12 Habits of a Highly Effective MomMia Cronan
Over the few years that I have spent as a mother, I've tried hard to listen carefully to this new group of peers, in addition to reading books on the topic of good mothering. In that time, I've been able to identify what I feel is truly important when blessed with the task of raising children and preparing them for the world. Much like, when in the workforce, we use our peers' viewpoints of doing business to determine where we fall on the spectrum and decide how we can proceed effectively, we do the same in parenting. Here you will find twelve areas that you may be able to relate to and mull over in determining what is important to you as a mother.
1. Praise positive behavior
There have been times when I have crawled into bed at night thinking that my day had been full of nothing but negative exchanges with my children. That is a daunting feeling, and it always leaves me swearing that I will not say anything critical or less than positive the next day, for fear of leaving them feeling less than good about themselves, in turn. But the truth is, there will be times when, in an effort to make the most of our children, we let them know how and where they fall short. It cannot be avoided. In light of that, the old saying, "Catch your kids doing something right," is so important here. It's easy to say, "I really don't like how you slammed that door," but it takes a little more work to say, "I really liked the way you just shared with your sister." That kind of immediate observation goes a long way toward promoting positive behavior. Your children will want to repeat it as soon as they can. And it will certainly feel better to you to say those kinds of good things!
2. Find time for yourself -- spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
How many times have we said that there is just not enough time in a day? Far too often in my case. But, if you budget your time, and I am learning how to do that, there is always 30 minutes somewhere in a day to do a little something for yourself. Moms quite often get so caught up in "doing" for everyone else and feeling totally indispensable, that there is the underlying assumption that there is no time left for Mom. If you are able to set aside that 30 minutes, you can identify something that really does something for your spirit, whether it's praying, reading a book, doing some stretching exercises, or calling a friend. So many moms say that it makes them a better mother when they are able to "nurture the nurturer" a little. Otherwise, how can you give when there is nothing left of you to give? Along these same lines, it is equally important that you develop a network of moms who are also at home with their children. Who better can we share our joys and frustrations with than other moms who face the same challenges day to day that we do? This can oftentimes be done through the local community, your church, or you could even start one!
3. When the going gets tough, step away from it all.
Rather than blowing your stack when things hit a little too close to a nerve, try to step away for the moment to collect yourself. Even it means leaving a bowl of spilled cereal and milk on the floor for five minutes while you close your eyes and put it all in perspective. How tragic is it? How hard is it to clean up? It's probably not as bad as it seems at the moment, even though company's coming in ten minutes and you just mopped the floor, right? If you are able to distance yourself for a brief time, you will undoubtedly respond to the incident, rather than react to it -- big difference!
4. Stay in "synch" with your husband, and speak only with respect to and about each other.
As we all know, having children adds a new and wonderful dimension to the world of matrimony. There are times when our backgrounds, our priorities, our beliefs, or our own rearing will dictate that we feel differently from each other about certain parenting issues. What is the most important thing to consider when making decisions together that involve your children? Show unity. Even if you have to take turns backing off at times, for the most part a little work will allow you to compromise and grow stronger together as a result. And, your children will see a united front, which has got to be more important than the outcome of any one decision vs. another. The united front will demonstrate to your children your respect for each other and your desire to give them a solid foundation on which to build their own values and character. We've all heard the expression "stable home-life." I believe this one point to be a vertebrae in the backbone of that phrase.
5. Make special time for your children.
As in item #1, we can always budget a little time for the important things in life. Right now, as a stay-at-home or work-at-home parent, the important thing is your kids, right? I'm always amazed at how much my children respond to me when I've taken an hour to read to them or play Candy Land with them or push them on the swing set, offering 100% of my attention to them for that hour. They need it, and it shows in their behavior. When they act up and get obnoxious, all I have to do is ask myself, "How much direct time have I spent with them today?" Sometimes the answer to that question answers the question about why they are acting up! The time I'm talking about is above and beyond the usual preparing lunch for them, wiping their faces, helping them pick up their toys, and bathing them. I mean, direct contact doing something fun and maybe even educational.
6. Keep current with the news.
Have you ever gone to a social gathering without your children and felt at a loss for conversation because the things you deal with day to day are far removed from the working world and the things with which childless people deal? It can be uncomfortable, to say the least. That is why it is so important to be able to keep abreast of current events on a regular basis so that you can form intelligent opinions and be able to offer stimulating conversation to other seven if it's just your husband at times! He probably gets to listen to the news everyday on his way to the office. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to talk to him about worldly events over dinner rather than the number of times you caught your toddler trying to tickle the goldfish today? In addition to allowing you to talk to other adults, it affords you a little self-respect, rather than self-depreciating thoughts about your being removed from the world.
7. Speak to your children on a level slightly higher than their own.
Do this, and your children will be gently coerced into pulling their own vocabularies along. Baby talk sounds cute, and children do respond to it, but do they learn from it? Not at all. Language skills are being developed at warp speed right now, and allowing your children to challenge themselves with context clues (remember that phrase?) right now is a great way to prepare them for school. If spoken to intelligently, your child will be at a much greater advantage than the child who is spoken down to or with the use of baby talk. When discussing baby talk, I also refer to using the same incorrect pronunciations back to them that your children use to you, no matter how cute they are.
