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Rated: 13+ · Editorial · Educational · #1970474
The benefits of positive parenting and the effects on society.
When did violence become entertainment? I rarely watch television because so many shows incorporate torture, abuse, and cruelty into the plot, and as a grandmother of two young boys who attend the same pre-school and after-school care, I've noticed a lot of emphasis being placed on bullying. What's happening to society? Are we raising bullies?

Bullying shows up in several ways, not limited to, physical—hitting, shoving, and kicking. Verbal bullying—name calling, threats and intimidation, and repeated teasing. And indirect bullying—destroying a child's image within his or her peer group, racist remarks, and threatening gestures.

Your child hears one percent of what you're saying and incorporates 90 percent of what you're doing. Society runs on high octane. When a child acts out, what is the immediate response when the parent is stressed? A short tempered, hasty comment using demeaning words?  What about sticking your finger in a child’s face and yelling? Slamming a hand on the table or wall? Are these weapons we deploy against children who can't fight back? Let it continue, and we'll have uncooperative teens who may themselves become bullies because they have no self-confidence. One step further and the adult bully takes it out on his or her partner. Bullying is not uncommon in the work place.

Many adults believe children must be controlled. Parents may employ the carrot vs. stick method. Rewards for good behavior, consequences for misbehavior. Why does this ultimately fail? Because by nature, the bribe or discipline escalates, and over time the child will empower themselves by no longer caring.

Deep down, good parents don't approve of the methodology. We strive to raise responsible and compassionate children. Doing this externally is an exercise in frustration. What is the alternative? Teach your child to control himself. Help your child cope by labeling emotions. You may not understand why your child is screaming or crying, but the child has a reason. Does it make sense to the adult? No. But the concern is valid and needs addressing. Take time to investigate.

When should this neutral parenting begin? I've taught children less than two years old compassion. How? First, by listening. Toddlers live in jungles of parent's legs. Drop down and look into your child's eyes. Children can't control their emotions, they are feeling machines. Without someone to contextualize their world, they're lost.

Teaching a child self-control requires discipline on the parent's part and vast amounts of patience. Even if it's a practiced patience, learning is worth the effort. I want to bring this towering issue all the way back to your toddler, back before it all began. Before they learned to say no. I've included some of my personal experiences. Think of your family as teammates who work best in coordinated efforts. Get your child on your side. Are you ready to prepare your weapons?

Ignore: Whatever does not endanger the child. Even if he's wearing his cereal bowl half-full of oatmeal, don't panic and shriek "No!" The moment you show interest, you've reinforced the behavior. Stay calm, "I see you're done eating," and remove the bowl while offering an alternative. "Here's a cracker."

Redirect: Make no fuss when you gently remove the toddler from the scene of crime. They're easily distracted.

Don't engage: If he's shaking his head and saying no while he's misbehaving, avoid eye contact.

If she's running away while you're trying to dress her, keep it cool. Life is a game to toddlers and you're their first choice for playmate. They expect you to chase them.

Avoidance. Decrease your toddler's opportunities to say no. Give them a choice. "Do you want to wear your red or green jacket?"

Are you tired of saying no? Is your toddler ignoring you? Here's a few alternative responses in situations that are not dangerous.

She's preparing her assault on the television buttons. "That's a negative." It catches their attention. In the interest of cutting back on no's, I remove everything precious to me. I leave out a few items that if broken, would not break my heart. It's an effective method to teach a child respect of others' property. My first grandson learned: "That's a Nana-no-touch." My second, after he's picked it up, says "Back." It's hard not to laugh. Now, he points to my belongings and says, "Nah-Nah's," and nods a wise head.

When my grandson picked up some disgusting piece of whatever was on my kitchen floor and it was headed straight toward his mouth, I asked,  "Can I have that?" Or, depending on the child's personality, "I'll take that." Hold out your hand and hope your child complies.

The Christmas tree was an exceptional challenge when he's ogling it with more than twinkling lights reflected in her eyes. "Looking, not touching." I reinforce by gently holding his hand.

Sometimes, he's running around the house. If I call out, "Don't run!" the child ignores the 'don't' part. Instead, try the positive: "Walking feet, please."

The throwing stage. She's preparing to throw an object (block, book, toy car).  Gently place her little fist on the floor, while saying "Put it down." Repeat this once or twice, but avoid overemphasis as this has the opposite effect. She'll be resentful and throw it. Of course, she may throw it anyway. If no one is jeopardized, ignore the taunt and try again next time. You might have to wait until the next day for things to cool off.

One frightful morning, my fourteenth-month grandson dumped the ceramic bowl of cat food and was preparing to shovel fistfuls into his mouth. Rather than shouting, or snatching his hand, I dropped to my knees and covered his mouth. To our advantage, toddlers like helping. I held out the empty bowl. "Can you help Nana pick this up?" It was close to half an hour before we picked up every piece, but it was time well spent. Always remember to reinforce the lesson. "Thank you for helping. Good listening."

My daughter was ironically furious the day her son walked into the house and declared: "What a mess." I inadvertently taught both my grandsons to see a mess, by saying, "Look at this mess. Can you help Nana clean it up?"

Toddlers are little scientists exploring their world. He's sticking a finger in a light socket. (He found the one socket you forgot to childproof.) Actions speak louder than words. Deploy redirect strategy. Swoop in, scoop him up in a hug and set him down where it's safe to play.

He's striking/swatting/hitting/yanking/pinching you, another kid, his sibling, an animal, or you. Take him out of the situation and stay calm. "Hitting hurts. Be gentle." Take his hand and demonstrate stroking.

See how easy that was?

There is no legislation to protect bullying in the workplace. At home, some kids skip school days because they're afraid of bullying. Some kids don't report bullying. But some kids befriend the bully or the youngster being bullied. They were raised by people who taught self-respect and confidence through example. And exquisite patience. These compassionate kids are gifts to a wounded society.  Perhaps child by child we'll be reaching toward the goal of living in a less violent and more charitable society.
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