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Naama Cameron - Why clear expectations and boundaries helps you be a more flexible parent

This interview is part of How To Get Kids To Listen: Leading International Parenting Experts Reveal Their Best Secrets For Getting Kids To Cooperate, an ebook containing a collection of interviews I did with parenting experts from around the world.

I asked each expert one simple question: What is your best strategy for getting kids to listen and cooperate? and then listened as they shared their best parenting tips and advice.

How To Get Kids To Listen is available for free download here

In this interview with Naama Cameron, an ex-nursery school teacher, experienced parent coach, and mom of two, she shares her secrets to getting kids to listen and cooperate while maintaining a strong parent-child connection.

Naama shares practical tips on setting boundaries, handling disappointments, and empowering children. Plus, learn about the magic of family traditions in creating lasting bonds.

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Also in this interview:

About Naama Cameron

Naama Cameron, M.S., is a Parent Coach and Child Behavior Specialist.

For as long as I remember, I knew I had a gift with children. I have worked with children for over 25 years in a variety of capacities. Friends and family always called me "the child whisperer", so twelve years ago I decided to pursue my passion.

I love helping other parents reap the benefits of my knowledge and gift. From high profile/celebrity parents to your "average" parent next door, my approach allows me to be flexible with my techniques to accommodate your individual family needs.

Being a very happy mommy (and yes I want to be called mommy for as long as possible) of two kids further reiterated and emphasized the techniques, expertise and knowledge that I have accumulated and used with so may families.

And because I have two beautiful children of my own, I truly do understand the emotional roller coaster of parenting.

I cannot wait to partner with you to help your children have loving, healthy relationships with everyone around them.

You can find out more about Naama Cameron's at her website or follow her on Instagram.

Why clear expectations and boundaries helps you be more flexible

Sue Meintjes: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your work with parents.

Naama Cameron: I worked as a nursery school teacher. I taught parenting classes. Did one-on-one behavior therapy. I worked as a school psychologist and then I decided to open my own practice and I have been working as a parent coach and a behaviorist for the last 12 years.

 And I'm a mom. I've got two of my own little beings in the house. Eight and a seven-year-old.

Sue Meintjes: So, what is your favorite strategy or technique that is working really well for you or your clients to get kids to listen and to increase cooperation.

Naama Cameron: I always say it's very important to have clear expectations and boundaries.

You don't have to have 20 rules. In my house, I have a handful of rules. My foundation. And everything else is what I call "negotiable". The core is not negotiable, and it doesn't change. For example, "Don't ever hit me or my husband." "You do have to do your homework." "You have to be respectful to your teachers."

But am I flexible about dessert? Absolutely.

I think it's very important to have that balance of your non-negotiables and your negotiables. And what it teaches kids is that your rules are fair. It's not that you have no rules, and it's not that you are a dictatorship. It's you have your core rules and then everything else is a little bit more flexible.

Why you need to allow your kids to feel disappointed

Sue Meintjes: I think it's difficult to have that balance. It's difficult to be flexible. So, is there any way we can make it easier?

Naama Cameron: A lot of times parents don't want their kids to be disappointed. They don't want them to cry or to hear "No". And what I tell parents is, "It's okay if your kids feel disappointment or they're upset." Let them do that in the comfort of your home with you there and develop those coping skills.

Like I said, having a very clear set of your non-negotiables helps you know, "Okay, these are the things I'm going to be very hardcore about." I tell parents all the time, "Let your kids pick whatever they want to wear. If it's raining and your child wants to wear shorts, let them have that. Let them have a natural consequence and learn if they're really cold or not."

That's where a lot of times we as parents feel like we have to control. And then you get this power struggle. Is it really worth it? Let them figure it out. Let them go outside, let them feel cold. Maybe they won't feel cold. But that way they'll learn naturally rather than us constantly being on top of it.

How to build connection and trust with your children

I always say it's very important to connect with your kids because if we don't connect with them, then they're not going to be receptive.

I think it's key to have a connection with your child. We're so busy all the time. We're so connected to our phones. Even in the evenings sometimes I'm texting clients and it's like, "Put your phone down and be present."

Having present time with your children is valuable, and it really means put everything aside, be present.

Whether it's watching them do 15 cartwheels or watching my son dribble the ball back and forth for 20 minutes, at least he feels like I'm connecting. I'm validating. I'm commenting on what I'm watching. I'm really being present, and it teaches them to value our time together. To value the things that I say as well.

A big piece of trust falls in there. If you have your clear boundaries, like I said in the beginning, and you are consistent with them and you follow through, your children know that you follow through, and so they trust you. They trust your word. So, it's very important to have your boundaries and to follow through, because it teaches your children trust.

