The Message Behind "Be Good" and What to Say Instead

Thursday, June 25, 2015 No comments

I hear parents all the time pleading with and warning their children to “be good.” This common phrase has escaped my lips a few times, too. There are a couple of reasons why I’ve decided to drop this phrase for good.

“Be Good” is Too Vague
Children aren’t mind readers. It’s much more helpful to give them specific instructions than to assume they know exactly what we mean by “be good.” It’s a very abstract concept for children, even if we think they should know what behavior we expect.

Instead of saying “be good,” try:
“When you’re at grandma’s, I want you to pick up your toys when you’re finished playing and listen when she asks you to do something.”

“At the store, you may help me push the cart or walk beside it. You may not run in the aisles or ask for a toy today.”

“In the movie theater, be quiet while the movie is playing and don’t put your feet on the seats.”

“Be good…because usually you’re not.”
I wonder if this isn’t the underlying message that children pick up on when this phrase is overused. I always try to put myself in my child’s shoes. I think hearing “be good” all the time would make me feel like perhaps my parent doesn’t think I’m a good person. If I was, I wouldn’t need the constant reminder, right?

What if my husband told me to “be good today” before he left for work? How would that make me feel? What is the message I would get from it?

I believe one of the most important things we can do for our children is to believe in them, and show our faith in their goodness, abilities, and positive intentions. Here is a huge lesson I’ve learned - When children feel good, they will be good, and knowing that we believe the best of them is one way to build their self-esteem and help them feel good.

Does Time-In Reward Children?

Time-out didn’t work in my home. I followed the “rules”. I placed my son in time-out for one minute per each year of his age. I did not engage with him other than to replace him back in time-out during his punishment. Once he had served his time, I asked him what he had done wrong that got him placed in time-out, and once he repeated it back to me, we moved on with our day – until the next time-out which was never too far away.

If it ever did stop one poor behavior, another cropped up right in its place. His behavior got worse, his spirit grew dim, and the disconnection between us was widening. That is why I began to seek out alternatives. After my paradigm shift to positive parenting, I found time-in to be an effective tool to both connect with my child and redirect his behavior.

The paradigm shift was an important step to allowing me to see my child through a new lens. When I practiced traditional parenting, I saw every “misbehavior” as an infraction that needed to be addressed and squashed immediately, lest he get “out of hand.” I bought into the idea that children were seeking control and would take over the house and try to rule over me if I didn’t maintain strict authority. Indeed, that was a very sad way to view my child.

Through study of child development and even more so through stopping to look into my son’s eyes when he was upset, I came to adopt a much different view of my child, of all children. I see “out of sync behavior” as a call for help, a clue that the internal state of a child is off balance and needs addressed. I saw that he was a good person and wanted to do good things. He wanted to please us and be connected. He wanted to know he was valued and where he fit in. Once I saw my child differently, it was easy to relate with him differently.

This difference in the positive parenting view of children from the traditional view became clear to me when a comment was made on my previous article, 3 Alternatives to Time Out That Work. This person believed that the practice of time-in would cause the child to misbehave to get the “reward” of parental attention. It’s true that children do crave attention and connection, and I suppose if the only way a child can get it is through poor behavior, she will resort to that. But how is this the child’s fault?

If attention and love is only given during a time-in, there is something fundamentally wrong in the relationship dynamic in the first place. Children should be given lots of positive attention and affection every day, and if we are doing that, there will never be a need to “misbehave to get attention.”

Furthermore, if we are already close and connected with that child, then the time-in allows them to focus on our instructions rather than being defensive against us. Bringing a child into safe and loving arms to help him calm down and learn to manage himself through emotional storms is not coddling or rewarding, it’s teaching. Isn’t that what parenting is?

I think, culturally, we need to move past the idea that too much love rewards or spoils children. This idea damages our relationships and leads us to treat unfairly those who are newest among us. Children do not enter the world with bad intentions. They do not come to wear us out, test our limits, or seek control. They come with a need for love and guidance.

In 5 years of practicing positive parenting, I have never found that love drives misbehavior, but that the opposite true. Love allows them to grow into their full potential.

As seen on CreativeChild

Read more here for Positive Parenting Tips from Rebecca Eanes!

5 Habits That Make Parenthood Easier

Raising children is no easy task. The habits we form now have a great impact on how our future days will go. Below are five habits that I've intentionally cultivated which I believe have made parenthood easier and more joyful.

Create a daily rhythm.
While it isn't necessary, or even helpful, to be so rigid as to have every detail of the day planned out, it is very helpful to create a daily rhythm, or a flow to the day that children can generally count on. This daily rhythm creates a stable foundation, and knowing what comes next makes children feel secure and helps them transition more easily.

In addition, once the habit is well-formed, the rhythm becomes “the boss” in many ways. Children understand that after dinner it is time to bath, for example, and there is less push-back. A daily rhythm isn't only soothing for children but has been shown to also help parents feel more competent and confident.

Stick to the routine.
Within the daily rhythm, routines make parenting easier. It isn't just knowing what to expect; it's also about connection points throughout the day. Sweet bedtime rituals and mealtime conversations serve to bring us back to each other in the midst of a busy life. Being connected and knowing what to expect are two important aspects that bring peace to our homes, and intentional, loving routines accomplish both.

