Positive Parenting Seminar an Inspiration

Last night, I attended a phenomenal seminar hosted by the Wayland Children and Parents Association (WCPA):  “Positive Parenting”. The speaker was none other than Amy McCready, a TODAY show parenting expert, entrepreneur and founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, Inc., and mother of two elementary school-aged boys.  I will admit I do not watch the TODAY show regularly, hence I had not heard of Amy’s incredible reputation – and her reputation is indeed well-deserved.

The topic of positive parenting certainly is not new, yet I personally think it is one of my greatest challenges as a WAHM/SAHM.  The intensity of parenting two toddlers coupled with the demands of running my own business can be exhausting.  When times get tough, I always remember my business partner’s advice from her husband, “Find the joy.”  Now she had four children in 5 ½ years (no multiples) and she probably wanted to tell her DH where he could shove, ahem, I mean find some joy.  But my point is there is some middle ground between exploding in a fit of rage and trying to convince yourself that a temper tantrum is well, joyful.  One thing was very clear sitting in that room full of parents (make that standing room only):  we all seek to improve the way we relate to our children, particularly during those whining, clinging, bedtime-stalling moments.

I took copious notes at Amy’s lecture last night – felt like I was back in college.  But I couldn’t help it.  Amy’s advice really resonated with me.  You see, my husband and I are currently dealing with some impressive whining and helplessness from our four-year old son, coupled with the most impressive defiance from our two-year old daughter.  To say our patience is tested at times would be like saying, “yeah, labor kinda hurt”.  For some reason, misery does love company because there was something all too comforting about being in a room listening to some of the questions from the parents in attendance – questions we all want to ask but are afraid to do so.  Hence, I thought I would share some of my favorite take-aways from last night with those of you who could not attend this valuable lecture.

1.       A child’s primary goal is to achieve belonging and significance.  The misbehavior is not the problem, but the symptom.  So fill their “attention basket” in positive ways so they feel emotionally connected and feel they have some personal, age-appropriate power.

2.       The origins of the word “discipline” come from the word “train”, not punishment.  Teach them; don’t blame, shame or pain them.

3.       The “don’t…” game:  my husband and I must say “don’t whine” or “don’t touch the <fill in the blank>” a hundred times a day.  Here’s a great exercise to understand how the brain processes the negative connotation of “don’t”.  Please follow my instructions (seriously, please follow these instructions and perhaps do this with your significant other).

A.   Exercise I:

i.   Don’t sit.

ii.  Don’t look up.

iii. Don’t close your mouth.

iv. Don’t open your eyes.

B.  Exercise II:

i.   Stand up.

ii.  Look down.

iii. Open your mouth.

iv. Close your eyes.

Notice how your brain sort of “double-processed” the first set of instructions?  All of us in the room agreed that the first set of instructions involving the word “don’t” required that extra second or two of thought.  Now imagine you are a child, toddler or teen, trying to follow those instructions.

4.       Amy has a long list of helpful tools in her “Tool Box”, but my favorite is called Mind, Body and Soul Time.  Here’s the deal.  Take ten minutes, twice a day (preferably spaced out, morning and night), to spend uninterrupted one-on-one time with your child doing an activity of their choice.  No iPhone, no laundry, no “honey-do” lists.  Nothing but you and your child together and focused on each other.  And one key element Amy recommends is to label it, i.e. “It’s time for Daddy & Me time!”  Also, Amy even has a timer at her home.  Sounds odd, but it forces you to make the most of your ten minutes and it becomes something exciting, special – making an ordinary activity extraordinary, as Amy so eloquently put it.

Work full time or have multiples?  Improvise and modify this prescription to fit your lifestyle.  Perhaps Mind, Body and Soul Time is once a day, or perhaps you have to sit your other six children in front of a short episode of Fireman Sam while you give each child your undivided attention.  But give it a try.  Amy guarantees you will see the attention-seeking behavior diminish while the cooperation and sense of belonging and significance in your child increases.  I am going to try this and will let you know how it goes.

5.       Five R’s of Fair and Effective Consequences for Misbehavior:  communicate in a Respectful voice, consequences should be Related to the misbehavior, Reasonable in duration, Revealed in advance so the child can make a choice, and finally, have your child Repeat the consequence back to you (essentially resulting in a verbal agreement).

It’s really tough to summarize a 90-minute parenting seminar that was filled with fantastic advice and audience participation, particularly when even Amy acknowledged that many topics we covered last night deserve their own lecture series.  But I hope I gave you a taste of the sound advice Amy shared with us, dare-I-say desperate?, parents seeking a better, more positive way to address misbehavior.

Loving them when they’re adorable?  Piece of cake.  Loving them when you don’t like them in those tough moments?  Positively satisfying.

Learn more about Amy McCready and her company, Positive Parenting Solutions, by visiting her website.  In addition, you can register for her follow-up webinar on November 30 from 9-10 pm here.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  After submitting this blog post, my husband and I attempted our first Mind, Body & Soul session with our kids.  How was it?  This little tidbit will tell you.  My son asked me as we finished building our fort made of bed sheets and sofa cushions, “Mom, can we do this everyday?”  I said, “Honey, we can do this twice a day.”  “What’s ‘twice’?”, he asked.  “‘Twice’ means two times a day.” “I don’t want to do it twice a day.  I want to do it all day long.”  So there you go.  I built a fort with our son, then played with our Thomas the Train set with our daughter.  My husband read books and hid from monsters with our daughter, then played football with our son.  Ten minutes each?  Try twenty.  It was just too much fun.

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