Expert Tells Parents - ‘Let Your Kids Be Little’ – Hope 103.2

Expert Tells Parents – ‘Let Your Kids Be Little’

Parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson shares tips for mums and dads on how to enjoy their children more - by "letting kids be kids”.

By Clare BruceThursday 15 Oct 2015Hope MorningsParentingReading Time: 4 minutes

If you’re sick of disciplining your kids, or feeling frustrated with their shortcomings, it could be time for a change of perspective.

Parenting expert and author Dr Justin Coulson of HappyFamilies.com.au said parents can enjoy their children a lot better if they just “let them be kids” a little more.

In an interview with Hope Media’s Emma Mullings, he said this was a key principle that he wished every parent knew.

“I’m giving people parenting advice all day, every day, and yet people keep making the same parenting mistakes,” he said.

“Recently at the beach, I watched this mum get in the face of her 7-year-old daughter, nose to nose. She was screaming at her daughter because she wasn’t happy with her behaviour.

“I so badly want to intervene. It’s those kinds of episodes that I witness on an almost daily basis.”

These incidents have inspired him to compile some basic tips that, if put into practice, could put him out of a job – “because the world would be full of great parents,” he said.

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Tip 1 – Soften Your Voice Instead Of Shouting

Dad shouting at daughter

For many parents, yelling is an instinctive reaction to their childrens’ bad behaviour. But Dr Coulson advises against it.

Putting it bluntly, he said, “your children are not deaf; you do not need to shout at them”.

“When they don’t respond to what we ask instantly, [parents] start to really raise the volume,” he said.

“But if you stand at the opposite side of the house, and put headphones on them, and whisper, “would anybody like ice cream?”, they would still hear you.

“Our children just need us to speak civilly and kindly to them.”

A good strategy is to imagine that you’re talking to your neighbour’s children.

“We would never speak to other peoples’ children the way we sometimes speak to our own,” he said. “Speak softly, and kindly, and lovingly, even when they’re ticking you off.”

Tip 2 – Don’t Be Too Quick To Punish

Little girl standing in corner, time out

Instead of punishing your kids when they’re naughty, instead try calmly teaching and coaching them through new ways to behave.

Dr Coulson said this strategy was a much more motivating way for children to learn good behaviour.

The idea is to think of mature behaviour not as something that’s inbuilt in children, but rather as another skill they need to be taught.

“We’ve got to get past this thing that our children need to be punished when they do the wrong thing,” he said.

“When a child can’t swim properly, we teach them how to swim. And when a child can’t read, we teach them how to read.  But when our children can’t behave, we punish them – and we’re getting that wrong.

“Our children don’t need to be punished, they need to be taught.”

Despite the old saying “it’ll teach them a lesson”, Dr Coulson said punishment was not a very effective teacher.

“We teach best when our children feel safe, when our children know that we love them, and when they know that we’re trying to gently guide them and assist them,” he said.

Tip 3 – Let Your Kids Be ‘Little’

Boy hanging onto dad's leg

If you’re getting yourself tangled in frustration over your childrens’ behaviour, it may be that you’re simply expecting too much from them, says Dr Coulson.

His advice is to instead remember they’re still young, still learning, and to “let them be kids”.

“We’ve got to let our kids be little,” he said.

It’s a principle he’s learnt through years of trial and error with his own six children, who are 18 months to 16 years old.

“When my 16-year-old was 5 or 6, I used to get annoyed at her when she wasn’t doing what I thought she was developmentally capable of – like making her bed, putting her shoes on or eating her dinner,” he said.

“Now that I’ve got a 16 year old, I look at my five-year-old and my eight-year-old and my little baby, and I think, “they are so little, and I need to let them be little”.

“I don’t think we realise just how little they are until they’re big, and then it’s too late.”

“If they want me to feed them, or go to sleep in my bed, or they want me to push them a little longer on the swing – even though they’re completely capable of getting that stuff right on their own – I’m going to do that for them, because they’re so little.

“I don’t think we realise just how little they are until they’re big, and then it’s too late.”

He said this was the reason he’s had so many children, because he loves “the magic of the littleness” of kids.

About The Expert

Dr Justin Coulson is a parenting author, speaker and researcher, and founder of the website happyfamilies.com.au.