Meet as a family every week.
If you aren't already doing a weekly family meeting, I highly recommend beginning this tradition. Family meetings serve many purposes. They really help the family to function more smoothly as a unit. During family meetings, it's beneficial to talk about what went well that week, what didn't, what needs to be addressed, and plans for the upcoming week. When everyone gets to voice their opinions and ideas, the family bond is strengthened.

When families work on problems together, children learn how to work with others in a team, troubleshoot, and problem-solve. I also like using family meetings as a time to share fond memories from the past week and to share our appreciations and gratitude of each other. When everyone in the family feels heard, understood, and appreciated, you can bet that parenthood will be a little easier.

Be clear and consistent.
Many parenting problems arise because we either aren't clear about the boundaries or we aren't consistent with enforcing those boundaries. Think of a “road closed” sign. It will stop you from going down that road, but unless there's a detour arrow, you're likely left stuck without knowing where to go next. Telling children what to stop doing is only half of discipline, and ending it there leaves things unclear. It's like putting up the “road closed” sign without detour arrow.

If we don't show them where to go from there, it's not likely they'll go in the direction we want them to go. They may, instead, find their own new path to the destination they're trying to get to, which is almost always getting a need met. Alternatively, they may crash through the sign and keep on going if the boundary isn't firm and held consistently. If we are both consistent in saying “you may not go that way” and clear in saying “here's the better way to go,” parenthood gets easier because it isn't an all-day marathon of power struggles.

Lean on your village.
We aren't meant to do this thing alone, and yet I've heard many parents say how lonely they feel every day.

A To-Do List For A Better Life

Thursday, June 4, 2015 No comments

How much does your to-do list bring you connection, joy, and contentment? What if it did? We all have things we need to get done every day, and if you're like me, you get some satisfaction in checking off the boxes. But at the end of the day, what has it all amounted to? Laundry – check. Work – check. Dishes – check.

The good thing about to-do lists is that they set intentions for us. They give us a clear plan and we can see just how productive we've been as we check off our lists. The bad thing is that if our to-do lists are filled with all work and no play, we may go to bed feeling accomplished but disconnected because our entire day was spent tending to chores and obligations. Being that connection is the heart of my parenting and life philosophy, it's better for me to be more intentional with my loved ones than the seemingly endless list of chores and responsibilities.

How can I make sure I'm building connection and still be productive each day and balance my responsibilities well? How can I end my day with a content heart in addition to a feeling of satisfaction at jobs well done? In addition to adding playful parenting into my daily chores, I create a separate to-do list each day, and checking off this list ensures that I've focused on the most important people in my life. This to-do list is a set of intentions designed to fill my family's love tanks and build a stronger bond with each of my loved ones.

I typically choose 3-5 intentions each day, and I'm consciously aware of them throughout the day as I set the list in a frequently visited area. When I have done what I intended to do, I check it off with a smile.

Below is a list of intentions you can choose from as you create your own Better Life To-Do List.

1. Notice one positive character quality about each loved one and speak it out loud today.

2. Show delight when my loved ones enter the room – when my children get up in the morning and when my husband gets home from work. Smile, greet them lovingly, and tell them I'm happy to see them.

3. Notice one positive behavior and commend my child for it.

4. Express appreciation for one thing that my spouse does today.

5. Spend at least 30 minutes on the floor playing with my child. Make sure the phone is not within reach and no distractions.

Playful Parenting Every Day

Tuesday, June 2, 2015 No comments

Play has a wide range of benefits for children. Through play, children release energy, reduce stress, and learn about life. They learn problem-solving skills, exercise creativity, use their imagination, and master new concepts. For positive parents, play has another vital role – it connects parent and child, and we know that connection is the parenting key. When we take the time to play with our children, we connect on a deeper level. Play offers us the opportunity to gain trust, to laugh and release tension, and to get to know our children better.

As the world whirs around our heads at a dizzying speed each day, we find ourselves rushing through just to get the basics done. Who has time for play? After all, there are much more pressing things on our to-do lists, right? Here are some simple and fun ideas to incorporate connection-building play into your everyday routines.

Bubble Warrior or Princess
You have to run that dish water anyway, so turn this typically-mundane task into playtime by inviting your child alongside you with his or her favorite toys. Between washing plates, pick up an action figure and dunk it in the bubbles, then have a pretend battle in the water.

Bonus: Your child sees that doing dishes doesn't have to be such a chore.

Conquering Mount Laundry
A stack of folded towels becomes a looming mountain filled with adventure! Can Dora reach the top in time to save Boots? Not if the sock monster reaches her first! Look out for the avalanche! Extra time it takes to get the laundry folded – about 10 epic minutes. Love tank refilled? Yes! That's how we get two birds with one stone.

Bonus: She'll probably be more cooperative about putting away her laundry after this.

The Hungry Broom
Mostly, the Hungry Broom is out for dust bunnies, but if he sees a child, that child better run! The Hungry Broom will chase after him, so he'd better run and hide. If he stays out of sight, the Hungry Broom will go back to eating dust bunnies. Alternatively, we play “I'm a little crumb” when I vacuum. Same idea, but my kids are crumbs that must run away from the vacuum! Giggles abound and the floor gets cleaned.

Bonus: You can let your child be the Hungry Broom while you run and hide. Just don't stay hidden too long. They will totally catch on to you if you do that. Trust me.