Ever wondered what the biggest parenting mistake is that I see in my private practice? Want to learn what to do to correct it? Well, let’s start by reframing the idea of parenting mistakes.  I hate to use the word mistake because for all of us, parenting is a learning experience. Every action gives you more information about your child that can be used in the future. So, if we think in terms of opportunities instead of mistakes, I would rephrase that question into:

So what is the  #1 Mistake?

Lack of consistency.  Yep.  Basically, this means lack of consistent routines or schedules.  Or rules that are enforced sometimes but not all of the time. Or fun activities that are started by then fall by the wayside. This lack of consistency in both positive rituals and in consequences for behavior creates confusion for children and is the biggest mistake that I see from parents.

What Can You DO?

1). Be Consistent With Your Attention-Dedicate time in each day to provide attention to each of your children individually. Feel like you don’t have the time? This can be just a few minutes each day during bedtime rituals or a planned play session for thirty minutes once per week. Just commit to spending time just hanging out with your child on a consistent basis.

2). Be Consistent with your Rules-If your child is not allowed to jump on the couch today, they are not allowed to jump on the couch next Wednesday when you are tired from working two shifts. A rule is only a rule if it is enforced. Make rules sparingly, but when you do, be prepared to enforce them 100% of the time.

3). Be Consistent With Your Responses– This is a follow up from #2. If the consequence for jumping on the couch is a time-out (more about time-outs later), then it is always the consequence. Warning, time-out. Warning, time-out…consistently. More often, we yell, “Don’t jump on the couch” twenty times and then sometimes we use time-out, other times we just forget the rule, and other times, we might lash out and spank a child. While I certainly do not advocate for spankings, if you consistently provide the same, appropriate response, your child will learn to regulate their own behavior.

Start Correcting This Mistake Today

Be mindful of the theme of CONSISTENCY this week. Challenge yourself to be more consistent in your interactions with your child. Let me know your struggles and your successes!

Why a white daisy?

Apparently, when people  are asked to draw a flower, the first one that comes to mind for a majority of people is the daisy shape.   This single flower (just the flower part without the stem or any leaves and on a solid black background) was show to study participants after being shown a high-arousal negative image. Examples of high-arousal negative images include awful things like violence, injuries and car crashes.  Two trials were conducted:  in the first subjects were shown a high arousal image and then either a) the flower image b) a mosaic of fragments of the flower image or c) a visual fixation point.  In the second trial, the high arousal image was followed by either a) the flower image, b) a chair (deemed a neutral image) or c) a blue sky with clouds (deemed a positive non-floral image).   Systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings were taken throughout the experiments.  

As expected, mean blood pressure was lower when participants viewed the flower versus the fixation point or the mosaic flower,  but what was unexpected is that the flower image actually reduced mean blood pressure to a level lower than the baseline.  Both the flower image and the blue sky had a similar positive impact in changing mood from negative to positive (with the blue sky having the most overall impact).  However, only the flower (not the sky) caused a reduction in mean blood pressure.  It was determined that viewing a simple flower image could in fact change a negative mood into a more positive one and also decrease blood pressure. 

The power of the single flower image was then studied in regards to salivary cortisol levels.  During this study, the high-arousal images were once again paired with the flower image, the flower fragment mosaic or the fixation point.  Once again, only the flower image was shown to significantly decrease stress during the recovery phase. One final examination looked at fMRI images of the brain during these conditions.  Through this imagery it was discovered that the flower image was effective in decreasing the amygdala-hippocampus activation that occurred after viewing the high arousal images. Researchers speculated that the flower image was a distraction tool that was helped prevent the recall of the stressful images.  

The brief viewing of this single flower image was shown to be effective at reducing negative emotions and created better functioning of both the cardiovascular and endocrine systems! Having such a simple tool available to help reduce stress and regulate unpleasant emotions and is one possible tool for interrupting ruminating thoughts or unpleasant flashbacks.  

About the Author Jen Taylor

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

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