I like to share a system of principles or philosophy that has worked for us with our daughter for the past 5 years. I hope that can help you and you can share your experiences with me as well.
Encourage: When it comes to encouraging language skills, my wife and I use three questions to help our daughter learn and identify things. We use these questions when our daughter is being challenged with a thing to call out or do something with it. She may not recall what is called, doesn’t know what to do with it or she is just playing with us and wants us to say it or do it for her. These questions will help in getting the child involved:
1. Can I eat it?
2. Can I wear it?
3. Can I play with it?
The answers are either yes or no and at the end we ask her to say the name or help her to say it. Most of the time she knows the answer and either she is shy about it or just playing with us. This dialog is very common in the house and it’s done by either parent with similar effective results. It works for us. Be patient and just encourage your child to say it.
Be a trust entity; never lie to your child. Even if it is a white lie, the same will be pay back to us when our children get older. They will lie to us and not trust us. Even if I think that the child may not understand, I give her something for her to think and process. Children are ready to prove themselves and are always looking to challenge their boundaries along with ours. By telling everything as it is, I am giving them the opportunity to ask questions and develop critical thinking. Kids say the darnest things and never know what will come out of my child’s mouth but it amazes me every time I hear it. Challenge your child, let him or her show you whether they can do it or not. Encourage them rather than prohibit.
Let them experience it: When we growing up, we didn’t enjoy the information that is available now nor enjoyed the safety benefits and measures of. We were told, “Do not touch that” and that was it. No explanation, no why. If the stove was hot, we were told don’t touch it and that was it. Curious that I was, I wanted to see what the red bright circle looks like and touch it. So I did, and got burned. On top of my burn pain, I felt the swift spanking from my Dad in whatever part of the body, reprimanding me for being disobedient. That was the learning method “you don’t touch it, or it will go bad for you.
When I ride my motorcycle and go to my parent’s house, my nephew and nice come out to greet me. There are bubbly, loving pair, living in innocence. The gather around me and Mami, my Mom, yells “no toques, caliente” Don’t touch it, Hot! They stop in their tracks, obedient to their grandmother but longing to come closer. I can feel the excitement in their eyes. I reached out a hand for them to come closer and feel the bike, I get them to feel the heat of the engine, safely, of course and their curiosity has been safely satisfied. I am not implying that’s the way to go. Every child to their parents even my niece and nephew, but it is a learning experience for them, so I prefer to let them experience it. The next time they already know not to get close because they felt it before and now they know and with periodically re-enforcements will be in their minds forever.
Negotiate: Children are natural “hagglers” with the innocence of really not understanding other way than their way. They just won’t give in unless they get what they want or you “negotiate” something. When interacting with children, think and act like a child with the wisdom to choose what’s right of course. It’s all about negotiation and repetition. Give them choices: A, B, or C and the consequences if continue to misbehave. Let them think about it and choose. If after trying still don’t get the desired results, think about this: “not everything goes according to plan”. Relax, be patient and adjust you halo, but be firm; you already told him or her choices so no need to keep repeating. Remember; let them know who is in control.
A recent example that happened to me:
Papi: Kary it’s time to go to bed
Karymar: but Papi one more movie
Papi: Karymar it’s late, there is school tomorrow
Karymar : Please! Pleaseeee, plllllease!!!
Papi: no Kary, you already watched a movie, it’s time to brush your teeth, read a story, do our prayers and go to bed…..and … I’ll sing you a song ( motivation)
Karymar: but Paaapi!!
Papi: I said no Karymar, you can watch another movie tomorrow, now its’ time to rest so you can be smart in school.
Karymar : no,… I want movie. ( she goes and pick up the movie she wants)
Papi: and I said, No
Karymar: Moooovie, mooovie ( opening the case of the movie)
Karymar: Mooovie (now she opens the DVD players tray…yes, she knows how)
Papi: Karymar, if you play that movie Papi is going to get upset because you’re not being obedient. I am not saying you can’t watch a movie, juts not now because you have to go to bed to go to school tomorrow and help your teacher. If you do what Papi says, tomorrow we will watch the movie together with pop corn ( insert your child’s favorite,…. “the bribing hook”) or you want grapes instead? ( a favorite back up)
Karymar: (silent but with a face)
Papi: come on, please be nice. Hop on ( as I turn), let’s go to the bathroom, I help you.
Karymar: calling… Mami ( the benefactor)
Papi: Mami is going to tell you what I just told you. So either come right now ( watching my tone) and be obedient or you go straight to bed without reading a story and no movie and no ice cream tomorrow. Is that what you want?
Karymar: pause…..I want Mami, Mami do it
Papi: Mami is busy, I AM here with you ( stressing this ). If you behave well you can have everything I just told you, we read a story, say our prayers and sing you a song but if you don’t, you get nothing. What are you going to do Karymar? ( pause) Are you going to be a good girl?
Karymar: UhuMmMm! Si
Papi: good my love, let’s go, I’ll help you! ( smiles, hugs and kisses)
After doing everything, I tucked her into her bed and said “thank you Karymar for being such an obedient and good girl” and “tomorrow we will watch movies with pop corn”
Karymar: with grapes Papiiii
Papi: with grapes mi amor
Finally (for now), lead by example: we love our children right? There is no doubt that we would do anything possible to make them happy and in turn we expect them to behave and be good boys and girls. Therefore we must lead by example by living to the values we want them to acquire and follow. I cannot tell my daughter to put her clothes in the basket if I leave mine on the floor. First she will call me out I am sure and it may be funny at the beginning, but over time it will be a problem. It applies to habits, attitudes and pretty much everything you wouldn’t want them to do or behave. It is not “ do as I say and not as I do” rather think “would this habit I do be a bad influence to my child in the future?” if it does, change it…lead by example.
As time goes on and the children grow we adjust our system, adding, removing or modifying completely. Parenting is not a never-ending “job”, but a way of life and pretty rewarding that it is.