American Parenting—In Honor of Independence Day

It’s too dry this year to set off fireworks in Montana and so instead I’ll be blogging about parenting in honor of Independence Day.

The surge in interest and media coverage of Tiger parenting and French parenting this past year has been a great thing. It’s not that I think American parents should go out and adopt either of these styles (although I like Asia and France), but the more we talk and learn about parenting, the better. To keep parenting in the focus for both my blog readers (Hi Rylee:), every day this week I’ll be posting a blog on American parenting. Actually, this is more about Montana parenting.

 Montanans embrace values of independence, generosity, honesty, and hard work. In the spirit of these values—especially the hard work value—every day this week I’m featuring a different “Homework Assignment for Parents.” These assignments are adapted from the book How to Listen so Parents will Talk and Talk so Parents will Listen.

If you like these homework assignments, feel free to use them. If you like them a lot, go to the Amazon page and “Like” the book (thanks for doing that). And, of course, if you love what you’re reading you can buy the book at Amazon too.

Here’s Parent Homework Assignment installment #1.

Creating Special Family Times

Special time for families can be formal (as described in the Special Time Tip Sheet) or less formal.

This homework assignment is for parents who want to work on creating spontaneous special time for family connection.

Idea 1: Be a keen observer of what your child loves. This can be as simple as noticing when and why your child smiles. If you watch for these happy or joyful moments, you’ll undoubtedly be able to generate ideas for how to help create more happiness and joy.

Idea 2: Ask yourself a few questions to get in touch with how you might create more special times. These questions might include:

1. ‘‘What do you and your child naturally do for fun together?’’

2. ‘‘When do you and your child find yourselves enjoying each other?’’

3. ‘‘What would be a fun or interesting activity that you and your child could do together?’’

4. ‘‘What does your child like to do on his or her own or with his or her friends?’’ ‘‘Is it possible for you to be involved in any of these . . . even as a supportive person to create the situation?’’

5. ‘‘Do you play any family games together with your child?’’

6. ‘‘What did you do for fun when you were younger?’’ ‘‘Is there any way to smoothly (without big expectations) introduce your child to something you love to do? (for example, playing cards, fly-fishing, second-hand shopping, arts and crafts, etc.)

Idea 3: Every once in a while drop everything and focus on your child. Although it’s not healthy for you to ‘‘be there’’ for your child and cater to his or her every desire, it is important to occasionally stop whatever you’re doing to give your child your undivided attention. This might involve turning off the television, closing your laptop, putting down the newspaper, or powering down your telephone. The point is that you want to give your child the clear message that she or he is your number one priority. This message will help you put a deposit in your child’s emotional bank account.

Idea 4: Speak up about your positive feelings. In the harried pace of American life, it’s easy to forget to add in the little positive expressions to the people you love. To counter this forgetful tendency, you should make a commitment to say ‘‘I love you’’ to your child every day. Perhaps even more important are spontaneous statements about how you ‘‘like’’ your child. Try that out. When you see something you like about your child’s personality or behavior, just say, ‘‘I like who you are’’ or ‘‘I like it when you do that.’’ Saying you like your child can convey even more important meaning to them than saying ‘‘I love you.’’ In addition, be clear about wanting to spend time with your child by saying things like, ‘‘I want to spend some time with you,’’ and then schedule it if you need to.

These are four simple ideas for creating special time in your family. Take a minute to think about these ideas and then improve on them by creating new and better ideas that fit your family and help you intentionally have more fun and more special times together.



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