CINCINNATI — Each year 17,000 local moms, dads and kids rely on Beech Acres Parenting Center to help them build stronger, more loving relationships with each other.
To celebrate the organization’s 170th anniversary, WCPO asked one of its experts to share some parenting tips.
The tips are spread across the three pillars of Beech Acres’ Natural Strength Parenting model as explained by Jill Huynh, the nonprofit’s vice president of new business development.
The top nine tips are below. (We’re not 16 on Your Side, after all). And there is plenty more advice on the Beech Acres website.
• Parent on purpose and with a purpose. Identify your purpose as a parent instead of going around and letting parenting happen.
• Ask yourself as a parent: What values do you want your children to have? That can be the foundation of how you raise your kids.
• Stop asking children what they want to be when they grow up and instead ask who they want to be. Huynh said that gets to the core of who they want to be in the world.
Focus on strengths
• Huynh recommends that parents and kids over the age of 10 take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. The online survey helps identify each person’s core strengths and which strengths shine through naturally.
• Parents should “strength spot.” So instead of simply saying “great job” to a child who is getting good grades or completing a chore, a parent can call out the natural curiosity that leads to those grades and the leadership the kids are showing by completing their chores.
• Even during difficult times when kids aren’t doing exactly what you want, step back and try to see the strengths in that moment. For example, Huynh said if you’re fighting with your toddler about her clothing choices, you might complement her creativity, self-expression or independence.
This isn’t about meditation, Huynh said. It’s about being “in the moment” with your kids.
• Unplug and be available. Take time to put down your cell phone, tablet or laptop and be with your kids.
• Slow down and recognize when your kids are reaching out to you to connect. For example, if you’re doing the dishes and your child comes into the kitchen and asks you to play a board game, Huynh recommends resisting the temptation to say, “Right after I finish these.”
“The dishes will still be there,” she said.
• Listen to your kids at face value, without thinking about what you are going to say or do next or what you think they might mean beyond what they’re saying.
Huynh used “the sex talk” as an example.
“It’s always a big stressor for us as parents,” she said. “Often kids come to us with a simple question, and we go into the entire sex talk. Just answering that question that they have might be the right thing to do. And if we really listen, we can pick up on things like that.”
Of course, parenting is complicated, and it seems like more kids than ever before suffer from some kind of anxiety or depression.
But Huynh said these tips apply broadly to children and parents.
“Not every tip is going to work for every parent,” she said. “And not every parent is going to be comfortable with it.”
There also are the occasional emergencies.
If your kid is about to dump a boiling pan of water on themselves or run into traffic, you don’t have the time to call out their curiosity before you pluck them out of harm’s way, Huynh acknowledged.
“Kids get into tough situations, and we have to be the adult who makes sure they’re safe,” she said.
The key is building a relationship with your kids that includes good boundaries, communication and role modeling, she said, and it’s never too late to start.
“Parenting never ends,” she said. “We’re in it for the long haul, and I don’t think it’s ever too late to look at that relationship.”
Beech Acres Parenting Center will celebrate its 170th anniversary from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday June 25 at the American Sign Museum. The celebration is free and open to the public. More information is available online.
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. To reach Lucy, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.