How can you raise an emotionally secure child? What should you do to avoid tantrums? Should you be friends with your kids? Famous in San Diego for her Redirecting Children’s Behavior (RCB) and the Redirecting for a Cooperative Classroom (RCC) sessions (and famous in Los Angeles for being Lakers’ Luke Walton’s mom), parent educator, first time published author and Breezy Mama of four, Susie Walton shared some invaluable advice.
What are your top tips for improving a child’s self esteem?
Susie: Two parts of self esteem: First, is a child who feels love unconditionally and a child who feels capable. Keep away from labeling your child good or bad. Thank them when they do something verses telling them how “big” or “good” they are — this will keep them from thinking that love is based on conditions. Also, let your child know they are capable of doing something versus telling them they are big enough to do something. Next, is to ask their advice on situations– that can be as simple as pulling out two pairs of shoes in the morning and asking which one would look better with their outfit. And finally, is asking them questions instead of constantly telling them what to do. This allows a child to feel like a valuable member of the family.
If a parent asked their three year old to – fill in the blank, but let’s go with — get in the car and this sent the three year old into a complete tantrum, how would you advise the parent to handle the situation?
Susie: First of all, when it comes to strong willed kids it is always best to give a choice versus making a demand. So, let’s say the tantrum begins– the best thing a parent can do is minimize talking and handle the situation in a firm but loving way. If the parent starts feeling stressed it is best to walk away from the situation to calm down in order to respond to the situation in a more peaceful, respectful way.
Congrats on your new book: Key to Personal Freedom: How Myths Affect Our Family Lives. Can you give us a little preview of the myths you discuss?
Susie: The main purpose for my book is to create more choices and more freedom in parenting the way [parents] want to. I think my favorite myth is the one that states parents have to let the child know who is the boss in the house. My new idea is that parents and kids can be friends. In the Webster’s dictionary the definition of friends is a person you know well and regard with affection and trust. A friend is a person who provides assistance, someone you can confide in, someone that you would do basically anything for. I’m sure that is how we all feel about our children and would want our children to feel the same about us. As you can see, it is possible to be a friend and a parent at the same time.
In line with your philosophy that positive change begins in the home, what are your favorite tips for reducing stress and frustration for parents?
Susie: In reducing stress for parents the most important thing they can do is take care of themselves. In class, we use the analogy when on an airplane and the oxygen mask comes down, it is best to put yours on first before your child’s, because, what good is it if your child is breathing and you’re passed out? It’s the same thing in parenting. If you are stressed and burnt out by doing too many things you won’t be the parent you truly want to be; you will find that you react to situations rather than respond to situations which lends itself to yelling and threatening.
Having been a parent educator for over 18 years, what is the one question in particular you receive over and over? And what’s the answer you give?
Susie: The biggest question is how can I get my child to do something without turning it into a power struggle? Most important is to give two choices, and end it with the statement it is your decision. Another way is to ask questions versus telling them what to do. And thirdly, is to look at the big picture. If your child is constantly doing power struggles with you, you might want to look where you’re doing too much for them that is not allowing them to feel like a valuable member of your family and then start to give them more responsibilities.
As a mother of four grown kids yourself, how have your parenting ideas changed since raising your boys?
Susie: In the beginning, before I was aware of redirecting children’s behavior, I spent a lot of time yelling at my boys to try to get them to do things. When I learned the concept of firm and kind parenting, I started asking my boys more questions, listening to what they had to say, and figuring out ways that would work for both of us. I found that the more I respected them and listened to them, the more they listened and respected me. Thank goodness I had these tools as they became teenagers because I had four teenage boys all at the same time. It made parenting them a lot more fun, and I actually enjoyed parenting those teen years as I’m sure you all want to do, too.
Breezy Tip: Susie’s book, Key to Personal Freedom: How Myths Affect Our Family Lives, is a great parenting resource filled with actual situations, followed by tips that apply to them. For example, she covers the myth that family vacations are a hassle, talks about her personal situations that worked for her and her four boys and follows up with a helpful list on making your trip successful. It’s a busy-parent-friendly read with great suggestions and information. To purchase Susie’s book or find out about her classes, click here.