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As a parent, I have learned a few lessons about parenting and thought maybe I should write them down. Maybe I can help someone else who may be struggling with the same issues I have dealt with.
I have been a single parent by choice since I was pregnant with my oldest child. He is 24 now. Although I got married briefly when he was 7 and my youngest was 3, I prefer the single parenting, because I made the rules and no one fought me on them. I was the boss in our household.
When I was pregnant with Josh those 24 years ago, I seriously wondered if I would be a good parent since all of the single moms I knew were not what I thought of as good parents. I seriously thought of giving my child up for adoption. I was very insecure as to whether or not I could do it on my own. I had a lot of support from my brother and his wife and her mother and decided to try it on my own. I mean, I had them to lean on when things got tough. Four years later I was repeating the process of deciding to keep another child when I was not married. I knew Josh and I would be fine but adding another mouth in there scared me...how could I ever do it with two kids all alone?? Again, my brother and his wife were very supportive although they lived many miles away, and in another country, but they were there to talk to. Another brother and his wife offered support to me in whatever decision I made, too, and things seemed to be okay. But things changed.
I had a temper and I knew not what I was doing to my kids. When Josh was 5 and Andy was one I took to severely punishing Josh in a public place, a laundromat. I was told by another patron there that what I was doing was wrong. Of course, I didn't want to hear her and I cursed her out, but I knew deep inside I was wrong to hit my son as I did. After I cried a little I went to her and asked her what I could do, how do I get help. She told me to contact United Way and ask about their mother-to-mother mentoring program. I did as she mentioned and they told me I could not get help unless I was referred by Child Protection Services. I immediately called CPS and cried and told them I was afraid of hurting my children and I wanted help to control my anger. They referred me to a Positive Parenting course. That is what this article is really about.
Through the Positive Parenting course I learned how to discipline my children without beating or berating them. I learned how to teach them (what discipline really is) to be responsible for their actions, and how to control their own tempers. I learned about self-esteem and how to raise it in myself and in my kids. I learned how to control my temper and what to do if I felt overwhelmed. I was given a mentor, someone I could call upon if times got really tough and I needed a listening ear. I found new meaning in life and felt worth being alive. I became a better parent...thanks to the classes I attended. I will share some of those lessons with you. My only hope is that you come away with a better sense of self and a better way to parent your child/ren.
One thing I learned about was the IALAC sign that we all carry around with us. IALAC stand for "I Am Loveable And Capable." Everyone in the world has one of these invisible signs. Some have a complete sign. Others have just the string that is holding it on. Basically it is a self-esteem sign. When we are cut down, yelled at, or made to feel small and insignificant a piece of that sign gets torn off. When we are praised, loved and made to feel good about ourselves some of that sign gets glued back on. What is important to remember here is that it takes 10 times the amount of good stuff to replace ONE time of bad stuff. Verbal abuse is one way to tear off big chunks of that sign and many of us don't even realize we are verbally abusing our kids until we step outside of ourselves and see what we are doing. Every time we tell our kids they "didn't do good enough" we are abusing them, making their self-esteem crumble. For instance, in school, if our child comes home with a "B" instead of an "A" and we harp on him that he could have done better. How does that child feel then? He feels that he is no good. A gentle nudging, of course, is okay, but when a parent gets upset and frustrated because their child is "not good enough" then a chunk comes off the IALAC sign. Another way of ruining your child's self esteem is to compare her to others. For instance, an older sibling is a straight "A" student but little Mary struggles with getting "C's" and Mom and Pop are telling her to be like her older sibling. They are making her feel "not good enough" and a chunk comes off her IALAC sign. School isn't the only place this plays a part. I just used it as a reference that we all know about. Another is chores around the house. Maybe Johnny has to do the dishes tonight but when he is done there are still spots on some of the dishes and Mom yells at him because he didn't do them "good enough" and a large chunk comes off his IALAC sign. Or Susie is suppose to mow the lawn but misses a patch of grass. Dad yells at her and tells her she didn't do it "good enough" and a chunk comes off the IALAC sign.
To repair the IALAC one needs to praise the good a child does. I heard a commercial on the radio the other day where the father is yelling for his daughter and she thinks she is in trouble but her dad tells her she did a great job in cleaning her room. That was a great example of how to repair an IALAC sign. Any time we catch our kids doing something good, even if it just watching TV quietly, we need to praise them and their behavior. This all adds to the IALAC sign. If your child is riding his bike down the street and is staying on the sidewalk and being responsible it's good to tell him he did great. If your child eats all of her vegetables and doesn't complain about the meal, it's a good time to praise her behavior. When your child brings home a "C" paper, tell him that you know he did his best and don't forget the hug. All of these are great ways to build up a child's self-esteem and IALAC sign. Remember, we are all Loveable and Capable. Every day you should find a way to tell your child you love them. As my boys got older, in their preteen years it was embarassing to them for me to tell them I loved them, when we were in public. You know how boys are... anyway, and I know this will sound strange, I started to say "You are a brat" but in a loving way. It is our code for "I love you." and we say it all the time. We know this is what it means and thats all that matters. I would never advocate you calling your child any names, if they are done in anger or disgust because that is a sure IALAC ripper. But my kids and I have this way of saying things that we understand what we really are saying.