Last Mother’s Day, I wrote about whether it was a happy or unhappy Mother’s Day because it was the first Mother’s Day after my own mother’s death. You can read it here. But today, I want to share 12 tips I’ve learned about mothering throughout the years. I hope they help you. I wish I knew them earlier.
1. Be like a saleswoman. I worked selling Dead Sea products for a boss named Ari Singer, who also happened to be my son. He taught me, “Ask a potential customer a question, such as, “What skin cream do you use?” And no matter what they say, you reply, “Perfect! I want to show you something.” Great salespeople always agree with their customers, no matter what their response. Work with them. It’s like improvisation. Never contradict! Even when a woman told me she only uses Crisco on her face, I said, “Perfect!” and continued with my spiel.
The same rule applies toyour children. Even if your children ask you for something completely unreasonable, say, “Perfect!” or “Great!” and then, “Maybe another day.” Example:
Child: “Can you buy me Sugary-sugar-cinnamon-sugared Sugar Tidbits today?”
Mom: “Perfect! Maybe another time.”
Avoid saying, “No.” No just sends the child spiraling into, “I never get anything…Loobertina gets to have whatever she wants…You’re a bad mother.” So: AGREE and then change the subject. Or say what you will do instead. This keeps the conversation cheerful and avoids arguments.
2. Ask them, “Now or in 5 minutes?” Do you want to turn off the X-box now or in 5 minutes? They’ll always say 5 minutes, as if they’ve won an important point. Then you say, “Okay, so I’ll set the timer and when it rings, you’ll turn it off.”
3. Give your children chores. You are the Mom, not the slave. Your kids need to learn responsibility. Even if you have to re-sweep what your kid just swept, make sure they do it. You can put a daily job chart on the refrigerator. They can do their chores and then do what they want to do.
If they complain about doing the chore, tell them you’ll put on three songs and see if they can do it before the songs end. That’s usually how long a child’s chore should take.
4. Tell your child to talk like a big boy or girl. Avoid saying, “Don’t whine,” because kids are stumped. Say, “Talk like a big boy.” They know how big kids talk. You’ll see, they’ll change their tone of voice.
5. Don’t tell a child, “You’re a bad girl,” for example. Children are always good and pure inside. They might act poorly and display inappropriate behavior. Whatever you can ignore, ignore, and focus on what they’re doing right. You got dressed really quickly. You brushed your teeth when I asked you. Wow, you got along great with your sister. Then, do something with them to reward this appropriate behavior. You can build a tower and add a block each night they behaved right during the day. Or you can give stickers and a big reward after ten, let’s say.
6. Tell your kids to use their words instead of acting out. At the same time, when you speak, use less words. You don’t have to explain everything. You can simply say, “that’s not appropriate.” It’s a big word but they’ll figure it out. It keeps your voice neutral as well.
7. Don’t get involved with your children’s fights. (Unless there’s blood, as my husband Jonny always used to say.) They need to learn how to work things out on their own. You can listen to each side and then say, “I’m sure you’ll come up with a solution.”
8. Teach your children manners. Teach them to shake hands with people and look them in the eye. Teach them how to hold a knife and fork. How to excuse themselves from the table. How to say thank you for the dinner. How to be considerate of others.
9. Make sure they have a routine. Some say that God stands for Good Orderly Direction. Children need a bedtime, a bath time and a story time. Kids like small spaces, just like pets do. Small units of time work best. This goes with the corollary, children like boundaries.
10. Don’t negotiate. Don’t fall into the habit of, “If you do this, then I’ll give you that.” Because after a while children figure it out and then they’ll become master manipulators.
11. What do you want from them? That’s what you need to do as well. You want them to give you respect? Respect yourself. Make sure your partner respects you. Want them to talk to you with respect? Make sure your partner talks to you with respect. Talk to them with respect. Keep your voice modulated as much as possible. Want to get them to watch less TV and read more? Then turn off the TV and don’t watch it. Want them to exercise? Put on sneakers and go out.
12. “Did I tell you today that I love you?” Every day tell them you love them.
Watch these tips with two of my favorite actors on youtube here.
Remember, which adjectives do you want your children to use about your? Me? I want: magical, funny, silly, able to laugh at myself, consistent, strong, loving. What about you?
Happy Mother’s Day. Send in your own tips, questions and comments. Remember, mothers are always perfect because nobody is perfect.
Read an interesting article by Judith Shulevitz on mothers and who has got the market on worrying about the kids.