Five Cs of Parenting
Parenting can be such a dichotomy; at times it can bring you to your knees, and at others the bliss is indescribable. Catch me when my kids are throwing an epic tantrum, and, in that moment, I’d trade jobs with a lion tamer. Yet at those times when I’m snuggling with my children, as they gently nestle in close, I would not give up being a mom for any amount of money the world could offer.
Here are five Cs of parenting to maintain and create equilibrium, through the highs and lows of parenthood.
Standing behind the glass, peering at the various frozen yogurt options in the store, my children were picking out their preferred flavors. But their high-pitched requests (read: whines) had begun almost as soon as we walked through the door.
“Mom, can I get a cone instead of a cup?”
“Mom, can I get Oreo and M&M toppings?”
“What, about chocolate syrup and peanut butter sauce?”
“No, no, and no,” I replied.
To be honest, I hated saying no. My intention was to allow each of them one flavor and one topping. The problem was, I did not tell them my expectations beforehand. When we don’t express clear expectations and boundaries for our children, they start to question and test limits in order to find out where those boundaries fall.
When we express our expectations clearly, children have a chance to process and accept them. Brittney Yahalom, an expert in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TFCBT), shares valuable advice. “Set your child up for success by letting them know what is going to happen BEFORE it happens. Not seconds before…but minutes, hours, or even days before. The more time they have to prepare, the better! This way, your child gets an opportunity to process, visualize, and anticipate what’s coming. This will likely decrease the frequency of meltdowns, tantrums, and frustration and increase acceptance and compliance.”
When we are not clear or waver about what we expect from our children, they pick up on it. Then, they either purposefully try to test the limits or feel imbalanced. For example, two of my children used to have an exceptionally difficult time upon arriving home from school.
Therefore, during the drive home, I now prepare them by telling them what they can expect, and what I expect from them. “Girls, as soon as we get home, we will put our things away and wash our hands for a snack! I want to see smiles, happy faces, and big, strong girl voices!”
By focusing on what we would like to see instead of what we don’t want to, children will be more likely to follow instructions.
The term consequence gets a really bad rep, but it is not necessarily negative. There are different types of consequences that children experience in their journey of life.
Natural consequences are not punishments; rather they are life’s reactions to our choices. If a child tips a glass containing liquid, the natural consequence is that it will spill out—every time. (Especially during dinner). Children are like scientists learning about the world through natural consequences. A child can learn a tremendous amount from natural consequences without the parent having to intervene at all.
Sometimes a parent needs to guide their child using logical consequences. This type of consequence offers a logical response that a parent puts into play. For example, if a child uses a toy to hit another child, that toy may be taken away for some time.
Positive consequences are yet another type of consequence which can be extremely motivating. It is for this reason that using positive consequences helps improve behavior. Sometimes, I will vocalize a positive consequence. For example, “Anyone who has a smile on their face when they get home from school will get a piece of gum after dinner.” Or, “Anyone who helps Mommy clean up after dinner will get one extra book at bedtime!”
Although positive consequences have their place, logical consequences help define limits as well, especially for the strong-willed child.
If my child is kicking their sibling’s chair, I will ask them to stop. If they continue, I will give an “if-then” consequence. For example, “If you kick the chair again, then you will have to leave the table for a few minutes.”
Follow through is necessary for the consequence to have effect. Otherwise, your words have no credence in your child’s perspective, and the negative behavior continues.
Whether the consequence is positive or negative, the only way behavior will change is when we are consistent with the consequences.
There is a joke about a man who was in the supermarket. His daughter began to beg for a pack of gum while waiting in line for the cash register, and he refused.
This caused a strong reaction in the child. “Why? Why? Why!” she screamed. She began to throw a tantrum, while stomping her feet.
Exasperated, he turned to her and finally said, “Because it’s not kosher!”
The person behind the register asked the man if he was even Jewish.
“Nope, and I don’t even know what kosher is. But I saw someone in line a few days ago in the same situation. The mom said, ‘It’s not kosher,’ and the crying magically stopped.”
Even though this is a joke, many people who keep kosher can attest to the phrase working instantly. However, this is because if a family keeps strictly kosher, it’s consistent, without wavering. When we are consistent about a rule, the child understands the boundary, and more often than not, she accepts it.
Something to keep in mind is that when initiating a rule, or laying out our expectations, the behavior can sometimes get worse before it gets better. As parents, we may be tempted to give up when this happens.
When we introduce a new rule to our children, they will test limits, whine, throw a tantrum, or even contort their bodies. Once the trust of that consistency has been implemented, you will see your children thrive under their new conditions.
All of the above must be implemented with a calm voice and demeanor. If we give consequences or express our expectations in anger, our children won’t be able to hear the message through the noise. No matter how consistent we are, anger will override all we are trying to accomplish. Try to deliver the three Cs above with calmness, both in voice and body language.
Everyone angers occasionally, and no one can or should expect perfection from themselves at all times. When this happens, simply apologize to your child for getting angry and let him or her know that you, too are a work in progress. This shows the child that he or she can make mistakes and are still lovable despite that fact.
“C” (See) the Good
Rabbi Meir Yedid once shared a beautiful dvar Torah about seeing the good in our children. The Torah describes a scene where Reuven went out to the field and picked doodaim, flowers, for his mother, Leah. The flowers were very dear to Leah, as they were meant to enhance fertility. Commentaries share that Leah loved these flowers so much because they were wildflowers. This meant that Reuven was careful not to steal even one flower from someone else’s land. Leah noticed her son’s pure actions.
I try to apply this concept to my family in our own way.
In our home, we implement something called “awesome jars.” Each child has their own mason jar labeled with their name. Throughout each week, I will make sure to look for certain acts my children have done that are “awesome note-worthy.” I then place the note in the jar. There is no act too small to notice. For example, one note might read, Josh helped his younger sister cut her food. Or, Nava tried to help baby Liv stop crying. At the end of the week, we read the notes aloud and have a raffle. The kids love this system, and the entire atmosphere in the home has changed for the better since utilizing it. My kids know I’m admiring and noticing their good behavior and look for opportunities to fulfill that.
If we follow these five techniques, the natural consequence is that we will start to see change for the good in our homes, not only because we are viewing them through a positive light, but also because their good behavior will actualize.