Personal growth and parenting aren’t often words put together in the same sentence. Yet parenting provides the perfect opportunity for growth. And not just for our child’s growth, but for our own. If we really want to bring out the best in our children, we need to call forth the best in ourselves. 9 Ways to Bring out the Best in You and Your Child is a brand new book that provides a blueprint for parents to empower their children and themselves, rather than struggling for control. Nine chapters describe how you and your family can live together creatively, harmoniously and authentically. The principles are laid out simply, with plenty of humor and stories to help you put them to work immediately in your life.

1. The Way of Mutual Respect based on love, not fear, forms the basis of interaction with our children. Setting clear boundaries with children teaches them respect. We respect them by not crossing their boundaries, and teach them to respect us by respecting our own time and boundaries. “Politely tell a complaining child that he is welcome to eat what he likes from the dinner selection, but that you are not making him a hot dog because that’s ‘all he’ll eat.’ Making his special dinner teaches him he doesn’t have to respect you and your time. Forcing him to sit and eat his broccoli crosses his boundaries and fails to respect him.”

2. Children will get our attention one way or the other! Many parents spend a lifetime reacting to their child’s misbehavior without really knowing what they want to create. “Life is where we put our attention.” Stop focusing on misbehavior and give your attention to what’s working in your family. Step out of your reactive patterns for a moment, project yourself to your 90th birthday party, and describe in detail what you would like your children to remember about you, and what they learned from you. The Way of Vision is about creating a vision for your family that inspires and guides your day to day interactions.

3. Turn power struggles into powerful relationships by focusing on what you will do, not what you will make your child do. For example, if your child has a tantrum in the store, instead of trying to make her stop, focus on what you will do. Concentrate on controlling your own inner environ-ment while you calmly carry her out of the store. When we try to control children they resist. We can spend our lives in power struggles. The Way of Mutual Empowerment recognizes that real power lies within.

One mom told me as she focused on what she would do she did the only thing she felt like doing – she laid down on the supermarket floor beside her screaming 4 year old and screamed with her. Her child stopped immediately and said, “Mommy what are you doing? Mommy, stop!” Apparently both tantrums ended abruptly! Whenever you start to feel hopeless or powerless in a situation, ask yourself, “What will I do?” instead of “What do I need to make my child do?”

4. How do we keep erupting emotions from destroying our relationships? The Way of Emotional Grounding means addressing and safely releasing the emotions that drive behavior for both children and parents. Trying to change the behavior without addressing the underlying emotions is like cutting the head off a dandelion and expecting it not to grow anymore! Next time your child bursts into anger, stay calm inside yourself, and allow her to drain her frustrations. Help her identify the emotions underneath her frustration and anger: “I see how disappointing it is for you when you can’t have the toy you want.” Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Instead of screaming at kids to settle down, settle down yourself, and act from the calm state you want them to acquire.

5. “Why won’t these kids listen to me?” is the theme song of many a beleaguered parent. The key to having your child listen to you is to first listen to him, so that he feels understood and free to express himself. Listen to yourself, and stop using the phrases and statements that shut down communication. (If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times… So what makes us think telling him one more time will help? I mean, honestly, who is the slow learner here?) When your child misbehaves tell him how you feel about his behavior without blaming him or ridiculing him. Stop giving so much attention to communication that centers on conflict. The Way of Communication means to make a concerted effort to increase the amount of dialogue that occurs in your home and watch the environment improve. Creating the time and space for meaningful conversation is perhaps the best thing you can do for your family life, and for your child’s education. Making after school, mealtimes or bedtimes inviting times for conversation can work wonders for everyone.

6. The Way of Encouragement teaches children to learn from their mistakes by seeing problems as “opportunities in work clothes.” That means that we stop punishing our child when she makes a mistake. Instead, let’s help her to recognize the skills and qualities she has to correct the situation. Let’s allow our child to take reasonable risks so that she can develop the strengths and qualities she needs to meet life’s challenges. Look deeply into your child and see the strengths and qualities within, and like a mirror, reflect them back to her so that she may see and claim them for herself. Focus on what your child does well and describe it specifically. For example, if she helps her little brother fix his toy, instead of simply saying, “Good girl!” tell her how much you appreciate her helpfulness. “When you help your brother without even being asked, that helps me. I like it when you take the initiative like that” Point out her strengths. “That’s very creative the way you put those pieces together to fix his train.” We teach best by pointing out specifically what’s done well, not be pointing out everything that’s wrong.

7. We all need to learn The Way of Living Harmoniously with Others. Our relationship with our child teaches him how to listen and express his feelings and helps him learn how to get along sociably. Siblings provide a testing ground for developing social skills. The well intentioned parent who intervenes to stop every sibling outbreak inadvertently fuels sibling rivalry. Children often argue to get parents’ attention, and to push their buttons! Stop reacting to your children’s squabbling. Be prepared, however, that the squabbling may at first intensify. After all, they used to be able to push your buttons. If you do not react, they may naturally push harder at first! Stay out of it unless one child is in danger. Then, step in to remove that child. Without blame, and remaining calm yourself, give both children time to settle down and help them to drain their frustrations.

8. The Way of Loving Discipline focuses on respectfully helping children to make amends and find solutions to problems they create. Punishment creates feelings of resentment, revenge or guilt and is not effective discipline. In fact, it can destroy relationships. So instead of sitting your child in the corner or lecturing him to make him feel so bad he wouldn’t dream of coloring on your walls again, give him soap and water and let him clean the walls. (Chances are good that while he’s sitting in the corner, he’s plotting revenge rather than feeling remorseful anyway!) Show him where he can find paper to color on next time. Sometimes we focus so much on changing our child’s behavior that we destroy our relationship with him. Building healthy relationships is the key to discipline, for the only real authority and influence we have with our child is that which they give us based on their attachment to us.

9. Your children need your presence, not just your presents. Remind yourself to stay in this moment, right now. Let go of worrying about the future and mauling over the past, and appreciate this very moment. Rarely is there a problem in this moment. Live this moment as you desire the future to be, and the future will fulfill your desires. The Way of Parenting with Spirit means reaching deeply within yourself and connecting from the depth of who you are to the depth within your child. That means that you must take time for you! You don’t do your family any favors by burning yourself out and working yourself into a frazzle. Treat yourself to a bubble bath (without the children!), go for a walk or a run, or do something else that nurtures you. Be all that you are and you will encourage your child to be all that she is. Teach her to know and to trust her own light and inner wisdom. Let your light shine, and as you do so your child will feel free to shine her own light in this world.

© Maggie Reigh 2006

Author's Bio: 

Maggie Reigh is an international speaker, author of the book and program 9 Ways to Bring Out the BEST in You & Your Child and published storyteller. Maggie has helped thousands to live more harmonious and meaningful relationships. Her presentations and seminars guarantee inspiration, involvement, and life changing tools. For more parenting tips and to sign up for Maggie’s free newsletter visit http://www.maggiereigh.com/family-parentingcourse.htm email: maggiereigh@gmail.com