behavior or problems before they arise
Seems easy enough. You “childproof” your house to make sure your
crawling baby or toddler can’t get into the cleaning products or
electrical outlets. You catch your eight-year-old jumping on the bed
and make her stop. You make your 12-year old wear his helmet when he
rides his bike, no matter how “dumb” he thinks it makes him look.
But prevention goes beyond just saying “no” or “stop.” There are two
parts to prevention: 1) Spotting possible problems; and 2) Knowing how
to work through the problem. Let’s look at each one a little closer.
Spotting possible problems
Consider these methods for spotting problems before they turn into
- Be actively involved in your child’s life.
This is important for all parents, no matter what the living
arrangements. Knowing how your child usually thinks, feels, and acts
will help you to notice when things begin to change. Some changes are
part of your child’s growing up, but others could be signs of trouble.
- Set realistic limits and enforce them consistently.
Be selective with your limits, by putting boundaries on the most
important behaviors your child is engaged in. Make sure you and your
child can “see” a limit clearly. If your child goes beyond the limit,
deal with him or her in similar ways for similar situations. If you
decide to punish your child, use the most effective methods, like
restriction or time-outs. You could also make your child correct or
make up for the outcome of his or her actions; make sure the harshness
of the punishment fits your child’s “crime.” As your child learns how
limits work and what happens when he or she goes past those limits, he
or she will trust you to be fair.
- Create healthy ways for your
child to express emotions.
Much “acting out” stems from children
not knowing how to handle their
emotions. Feelings can be so intense that usual methods of expressing them don’t
work. Or, because feelings like anger or
sadness are viewed as “bad,” your child
may not want to express them openly. Encourage your child to express emotions
in a healthy and positive way; let your
child see you doing things to deal with
your own emotions. Once these feelings
are less powerful, talk to your child about how he or she feels and why. Make sure
your child knows that all emotions are
part of the person that he or she is,
not just the “good” or happy ones. Once
your child knows his or her range of
emotions, he or she can start to learn how
to handle them.
Did you know...?
All parents should maintain positive relationships with their children.3
One parent, two
parents, grandparents, foster parents, weekend parents, stepparents.
Regardless of whether or not you live with your child, it’s important
that you maintain a positive relationship with him or her. A positive
relationship gives your child a stable environment in which to grow, so
that you are one of the people your child learns to depend on.
Knowing how to work through the problem
Because problems are quite different, how you solve them also
differs. To solve tough problems, you may need more complex methods.
Keep these things in mind when trying to solve a problem:
- Know that you are not alone.
to other parents or a trusted friend or relative. Some of them might be
dealing with or have dealt with similar things. They may have ideas on
how to solve a problem in a way you haven’t thought of. Or, they might
share your feelings, which can also be a comfort.
- Admit when a problem is bigger than you can handle alone or requires special expertise.
No one expects you to solve every problem your family has by yourself.
Some problems are just too big to handle alone, not because you’re a
“bad” parent, but simply because of the nature of the problem. Be
realistic about what you can and can’t do on your own.
- Get outside help, if needed.
There will be times when you just won’t know how to help
your child; other times, you truly won’t be able to help your child.
That’s okay; someone else may know how to help. Use all the resources
you have to solve a problem, including getting outside help when you
need it. Remember that it’s not important how a problem is solved, just
that it is.
|Where can I go for parenting help?|
- Other Parents
- Family Members and Relatives
- School Nurses and Counselors
- Social Workers and Agencies
- Psychologists and Psychiatrists
- Pastors, Priests, Rabbis and Ministers
- Community Groups
- Support and Self-Help Groups
If you’d like, turn to the section that matches your child’s age
to read more about how some parents have included preventing
in their daily parenting routine. Or you can read on to learn
about the M3 in RPM3.
The M3 in RPM3 describes three complex, but central principles
of parenting: monitoring, mentoring, and modeling.
Many people are confused by these words because they seem similar, but
they are really very different. It might be easier to understand these
ideas if you think of them this way:
- Being a monitor
means that you pay careful attention to your
child and his or her surroundings, especially his or her groups of friends and peers and in getting used to school.
- Being a mentor
means that you actively help
your child learn more about him or herself, how the world works, and
his or her role in that world. As a mentor, you will also support your
child as he or she learns.
- Being a model
means that you use your own words and actions
as examples that show your beliefs, values, and attitudes in action for your child on a daily basis.
Now let’s look at each one more closely. Monitoring your child seems straightforward, so let’s start there.