The concept of preventative maintenance sits across almost everything, from servicing your car once a year to clearing out your gutters or making sure to ring your own parents a little more often. In parenting, preventative maintenance is a concept made popular by Dr Laura Markham and is based on a few key areas of which parents should ideally work towards on a daily basis. 

For many parents, we unconsciously achieve these five points on a daily basis but if you feel as though your child is constantly on the naughty step, it might be helpful to refresh your focus and work on preventing the behaviour before it develops. 

Emotions

Let them come. Meet your child’s emotions with calm and patience to help guide them through any rough waters. As children experience these new feelings, they are also building their toolkit towards dealing with them in the future and this will be guided by you as their sounding board. If you meet sadness, disappointment or anger with loud emotions of your own, your child may end up feeling more confused than ever. Children who cannot yet articulate their feelings may simply come across as acting out unnecessarily.  Dr Laura Markham talks about how some children simply need to ‘empty their emotional backpack’, or have a good cry within the safety of their home with their parents support.

One to one

The time pressures we are under in today’s age of working-parents and currently working-from-home-parents mean that we are often in our child’s company whilst we are busy with other tasks.

And there is a big difference between being in your child’s presence and actively engaging in play or simply listening to them. Depending on how many children are in a family spending one to one time with each child can start to be a challenge. There are way to adjust to this scenario by playing games that involve all children on a daily basis and making an effort to have shorter one to one with each child as often as you can. Children are less likely to display disruptive behaviour if they are able to get your attention without it. 

Routines

As adults we know what to expect from the day ahead of us for example: wake up, eat breakfast, drive to work, have lunch etc. If you think about how it feels even as an adult to not know what to expect of the days ahead you might start to get a bit anxious or maybe excited. These are emotions that can run high and leave us unsettled and it is no different for children. As a child develops and grows so much changes constantly and so keeping a routine is comforting and helps them to feel safe and establish realistic expectations. Ultimately, children crave routine as it makes them feel safe.

Physical fun

Play, play, play. To reach your child on their own level and help them release anxieties physical play is an excellent method. Similar to an adult feeling more relaxed after going for a run or having a good belly laugh, play helps to children let go of all the stresses of day. Not to mention, the extra benefits of building co-ordination and burning off extra energy. 

Empathy

Sit for a moment and think about your most recent interactions with your child. What were you doing at the time, how did you respond to them in that moment? If you believe that your responses are naturally empathic then you are off to a good start. Working to understand our children better when they are interacting with us or even trying to work through a problem themselves will help them feel validated as individuals and will build trust between you. 

The five points of preventative maintenance are intended as a relatively broad guide for parents. How you go about implementing them is really up to your creativity, for example, would moms benefit from creating a special ‘girls night’ to add some one to one time with their daughters, or would a water fight in the garden be a better way to spend some time together and enjoy some physical play. Feel free to add comments and suggestions below on how you build quality time in with your children.

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