“Best practices” for the home front

The business world is buzzing about the term “best practice.” Companies will look at others in their industry to find the most effective strategies for completing work with better results, lower cost, or less waste.

Parents have best practices as well. While every family operates a bit differently, some ways of handling common childhood situations are more effective than others. While we mostly arrive at these best practices through trial and error, some we can easily miss simply because it never occurred to us to try something different.

Best practice: Building self-esteem. Maurita and Mike, parents of two girls adopted as preschoolers, sometimes worry about their ability to build a healthy sense of self-esteem for their daughters. “I think adopted kids often have a little hole to dig themselves out of in regard to self-esteem,” Maurita says. “We all know how crucial it is for girls to have self-confidence and self-esteem.”

She explains that she heard a celebrity mother commenting on the suicide of her son; the mother explained that parents cannot give their children self-esteem, that it must come from within the child. Maurita says the words stuck with her, and now when her daughters achieve something, she uses the words, “Aren’t you proud of yourself?” She then re-states what they did to achieve the honor. “I tell them that I’m proud of them as well, but only after I lead with asking if they’re proud of themselves.”

Best practice: Cutting complaints and whining. Maribeth, mother of five children ranging from kindergarten to high school, says that taming adolescent “snippiness” is easier when she responds to an ungrateful remark by saying, “I think what you mean to say to me is . . .” and then modeling the correct remark to the child.

Liz, mother of four, has also found success with this technique. “It’s the nature of a 14-year-old to be somewhat myopic and self-centered,” she says. “It’s my job to help him see the gifts around him. So when he sits down at the table, groans, and says, ‘Chicken, again?’ I say back to him, ‘I think what you mean to say is,“Thanks for going shopping and cooking dinner, Mom.” ’ ”

Liz and Maribeth both feel that this way of responding serves a dual purpose—it curtails complaining, and it prevents the parent from making a defensive remark in reply. …continued next week

—by Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2012 Best in Class award from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for the past three years running. Here’s a sample issue.

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