Most of us were probably raised on downtime if we were “mean” or didn’t always listen to our parents. Telling our parents about our feelings really wasn’t a thing. Corn Love Smart Family Services and The Natalie G. Heineman Smart Love Preschool is on a mission to support today’s parents with a better way to make kids feel loveable and parents feel less frustrated.
The Smart Love philosophy, pioneered by top parenting and child psychology experts, Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D., and the late Dr. William J. Pieper, helps parents really understand what’s going on in the world. children’s minds as well as the meaning behind the behavior. parents see.
“Traditional models don’t take into account the actual workings of the child’s mind and how the child experiences parental response and discipline,” says Smart Love’s Director of Clinical Services, Dr. Carla Beatrici. “A lot of parents focus on behavior change,” while failing to understand that the behavior is usually completely normal.
It’s not the parents’ fault, though. “Parenting is incredibly difficult and parents don’t usually get much help unless there’s a big problem,” says Beatrici. “Every parent deserves support from the start.”
This is where Smart Love comes in. The non-profit association, with its clinic and preschooll in Chicago and the Oak Park Counseling Center, focuses on the Piepers’ belief that a child’s most important need is to feel cherished by parents and caregivers, to feel loved and lovable, she says. Meeting this need helps children thrive and learn to take good care of themselves when we are no longer there to guide them.
Using some common situations that can frustrate parents of toddlers, Beatrici demonstrates how the Smart Love method makes children and families happier and healthier. It’s the help that the children go to The Natalie G. Heineman Smart Love Preschool and their parents experience it daily.
1 Refuse to leave the park when it’s time to go.
If plaintive pleading for 10 more minutes after telling your child it’s time to go sounds all too familiar, you’re not alone. And you know how quickly your frustration builds when they absolutely refuse to listen to you or run away from you.
In a traditional sense, Beatrici knows that parents see this as their child being defiant and willful or they fear something is wrong with their child. Like Smart Love, it’s normal for toddlers to be independent thinkers and want to explore their world while having fun, she says.
Smart Love uses loving regulation in such cases. “You’re going to regulate the behavior, but you’re going to do it in a way that preserves the child’s sense of self-esteem and closeness in the relationship, the sense that my mom and dad still care about me even when I’m having a hard time, even when my behavior needs to be controlled, instead of feeling ‘uh-oh, they’re really mad at me’,” she says.
Not : Yell or drag them kicking or screaming from the park and be mad at them.
To do: Help them feel understood and loved, she says. Tell them you understand they want to stay because it’s so much fun. Then give them a choice, like one more ride on the slide or the swing. They may still protest, but even if you have to pick them up to leave, do it as a hug and show you care about the loss they’re feeling, she says. Offer them an alternative to help them transition, such as playing their favorite song in the car and singing along or promising a fun game after you get home.
That makes it a more positive approach, she says.
“If the parent is more negative, the child ends up feeling a double loss: I can’t have what I want and then he’s like, ‘Oh, my parents aren’t happy with me,'” she says. . Although negative discipline can correct the behavior in the moment, this approach makes the child feel bad about themselves. But if we can regulate children’s behavior in a caring and understanding way, parents will preserve their child’s sense of being loved and lovable.
2 Do not share toys with others
If a child snatches a toy from another child’s hands, Beatrici says parents may fear raising a selfish child. In reality, toddlers aren’t yet able to see things from another child’s perspective, she says. They just want what they want. This is normal and temporary.
Not: Instinctively force your child to return the toy and make him apologize while teaching him a lesson on the importance of sharing. They don’t understand why they can’t have what they want and end up feeling upset that you aren’t letting them have fun, she says. Plus, it might end up making them feel bad about themselves and being selfish when in reality they’re a normal toddler!
To do: Tell them you understand that they want the toy, but have to return it. Instead, find something else that makes them happy. “You have to step in, but do it in a loving, understanding, caring way. Ultimately, you’re showing your child that he can’t always have what he wants, but that he can rely on you wanting to help him stay happy. They feel supported, which helps them make good choices over time.
Kids quickly learn that you need to step in because you have to, not because you’re trying to frustrate them, she says.
“We don’t have to force toddlers and young children to learn to be good people. They look at us, they copy us,” she says. “The best way to help children learn to treat themselves and others is to learn how their parents treat them.”
In kindergarten, she says, teachers intervene when a child is acting out, but they don’t discipline or put them on hold. Instead, they talk about their feelings. When a child acts out, it is an opportunity to help a child understand their feelings and feel supported around them. We are getting to the source of why this seems difficult right now. This is what drives real change. If acting out involves a health and safety risk, teachers immediately stop the dangerous behavior and then apply Smart Love principles. Traditional methods of discipline aggravate a child’s upset feelings and ensure that they not only repeat difficult behaviors, but continue to feel bad about themselves and others, she says.
3 Throw terrible temper tantrums
There is perhaps nothing more embarrassing for a parent than their toddler throwing a huge tantrum in public.
Beatrici says she knows it’s stressful because parents think everyone is judging them. But every parent goes through this. “It’s not a reflection on the parent, it’s a reflection that you have a young child,” she says.
Not: Threaten your child with punishment if he doesn’t stop, although that’s a natural response, she says. “Dr. Pieper says (it’s like) we get mad at kids because they’re kids.
To do: Blow them up and take them to the car to let them talk about their feelings, letting them know that it’s okay to have upset and unhappy feelings. At Smart Love, “we help parents understand that if you can show your child that there’s nothing wrong with their feelings, that it’s okay to have upset feelings… children don’t feel pressured to express their feelings and behaviors (to get attention.)”
At Smart Love, “We tell kids all the time, all your feelings are welcome,” she says.
4 Taming Bad Dreams
Dr. Heineman Pieper wrote a book, Mom, dad, I had a bad dream, to help parents help their children not feel like victims of dreams. They think “we are the author of our dreams,” says Beatrici, adding that dreams are made up of residue from the day that hasn’t been resolved before bedtime.
Not: Tell your child that his dreams are not real and send him back to bed. Although you may feel reassuring and soothing to your child, dreams seem real to your child, she says.
To do: Give a big hug and hug, then empower your child to connect with their dreams. Put them in the investigator role to see what might be causing the dreams. Because dreams are related to something that happened in their day, before bed, talk to children about their day and the feelings they are having, she says.
Beatrici says Smart Love helps parents understand that they are the role model for children. When parents are respectful and caring, the child learns to treat themselves and others the same.
In preschool, teachers show respect, kindness and understanding – all that parents want for their children. She explains that when children receive a response in this way coupled with a robust learning environment, their love of learning blossoms. Children feel confident to pursue their curiosity and interests because not only is their learning supported, but also their social and emotional development. This translates into a fundamental belief that school is a positive place, which they take with them beyond preschool.
It’s never too late for parents to embrace the philosophy and ask for help, she says. Those who find that they enjoy being parents much more.
“Not only is there no shame in asking for help, but it’s absolutely a sign of strength,” she says. “Every parent deserves support and there is support out there.”
To find out more about the support offered by Love Smart Family Services visit smartlovefamily.org or early childhood education The Natalie G. Heineman Smart Love Preschoolvisit smartlovepreschool.org. Smart Love Preschool offers monthly virtual open houses, the next one is scheduled for March 4, 2022.