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Published on September 27, 2013

Feel Confident in Your Parenting Skills

Dr. Megan Jensen recommends you should decide what’s best for your own family

This is the fourth in a series of Dr. Mom blog posts. As physicians with children, our Dr. Moms will share their personal and professional insights to help you navigate your role as a parent. Learn more about our Dr. Moms.

You could describe Dr. Megan Jensen as a Madison-area homegirl. After all, she grew up in Cottage Grove, attended the University of Wisconsin and now practices family medicine in Deerfield. Like many of us, she was very big on family traditions growing up.

And now she loves sharing those same traditions, as well as creating some new ones, with her husband and daughter Eden, who is almost three, and one-year-old son Jordy. Even though Dr. Jensen is both a mom and a doctor, it’s no big advantage. She admits she’s just like any other mom, but with some good down-home advice we can all take to heart.

Dr. Jensen with her daughter, Eden, and son, Jordy.

I really try hard to separate my mom “hat” from my doctor “hat.” But sometimes that’s easier said than done. My experiences as a physician have helped me to determine how concerned I need to be regarding illnesses with my children. On the other hand, I have a way better understanding now of a parent’s perspective when he or she brings a child into the office. I have much more compassion and problem-solving skills than I did before I was a mom.

Balancing work with family

Balancing work and family can be tough. Unfortunately, being a physician doesn’t give me any edge. I’m just like any other mom. Here are some of the things I do to make it work:

  • I always try to be in the moment. When I’m with a patient or my kids or husband, I just try and stay in the present and not be distracted or preoccupied. I give them my full attention.
  • I love spending time as a family, but I also try to make sure I spend time with each of my kids independently. 
  • We make sure to eat at least one meal, usually dinner, together as a family at the dinner table.
  • My husband and I schedule at least one-to-two date nights per month without the kids.

Making discipline work

As far as discipline goes, consistency is the key. If at all possible, it can be really helpful to get other caregivers – daycare providers, grandparents, baby sitters, etc. – to use similar discipline methods as you do.

Before we had children, my husband and I made an agreement that we would always back each other up. If one parent said “no,” the other parent would support that.

We also use the “1-2-3 Magic” book by Dr. Thomas Phelan, which we have found very helpful. Essentially, this method is used to stop negative behaviors, instead of punishing children for not performing positive actions. The parent or caregiver simply tells the child “that’s 1” when he or she is engaging in negative behavior, such as whining, throwing toys, etc. This is repeated until the number 3. After 3, the child is taken to a quiet place, such as his or her bedroom, and spends some alone time (generally one minute for each year of age). After the quiet time is over, life continues on.

The key to making this work is the parent or caregiver should avoid any extra talking or yelling (i.e., no temper tantrums of our own). It’s been extremely effective at our home. That being said, there are lots of forms of effective discipline – and this is just one of them!

Be a good teacher and role model

I like to try and teach kids to take responsibility for their own health and bodies as early as possible. It’s important to encourage them to stay active and eat healthy foods to make them grow big and strong, and to keep them feeling happy and healthy.

Kids model many of their behaviors after their parents and caregivers, so it’s important for an entire family to be active and eat healthy together.

Decide what’s best

Today, we have information bombarding us from every angle, which can sometimes make us doubt our parenting skills, causing unnecessary fatigue and stress.

As a parent, you should feel confident in your parenting skills – because often there is no “right” or “wrong” answer. Instead, look at your options and decide what’s best for your own family.

In addition, keep in mind that it literally “takes a village” to help raise a family. It’s okay to rely on friends and family members for help. That includes any kind of help that they are willing to offer and you’re willing to take.

Finally, remember that it is equally important for mothers to take time to care for themselves. So don’t forget to watch out for your own health and well-being.

(We invite you to comment on this article or to ask Dr. Jensen a question.)

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