January is a time for resolutions and the desire to begin anew. Why not use this new chapter as an opportunity to bring family dynamics back into the foreground and get everyone tuned into harmony?
It's a fact (and don’t blame yourself: parenthood can sometimes be difficult. While we all aspire to be the best parents in the world, sometimes reality catches up with us. We want to be funny, relaxed, and in control. We wish we didn't have household chores waiting and a professional life constantly on the end of our phones. We fantasize about having a huge bag of patience that would help us better manage our children in crisis. What if all of this could come true, really. What if the means to achieve this were simple and involved children on a daily basis?
To get the year off to a good start, Familiprix, in collaboration with Vie de Parents, offers some great tips to foster a positive atmosphere in which young and old alike participate in family tasks without the situation deteriorating.
“To make sure we maintain our goals, we must first make sure that we have realistic expectations. It’s better to prioritize a single resolution and stick to it than several that won't hold up all year! By sharing our resolution, we increase our chances of sustaining it; hence the idea of making a family resolution that is then shared with the entire family. Thus, we increase the level of motivation, get our little ones’ cooperation, while stimulating personal discipline and perseverance,” said Geneviève Harvey-Miville, a specialized educator.
While you can’t make fun of everything, you can always make everyday tasks more fun and more playful to complete. Children love to play and will participate more.
A few examples:
Play silent ninjas
Pick up as many toys or clothes that are lying around and return them to their places without Mom, Dad or a sibling noticing. Hide while moving through the house while being silent and do so as quickly as possible.
The floor is on fire
Just before bath time, ask the children if they are able to get the towels and washcloths from the closet without touching certain tiles on the floor.
The length of a song
For toddlers at bedtime: remove all their clothes, put them in the laundry basket, pick out some pyjamas and put them on before the song is over.
For daily routines, it will certainly be easier to stick to your schedule if you involve the children by making them responsible. Questioning can become a great tool to encourage children's involvement.
For example, for the morning routine, ask your child what they need to wear and bring to school for the day. While leading the conversation, start with the basics and try to get them to list everything they’ll need. You can make this time more fun by joking around, like "What do you need before you can put on your shoes for school? Slippers, mittens...? Oh right, socks!” These fun little moments will help your child become more aware and take more responsibility.
Express your feelings in terms of “I”
Children like to understand, which is one of the reasons why they ask a lot of questions. It’s important to explain the hows and the whys to them in order to encourage their involvement.
Explain to your child that you like their toys to be put away neatly, because then they’re easier to find and everyone can move around the room better. Using simple reasons like this that are easy to conceptualize, your child will want to do their part.
By using the "I" and expressing observations and describing our emotions, it will be easier to make the child understand what is wrong. You could say: "I don't like to repeat the same instructions over and over again, I would rather sing with you. The "I" is nicer than the "you", because it doesn't accuse, denigrate or humiliate.
“Quick tip: avoid negative terms. Not being developed to their full potential, children's brains don’t always have the ability to properly decode what wrong words mean. So, if you tell them: “I don't want you to jump on the sofa”, the child's brain will decode only the words jump and sofa. In this way, the child will go against the stated instruction. Then propose the formula in the positive: “I prefer that you sit on the sofa, please," explained Geneviève Harvey-Miville, a specialized educator.
The general idea of providing choices is not giving the child the option to help or not, but rather to direct their choice. The options should be clear, limited and specific. For example, we can suggest two tasks: "Do you prefer to set the table or put away the clothes that are in the basket?"
A few little additional tips can help children prioritize the right choices, like using grandma's old technique! To increase participation and decrease frustration, get into the habit of decreasing your use of the word IF and increasing your use of WHEN.
Instead of saying, “If you don't get dressed, you won't be able to…”, try “When you get dressed, you can go play outside.” Phrasing it this way usually helps children make the right choices," added Geneviève Harvey-Miville, a specialized educator.
In collaboration with Vie de Parents