I still remember the day I brought my child home. Due to my travel commitments, my wife happened to drive herself to most of her prenatal appointments, but I did manage to attend one Lamaze class. And I thought, surely, I am ready to be a parent.
After being discharged from the hospital, I set out to install our baby into the car seat. That was my first indication that parenting would not be easy. Baby did not want to be strapped in and did not stop crying. Plus, I was having trouble figuring out the car seat. I was already experiencing my first parental crisis. But then something magical happened: We drove off and the crying immediately stopped, and our baby was sound asleep.
The discovery that something in vehicles made our baby sleep, was like Juan Ponce de Leon discovering the mythical fountain of youth. For 2 years afterwards, whenever Baby became restless or did not want to sleep, we took a mini trip around the block, and viola, Baby would fall asleep. [By the way, someone should invent a crib that mimics traveling in a car. I am sure they will be millionaires and can thank me later. But I digress].
Instead of the 500-baby photo package that I purchased on the last day at the hospital, which I fully intended to distribute to family and friends but are still languishing in a drawer somewhere in my office at home, I should have looked for a parenting manual. It should be mandatory that hospitals give out a manual to all new parents. Unfortunately, even the most comprehensive manual would not begin to do justice to the topic of parenting because children are each unique and special in their own way.
It could be that you are bringing home your first child from the hospital, or your third child. Or, this could be the first time you receive a child as a foster parent. You may be opening your home to the child you have chosen to parent without regards to limits or time constraints, as an adoptive parent. No matter the scenario, parenting is still a challenging, and yet rewarding experience.
Crisis, like the one caused by the novel coronavirus, and the accompanying quarantine, social distancing, stay-at-home, or shelter-in-place requirements, can reveal much about a family. To be at home all day provides the perfect opportunity to learn more about each other. Parents and children can find moments to talk about things they have not talked about in years. Or things may be just discovering anew.
Children are rediscovering aspects of their parents, and vice versa. A foster mom texted me and said, “we are now teachers, soccer coaches, music tutors, after-school activities coordinators, and 24/7 personal chefs. It is driving me crazy!”
It is true that being at home could lead to increased tensions, anxieties or even depression. That is why it is even more important to connect with others sharing the same limited space. Keep in mind that the crisis may trigger some behaviors in the children who have experienced trauma.
Do not take the apparent disrespect personally. Do not take the silence or lack of communication as a sign that you are doing something wrong. These behaviors that are common in adolescence and teens, may often go unnoticed during normal times, but are likely to escalate during moments of tension and anxiety, such as mandatory home confinement.
Parenting is difficult during normal times and even more so during a crisis. At Knotts Family Agency we understand the challenge and that’s why we have asked social workers to be extra vigilant and attentive during these days. We want to provide constant support so that you know that you are not alone.
I have received multiple messages complimenting social workers. I have also received calls from parents saying, “it is too much. Please, do they really have to check in on a weekly basis.” I understand that one additional video conference may not be your preference at the moment, but I am grateful because parents continue to ensure that children are safe and are doing well.
A few days ago, I received a photo from a stellar Resource Mother, Alicia M., who shared the “accountability board”, a strategy she has used successfully to stimulate discipline in her children.
Kids are held accountable for their behavior. They can see throughout the day where their name is and make self-corrections accordingly.
The last board is not meant that they are disciplined but means that they have exhausted all resources of being redirected, a self-reflection quiet time, or a conversation with their parent(s) regarding their actions/behavior.
If they get to the last board it means that they have lost their treat for the day. It also means that they get an additional consequence. If someone were to ask me if this is discipline, I would say, no. It is merely a reflection of having a rough day and then thinking about corrections to have a better day.
Children are always encouraged to make improvements and work their way back up even if their name is on the last board. Although, they may lose their “extra treat” after dinner, they can earn back the privilege or reward. This allows them to have something to work for rather than just saying, ‘oh well, why should I keep trying if I lost everything anyway’. It pushes them to think about their actions.
This promotes the development of self accountability and pushes them to make better choices. Not asking for perfection, only improvements. We all make mistakes, but we learn from them then we move on. Every day is a new day! We start fresh; everyone starts on happy!
There are Resource Parents implementing a variety of innovative strategies to promote discipline. We would love to hear your creative ideas. There is always an opportunity to learn, grow, and improve our disciplining strategy. Especially, during a crisis, parents need to be very self-aware to ensure that children develop discipline in a way that is positive, nurturing, and builds self-esteem. Being a foster or adoptive parent means having the ability to constantly modify parenting style because each child is unique and will respond differently.
What are some parenting strategies you are using as a parent during the crisis?
How are you staying engaged with your children?
What positive lessons have we learned from quarantine or being at home?
Do you agree or disagree with anything said in this article?
What creative discipline strategies have you used, not that time out or not being allowed to go to the mall, are not workable options?
Please post your reactions, thoughts, or recommendations. Also, please share this article on your social media profiles!