You know that awkward moment when you see your child acting out in a way that is frustrating or embarrassing. Or, that moment when you see them being downright bad.
That moment when you think, “Oh dear… that is not my child acting that way…”
We’ve all been there. Every mom has been in this position at one point in their parenting journey.
My first memory of this was when Elayna was almost 2. We were at a play date with other moms and I saw her grab a toy from another child. The other child started crying. Elayna refused to give the toy back. Thus, I had my first experience with parenting in front of other moms.
With a two year old? You can all imagine how that went.
The pressure of other parents looking at you and your child to see what’s going to happen, who is going to win.
I wished in that moment that we had worked on sharing and talked about what would happen if she took a toy from another child before we were in this “too late” situation.
I determined right then and there that I would purpose to not parent that way, but to be more prepared.
I would parent ahead. I would anticipate my child’s actions in a way that would prepare me and prepare them for any and all situations.
How is that even possible?
Well, I’ve learned quite a bit about parenting ahead and making sure we aren’t in those awkward positions very often.
Here are some Parenting Ahead tips:
1. Think Ahead – Where are you going? What kind of atmosphere is it? Do your kids need to be quiet? Do they need to sit for a long period of time? Do they need something to keep them busy? Will there be other kids there? Think through the event, the day, the activity… what do your kids need to hear from you before they even walk in the door?
2. Take the Time – Parenting ahead takes time. Invest it in your kids. If you are always parenting in a rush, your kids will sense that. Use bedtime, car rides, or meal times to talk through the coming events.
3. Set Expectations – Your kids need to know exactly what you expect from them. If you are going to a nice restaurant, before you ever even enter the restaurant say, “I expect you to be quiet and use your manners. This is not a place to run around or talk loudly.” They need to know what you expect before they walk into a situation you could have helped prevent. (Funny story about this… Read the November 2006 entry in this post, you’ll have to scroll down to see it.)
4. Be Intentional – Spell out the rules. Every. single. one. Every. single. time. Intentionally, take the time in the car to prep your kids for what is coming. From “We are going to the park. You are not allowed to leave the play area.” to “I know after church you will see kids running around. You are not allowed to run.” to “When we get home, you need to brush your teeth, get your pajamas on and get ready for bed. There will be no goofing around at bedtime tonight. It is already very late.”
5. Be Clear – Make sure your kids understand what you are saying. Ask them to repeat you. Ask them if they have any questions. Be sure they understand your expectations and your rules for them.
6. Don’t wait for the problem – This is where you must anticipate what your kids might do. If you are going to the mall and you know your kids will beg for a new toy then cover that before you get to the mall. Say something like, “When we go inside, you are not allowed to ask for a new toy. Do not beg or whine for something new. That is disrespectful and unkind behavior.” If you wait, then you are in for a long trip in the mall or an embarrassing situation in a store with your child begging for something new.
7. Be responsible – You’ve prepped your kids. You’ve talked through the situation ahead. You’ve anticipated possible problems. You’ve been very clear. You’ve set a consequence for if they disobey. Now comes the follow through. Your kids need to know that if you prep them and set expectations, they must obey or they will face the consequence. Otherwise, parenting ahead will not work. They will be on to you pretty fast.
8. Don’t over-correct – If you are in a situation, don’t make it worse by pulling on your child or yelling at your child or being frustrated with them, drawing out the scene for the whole world to see. Sometimes, discipline and parenting can be much more effective if you want until you are back in the car or at home. Put the situation to memory and the next time you are in that position, be prepared for it!
9. Keep calm – You are the parent. Show them that you are in control and their behavior isn’t going to fluster you. Your kids need to see you follow through and handle the situation with grace and confidence.
10. Know your kids – Every child is different. Don’t just give a blanket rule to all your kids. Sometimes that works but other times, each child will need individual instructions. If you know one child has a problem with boundaries, speak specifically to that. If you have a child that has a problem being calm, speak to that. If you have a child that tends to throw fits, talk that through ahead of time. Know your kids tendencies and personal behavior struggles. Anger, lying, rowdiness, manners… they can all be handled and parented ahead of time so your kids know exactly what you expect from them every time.
I always feel better prepared as a mom if my girls know what to expect from me and I have expressed what I expect from them.
Parenting ahead helps our kids know boundaries and stay within them.
Parenting ahead brings peace to otherwise unsteady moments, busy times and stressful days.
I can always tell if I forget to parent ahead because I find myself back-pedaling and trying to get my girls attention in a difficult situation. On the other hand, I can definitely tell when I’ve prepared my girls and they are ready for what is ahead. Life goes much, much smoother!
In what ways do you parent ahead?