungry throughout the day. After the first few days of getting used to their infant's schedule, parents should notice how regularly their baby needs to eat. If a baby is on a three-hour feeding schedule, don't wait for the baby to cry – feed the baby three hours after baby's last feeding.
As the baby matures, feeding times will decrease and parents can adjust their schedules accordingly. A toddler understands, "please wait a few minutes." A baby doesn't.
Intuitive parents look into the pleading eyes of their children and KNOW their children want – or need – something from them. Call it intuition if you want, but those eyes and that body language convey messages loving parents can read quite effectively if they pay attention.
When parents ask, "What's wrong?" they usually gets this response: "Nothing." By asking what's wrong, parents are indicating to their children that something is bad.
However, whatever is bothering your child may not be bad at all; it just might be something the child needs. Instead, hug your child, hold him or her close, and ask, "I can tell you need something right now. What do you need?" or "I know something is bothering you. What happened?"
"Let's talk" can be one of the most effective forms of proactive parenting anywhere. It lets your children know you care. Most children won't talk in front of their siblings though.
Living in a home filled with women, my only son refused to tell me what was bothering him in case one of his sisters was standing on the other side of his bedroom door. The best way for him to talk to me was in the car – away from everybody else.
Finding that one-on-one time with your children may seem impossible, especially if you're a single parent raising children with no support, but "where there's a will, there's a way" is true. Find some support. Get to know your neighbors. Exchange babysitting with a friend. Even if you spend one hour a week with each of your children, you can connect with that child in ways you might never otherwise relate.
Trust me: it's worth the effort.
Whether competitive sports or old-fashioned exercise appeals to you, engage your children in activities that allow them to move their bodies. Children need to stretch their muscles. And they need to improve their brain function. Getting their bodies moving allows the blood to circulate throughout the body. Motor control and brain power improve.
Rather than allow your children to vegetate in front of the television set where the only exercise they get is by moving their thumbs, involve their whole bodies in activities that will serve them well and prevent them from becoming sick too often.
When a child enjoys drawing, building, tumbling – whatever – and spends a lot of time playing with one toy over another, that child's interests lie in those activities that engage your child fully. If a child loves to build, find her some blocks. If he loves to draw, have crayons, paints, and paper on hand. If your child enjoys physical activity, provide a basketball hoop, baseball and bat, or even a jump rope or an enclosed trampoline. If your child loves quiet time and reading, as long as the child doesn't refuse all other social endeavors, allow your child alone time.
Become involved in after-school activities. Attend events, but mostly attend to your child's needs. Before you can attend to his or he needs, find out what those needs are. Each child is different. Some kids might need you to hug them more often. Some need verbal pats on the back. And others just need you to "listen."
Put aside your phone, your laptop, your book, or your TV program and listen to what your child is telling you. Soon your babies will be adults and may possibly raise children of their own.
By paying attention to your child's interests and cues, you help your child gain a better understanding of him- or herself. By understanding your child, you understand your child's strengths and weaknesses. Build on those strengths and improve on the weaknesses.
Successful parenting is proactive parenting.
Wise people learn when they can; fools learn when they must.
-Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
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