8. Remember the good things your mom did, and do them.
It's funny how the little things in life don't take on much meaning until we experience them again as adults. Take a little stroll down Memory Lane, and try to remember something special that your mom did for you periodically, something that you really enjoyed or made you feel special. Is it something that you can do for your kids, too? If done repeatedly, would it create a lasting, fond memory for them, too? As an example, when I was little, my mom used to swing by the corner bakery around each holiday and pick up a special decorated bakery cookie just for me. It was no big deal, but it created enough of a tradition in my mind that I still think of it 30 years later. (Plus they were good cookies!) It was a small gesture that told me that my mom was thinking of me while she was out running errands. If traditions can be started at the same time, all the better!
9. Let your kids hear you say only good things about others.
Our children mirror our behavior, right? And it only makes sense that they do. We are their first role models, so we better be good ones! If all they hear is us being kind and charitable when discussing others, it stands to reason that they will do the same. Additionally, it puts us in the healthy practice of saying only kind things about others, which is a virtuous habit to perpetuate anyway, around children or not! If all our children hear is negative criticism, they will adopt the notion that we are here to act as judge and jury over the actions of others rather than seeing the good in those around us.
10. Read to your kids daily.
What a great way to stimulate the mind and whet the appetite for learning and reading, than to read to your children on a daily basis. Studies strongly show that children to whom books are read daily have a much more avid desire to read successfully themselves and are more likely to read for pleasure as they get older. When they can hear and learn the words that go along with the pictures that they see concurrently, the stories come to life and allow their imaginations to soar. Better than that, though, it means special time for you and your kids, whether after breakfast or right before bedtime. Children need this kind of interaction with the special adults in their lives!
11. Foster a hobby/interest or two.
If your child can see you making time for a special activity, it is more likely that he or she will find interest in a certain hobby or pastime, too. These types of things can develop into lifelong talents, in addition to being enjoyable side interests. However, that aside, a hobby for just you allows you some time to pursue something that you enjoy and that stimulates your senses. Don't we all need that periodically? It could be something as simple as doing the daily crossword puzzle or tending to plants. Or, it can be something more intense such as needlework or writing short stories. The point is, do more for yourself than just what it takes to get you and your family through the day!
12. Start early teaching your kids.
The following list represents but a few of the things that some parents tend to put off until a rainy day. And chances are, by that time, it is too late for the children to be able to appropriately incorporate these behaviors into their repertoire of good conduct and virtuous activities. This is something of a pot pourri of things for them to learn, but nonetheless, they should be taught, and early.
Prayer - Children should understand that, as much as you love them, there is a God who loves them even more. Prayer builds that relationship, and , if started early, can lead to a life of spirituality that will guide them through the tough and the great times.
Money management - Just simple talks at the grocery store about why you don't care to purchase certain items can foster an early appreciation for money and how far it goes. Or while your child is dropping coins in his piggy bank, you can explain how money should be handled so that it's not wasted.
Virtues/fables/parables; honesty, integrity, character - Aesop's Fables are a great way to introduce children to the virtues in life. Bill Bennett also offers a book called, The Book of Virtues, which offers great stories for kids on the less tangible things in life that offer us value and give us character.
Etiquette - Mealtime, respect for adults, saying "please" and "thank you" and "excuse me," manners, and writing thank you notes. Sadly, these are lost arts in some families. As parents, we need to teach them early so that they are a built-in part of our kids.
To think of others' feelings, sometimes before our own - Here again, this is something that our culture no longer promotes, unfortunately. We now live in a society which grossly supports getting all we want for ourselves, regardless how it affects others. We can see it today in road rage alone, for example. If the parents of the up-and-coming generation do we all we can to reverse that, maybe we can turn our culture around and back to the days when people had consideration for others, too.
Physical activity and exercise - Many children are encouraged to park themselves in front of a TV for hours on end, because it's a convenient babysitter for the parents. Granted, there are times, like the very long and cold days of winter, when there simply is not anything else to do. Video and computer games are another culprit! And we wonder why there are so many overweight, slothful children out there! As a rule, there are much healthier ways for kids to get entertainment. It takes some imagination on our part, but it's well worth the effort. And it will teach them to get active and creative at an early age.
Moderation - Here again, our society is really into "bigger and more is better." Not always! Not when it teaches a child to be self-indulgent and possessive! And in some places, those are the types of children that are out there today. One day, our kids will be going to school with them, and they will be exposed to that kind of thinking. And I believe it comes from the lazy parents who will offer anything to their children to keep them out of their hair or to keep them from making a scene. Typically, these same parents don't care to do the work that goes along with raising kids. If taught early that moderation is appropriate, it will become commonplace for our children to limit the bad things that seem so good at the time, but in reality are bad for them.Mia Cronan, is a mother of 3 children and the owner of mainstreetmom.com.
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