By Alison Bell
Parents, you’re on the countdown to the end of summer vacation. As much fun as it’s been having your kids around, as the weeks wear on, tempers can flare, kids can act out, and about now you may be feeling desperate to swap any remaining pool days for school days.
How to nip any conflicts in the bud and enjoy the final weeks of summer with your children? Jacqueline Camacho-Gutierrez, a licensed marriage and family therapist and coordinator of Hillsides evidence-based practices, offers advice based on a Positive Parenting Program therapists at Hillsides use. You can also implement these tips year round for a happier, calmer household during any season:
- Think quality not quantity when it comes to giving your child attention. When you’re busy and your child wants your attention – again! — it’s all too easy to say, “Not now, honey. ” However, even this very mild rebuke can make kids feel rejected and cause them to turn sullen or act out. Instead, says Camacho-Gutierrez, realize that a short burst of your attention – even just 30 seconds – is enough to make your child feel valued and loved. So the next time you’re in the middle of something and your son wants to show you a book he just read, stop what you’re doing and say, “I’m so proud of you for reading it. That’s amazing.” This quick exchange allows your child to walk away feeling proud and for you to fulfill an important need within just seconds.
- Never let your child outgrow physical affection. Not all children enjoy hugs and kisses. Even those who do eventually go through a phase where they no longer want Mom or Dad to shower them with physical affection – especially after a long summer of togetherness. Yet being physically close is an important part of bonding with your child and without it, the relationship can suffer. What to do? “Offer high fives and thumbs up,” says Camacho-Gutierrez. “Even a little wink will work.” You achieve the physical closeness without the “Ew, stop it mom.”
- Use ‘descriptive’ praise. When praising your child, rather than giving a generic compliment such as “Great job!” be very specific. Examples would be “I really like the way you played nicely with your brother this morning” or “I was impressed how well you shared your toys.” Specific praise makes kids feel like parents are really paying attention plus it reinforces the good behavior, says Camacho-Gutierrez.
- Switch negatives with positives. Instead of telling your kids what you want them to stop doing, explain to them what you want them to For example, rather than asking, “Please stop hitting your brother,” say, “Please keep your hands to yourself.” This technique prevents kids from feeling blamed and gives them clear guidance on what behavior is expected.
- Try out this magic sentence structure. Do you ever feel like you repeat the same thing to your children a hundred times to no avail and the next thing you know, you’re yelling? The solution: The “if/then” sentence, says Camacho-Gutierrez. Here’s how it works: You ask your children to keep their hands to themselves. If they don’t, after five seconds, follow up with an “if/then” consequence, such as, “If you don’t keep your hands to yourself, you will have to have a time out for five minutes.” Allow them another five seconds to cooperate, and if they don’t, give them the consequence. It may take awhile for your children to know you mean business, but after a few times, they’ll start paying attention to your request the first time you ask.
Of course, all the parenting tips in the world can’t guarantee there won’t be a few lumps and bumps as you wind up the summer. But try to enjoy this time with your children as much as possible because as soon as they’re back in school, you’re sure going to miss them!
Alison Bell serves as the communications and development associate in Hillsides advancement services and is an author and writing instructor.