Your abilities to anticipate and respond to the needs of your child play the biggest roles in the amount of stress a parent experiences. Stress is part of parenting. Being able to recognize, understand and eliminate this stress helps you find the emotional vocabulary to listen to and connect with your child.
Uncertainty of how to respond and interact with your child is the most common cause of parental stress. It is a barrier you can overcome. Everyday parents are confronted with seemingly endless events and behaviors that require parenting responses. By following specific child-directed responses this uncertainty can be eliminated. These techniques can reshape the way you respond to your child and the way your child responds to you.
The first rule is to follow your child’s lead and avoid criticism, questions and commands. Unless there is a safety or security concern, ignore negative behaviors and use praise, reflection and imitation to direct and lead your child’s behavior in a positive direction. These types of responses decrease the risk of negative interaction. Choose words, a tone of speech and use gestures that show enthusiasm. Your words and actions must say to your child: “I enjoy being with you.”
Praise is the next parenting response. It increases positive behavior and like enthusiasm, it generates a positive feeling between you and your child. When giving praise, always identify or label what you are praising. An example is: “Thank you for getting your hat and coat on.” Try to avoid questions. Questions often have hidden commands and suggest disapproval and not listening to your child. Focus on correction without criticism by avoiding words like: “no”, stop”, “quit”, “that’s wrong” and “don’t”. This eliminates unpleasant interactions which damage your child’s self-esteem.
Reflection is another response. It relies on repeating or paraphrasing what your child says to invite your child into a conversation with you. Reflection shows your child you are listening and tells your child you understand what he or she is saying. This type of two-way communication enhances speech and social reciprocity skills and helps you connect with your child. Reflection can also be paired with reporting. When reporting you tell your child exactly what he or she is doing. This technique improves your child’s attention span and shows you are interested in and approve of the activity or behavior your child is performing
Imitation is the final technique you can rely on. By doing the same thing as your child you allow your child to lead and signal your approval for your child’s activity. Cooperative and parallel play teach your child to lead and supports learning how to give, share and take turns.
Using these child-directed approaches will help you eliminate parenting stress by preventing you from being overwhelmed by parenting choices. These techniques allow you to gain control and become the best parent you can be.