Early parenting happens in such a flurry of laundry and lunch spills that it can be hard to finish a thought, nonetheless have a meaningful conversation about how you want to parent.
When our Big Guy was a toddler and we we were thinking about getting pregnant again, we decided it would be a good idea to give this parenting thing some real thought. So, we enrolled in The Incredible Years parenting classes. At the time, it was being taught at our son’s preschool, Peninsula Children’s Center and was fully funded by the Portland Children’s Levy.
The series was a twelve-week commitment, with a two-hour session every Monday. Since child care was provided, we both took the class. Hubby was one of just two Dads, but it was a great way for us to feel like we were co-pilots (The parenting analogy that always sticks in my head is whether you’d want to be a child in a plane where the pilots are bickering about how to fly…it’s always better to co-pilot together and discuss your differences as a couple.)
The class turned out to be worth our time…I think it may be the only parenting book I’ve ever gotten Hubby to read. Now over five years later, there are a few things that still stick with me/us:
- Importance of Playing with Your Child – This was a big focus of the class, and there were actually role playing sessions to get parents comfortable with the idea of playing again and to model how to play.
- Build a Relationship Before Turning to Consequences – Often times consequences are created during a moment of “knee-jerk parenting.” Building a relationship through play and conversation, and family traditions is a more intentional way of getting to positive behavior you’re seeking.
- Intentional Ignoring – I had never heard of ignoring as an actual parenting practice, but the Incredible Years classes showed plenty of examples of effective ignoring (in really low-budget badly-acted clips produced in the 80’s). Now I ignore as often as I can, and found it interesting that our Girly’s preschool uses this as a method for dealing with aggressors…the kids throw their chin up in the air to demonstrate ignoring. Sometimes I do this now for added effect.
We still have the Incredible Years Pyramid magnet on our fridge as a reminder of our class, and not long ago we decided that we need to reinstitute more play with Girly. She had been acting out and becoming aggressive/defiant with us. It had become obvious that she was craving more of our attention, since becoming a big sister (just 10 weeks ago now). So even though Hubby’s knee-jerk reaction was to take away her next ballet class, once everyone had calmed down, I convinced him that what she really needed was more of his undivided attention (he’d been coaching soccer on top of gushing over the baby). So for the past few weeks they’ve been spending more time together playing.
Our strategy for playtime is pretty simple. We like to say “Hey, we’ve got twenty minutes to play…do you want to play a game or read a book…?” We often end up playing for longer, but it’s too easy to convince yourself that you need a whole hour to really play. But in my experience, ten minutes of play time can stave off negative-attention-craving behavior and often gain some help following the play session. “Let’s play for 15 minutes, and when we’re done dinner will be almost ready and I’ll need your help setting the table…” Playtime may not be a magic potion, but it does help build a foundation.
Talking and problem-solving are other base strategies. When we talked with Girly about her angry feelings, she agreed that instead of hitting she could ask for a hug. So lately, instead of getting frustrated at her defiance we ask “Do you need a hug?” So far it’s working much better.
Have you taken the Incredible Years classes?
Do you prioritize playing with your kids?
@Darcy’s Utopia – Creating Utopia Together