1. Parent like you are in public, even when you are not. Why do we monitor our behavior in public but feel free to act any way we want when we are at home? Most of us would never scream like a crazy person at our children at the park, in the middle of the mall, or at their school. If you act like you are being videotaped and it will be shown on the Jumbotron with you in picture-in-picture, you will monitor your behavior like you would with people in public or at work. We all have our meltdowns every once in awhile. Everyone makes mistakes! Admit you didn’t handle yourself very well and say you’re sorry. Just because you become a parent does not automatically make you a good parent. Parenting is not passive. Just like anything else, becoming good at it takes a lot of thought and practice.
2. Talk a lot to toddlers – they are listening. Talk a little to teens – so you can listen if they talk. Toddlers can listen to a parent talk for hours and love to imitate every word. Eventually the toddler becomes a teen who, at least at times, will be annoyed by every word that comes out of your mouth. A cruel irony of parenting. Just when you think you have done your very best teaching them to talk, they can’t stand to hear YOU do it! So, unleash your inner chatterbox when they are little, but zip it more and more, starting at about when your child goes to middle school. They will tell you things, but you have to be silent for them to speak up!
3. Don’t take your children’s behavior personally. You have put your best foot forward and feel like you are doing, or have done, a pretty good job as a parent, but then your 5-year-old has a meltdown in the middle of a crowded store. The more kids think they can control your behavior as a parent by misbehaving, the more they will misbehave, especially in public. Natural consequences, as long as there are no safety issues, often do more to change kid’s behavior than any discipline technique. Melting down can also be a way for kids to manipulate parents into giving them what they want. Striking a “no skin off my back” or “whatever” attitude, especially practicing at home first (without giving in) often stops uncharacteristic behavior.