Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Family Share. It has been reprinted here with permission.
As a young mother with four kids, all ages 4 and under, I was suffering from lack of sleep and lack of patience, and I was in desperate need of practical parenting advice. Here are 10 tips that I know now — because of what I learned then. Hopefully you’ll find them helpful, too.
10. Think before you speak. Take a deep breath and a few seconds before you react to whatever has happened. Remember once said you can’t take the words back. Are you going to use words that are cruel or unkind?
9. Remember stuff is replaceable; your child isn’t. You never want your child to think your stuff is more important to you than he is. Walls, carpet and furniture can be cleaned, and broken ceramic can be pieced back together, but a broken child is much harder to repair.
8. You must be willing to carry out the punishment you give. Many times I’ve been caught in the trap of “If you don’t improve your behavior, you won’t be able to do x.” When the behavior doesn’t improve, I’m the one staying home with the disobedient child. Or the entire family misses the activity. Neither one is ideal. Before you make the punishment, make sure it is something that you are actually willing to carry out.
7. Their disobedience is not a personal attack against you. Most of the time your child has not hit someone, broken something, lied to you or found any other number of ways to be naughty in order to hurt you. They might not have liked what you said, or a punishment you gave, but if you take the personal attack out of the action, some of the anger will leave as well.
6. Smaller eyes may be watching and small mouths will repeat anything you say at completely inconvenient times. If you have younger children, everything you do is open for discussion with neighbors, teachers or even a stranger at the grocery store. Be aware that what you say while disciplining one child may be repeated by another.
5. Sometimes you need to leave the room and cool off. When emotions are running high, and you can’t seem to calm yourself or your child down, it’s OK to take a time-out. Separate yourself from the child and the situation. Once separate, say a prayer, call your spouse, count to 100 or do anything else to enable yourself to return and calmly speak with the child and resolve the situation.
4. Focus on the behavior that needs to change. Anytime you are disciplining your child, the message you want heard is that behavior needs to change, not that the child is a bad person. When discussing the incident and deciding on the punishment, you need to make sure both are focusing on the behavior that needs to change.
3. Learn what is age appropriate. Are you expecting your 4-year-old to be as responsible as his 10-year-old brother? Are you expecting your 8-year-old to be 16? Do some research to learn not only what to expect from your child that is age appropriate but what behaviors are common for his/her age group.
2. Even if it isn’t funny now, it will be later. If you can learn to laugh at it, the situation won’t become a tragedy. That time the lasagna spilled all over the kitchen, or when the twins tried to climb into the dishwasher, will someday be a funny story that once happened in your life. This moment that seems so awful will not last forever.
1. You love them. This is by far the most important thing to remember. I hope to always say that I love my children, but when they’ve colored all over the new car (inside and out) with permanent marker or accidentally been left alone at nap time with safety scissors, it's hard to remember. It is good to take a deep breath and remember how much you love them. When I check on my sleeping angel children each night, I can’t help but filled with love for them, regardless of what they’ve done that day. It is this image I try to recall when I’m dealing with their disobedience.
Liz Stone used to try to be a perfect mother, but she found much more happiness in learning a lesson from each mistake. She blogs weekly about her misadventures with motherhood at lizhallstone.blogspot.com.