One of my favorite jobs of all time is being a mom. It is a hard job, but so rewarding and so fun. I am inspired by my own mother. She spent so much time with us and stayed at home for 10 years so quality time was never an issue, especially since modern technology really didn’t exist. As a working mom who feels pulled to my cell phone, the quality time equation has shifted and this parenting seminar was exactly what I needed and apparently what a ton of other UW faculty and staff needed. In fact, we filled up registration in less than a day.
Both Dr. Liliana Lengua and Dr. Suzanne Kerns from the Center for Child and Family Well Being packed best practices and incredible tips into just one hour. Both of their resumes and research were outstanding and the suggestions they gave were so realistic. The whole room took notes and lots of heads were nodding, and most chuckled when they explained that linking consequence to behavior doesn’t always happen. As people left we could hear them saying, “WOW, what useful information!”
In case you missed the presentation, UWTV shot a video for us to share:
Personally, this is what I took away:
- Always focus on making your consequence relate directly to the behavior. Ex: When walking with your child down the street and they keep running away, make the consequence be they have to hold your hand if they won’t stay close enough to you. Don’t make the consequence extreme or random.
- Try your best to do positive reinforcement vs. negative reinforcement. Ex: They used the analogy of working with your boss. Don’t we work harder for one that is positive? If you continue with negative reinforcement your child will see they get your attention when they behave poorly. So hard right?
- Mindfulness enhances these best practices in parenting:
Acceptance “I like my child just as s/he is.”
Enjoyment “I enjoy spending time with my child.”
Positive emotions “I smile often with my child.”
Sensitive, contingent responding
Consistent, Appropriate Control
Clear, reasonable expectations and rules
But what I mostly took away from the presentation was the mindfulness piece and the importance of child-led activities. Child-led activities are those that your child gets to pick and you play with them. You don’t ask questions or encourage them to play something in particular; the goal is to do what they want and stay in the moment. Have you ever had a time when your child asks you to play something and inside you are thinking, “Ugh…that again? I need to clean the house and I do not want to play…”?
Research shows that just 10 minutes of child led activity each day has a HUGE impact on their behavior and future behavior. If you have trouble staying in the moment during these 10 minutes, Dr. Lengua took us through the following exercise. She asked us to close or eyes and visualize our children. When our minds moved to other thoughts during our time with them, try this:
- Notice their eyes – I immediately thought of my daughter Day’s beautiful blues eyes, soft eyelashes, and freckles and my son Ryan’s strong green eyes and how he can’t help but smile when he makes eye contact.
- Notice their smile – I immediately thought of Day’s four front teeth that are totally ready to fall out and Ryan’s smile making me melt (and cave).
- Notice their facial expressions – I immediately thought of Day’s funny chipmunk face she always makes and how Ryan sticks out his tongue when he dances.
- Notice theirs hands – Tears ran down my face for this one…..Day and Ryan both love to simply hold my hand…may that never change.
- Notice their posture - What does it say? Day’s posture is confident and warm. Ryan’s posture is confident when comfortable and strong when passionate.
- Enjoy all things that your child is saying and doing…..be present.
I totally encourage anyone reading this blog to try it the next time they are playing Barbies, Ninja Turtles, or trucks with their children. It is so powerful, beautiful, present, and on purpose. In just a week I notice myself being more present and appreciating the play.
Did you attend the presentation or have a chance to watch the video? What did you take away from it? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter! And thanks to attendees who shared their takeaways on social media:
Thank you to Dr. Liliana Lengua and Dr. Suzanne Kerns for sharing your expertise with us!!