"Okay, so now I know that no matter what, I don't get TV in the morning. That's a safe rule for them. They're not going to ask you once they know that you're consistent with that. And so that does build trust. Also, they feel safe because they know what to expect from you. If they don't know what to expect, it becomes very insecure.

Sue Meintjes: And it makes them want to push their boundaries, want to see what they can get, and then keep on nagging you until you give in.

How to handle slip-ups and rule changes

Naama Cameron: And look, we're human. Like I said, I have my kids and they know when I'm stressed. They know to ask me a certain thing over and over and like we're human. There are times that I slip up. But I will say to them after, "Look, I made a mistake. I changed the rule. I shouldn't have done that. And I want to let you know from now on we're going back to the way it was."

Even at bedtime, if they stay up a little bit later because I was busy, I'll say, "Okay, well now we're back. You know, I made a mistake. I let you guys stay up or we bent the rule, but tonight we're getting back on track."

Why you need to work with your partner to establish core boundaries

Sue Meintjes: So, is it a matter of having a meeting with your partner and then determining what are the rules that you are going to be firm about, and then communicating them with your children?

Naama Cameron: Exactly. You have to be on the same page. You have to support each other. What we've done, which has made our lives easier is, because we're on the same page with our foundation, our kids won't ask me and then go ask him because they know that our non-negotiables, neither one of us are going to change that.

How involving children in decision making empowers them

Sue Meintjes: What are other things that parents can do to help them set those base boundaries?

Naama Cameron: Have meetings with your kids. Two-and-a-half-years-old. Yes. I tell every client that I meet, "When we get off the phone, I want you to sit with your child or your children, and I want you to go over the rules. I want you to sit and say, we're having a family meeting, and this is our new plan. These are the new rules."

Even if they're two, two and a half, let them process it. Kids are smarter than we really give them credit for. They're aware of everything. So, if you give them three or four rules and then you follow through, it makes sense to them. I always say present it to them, never have surprises.

Sue Meintjes: Do you involve them in the decision making? Do you listen to their perspective and then let them have a say?

Naama Cameron: Depends on what it is. So again, I'm very easy-going about food, about what we do on the weekends. A lot of things I let them have a say because I want them to feel independent. I want them to feel confident. But homework, even though it's at our school it's optional, in my house, not optional. And that's not even open for discussion.

But my kids wear whatever they want to school. If it's a hundred degrees and my daughter's like, "You know, I want to wear my leggings." Go ahead. If you're hot, you'll figure it out when you're at school.

Sue Meintjes: So, it's all about establishing those boundaries and then also at the same time, making sure that you connect.

How to empower your child without letting them run the show

Naama Cameron: It's very important to have that balance of really empowering your children without letting them run the show.

And that seems to get very confusing for parents. They seem to really struggle with that of, "Well, how do I let them feel empowered and independent without running the show?"

That's where it's okay if they're disappointed. It's okay if they cry and they don't get their way. They'll learn how to cope with disappointment. But at the same time, we want them to be independent. If they want water, they can go to the fridge, get their water out, fill it up when it's empty. If they want a snack, have a little snack cabinet for them with snacks that you're okay with them having. So, they build those skills.

Bonus tip: The importance of family traditions

Sue Meintjes: That sounds good. We've just about come to the end of our time. Is there anything else you would like to add about what we talked about?

Naama Cameron: Just the last thing I like to say is, have like one family tradition that is special to your family. So, like for our family, every Friday night is movie night. We order pizza. We have some snacks, and we watch a movie. It's our little family tradition, and my kids love that that's our family tradition. No matter how crazy things are, no matter what goes on, Friday night, is family night.

It gives them something to look forward to. And I think they know no matter what happens on Friday night, we're all together. They know what to expect.

Action steps

Here are my action steps that I got from this interview. I hope you’ll find these useful as well:

  • Identify your non-negotiable rules, the things that you are not willing to compromise about. Keep this list short.

  • If you have a partner, or someone that helps taking care of your kids, communicate these rules to them and work with them so that you are on the same page

  • Meet with your children and explain these rules to them. Ask them to help you think of ways to implement these rules.

  • Try to be more flexible about allowing things outside these core rules, the things that are not that important to you

  • Plan to spend at least 20 minutes with your child each day without distractions, just watch what they do and comment on things you like about them

  • Visit Naama Cameron's website or follow her on Instagram

This interview is part of How To Get Kids To Listen: Leading International Parenting Experts Reveal Their Best Secrets For Getting Kids To Cooperate, an ebook containing a collection of interviews I did with parenting experts from around the world.

I asked each expert one simple question: What is your best strategy for getting kids to listen and cooperate? and then listened as they shared their best parenting tips and advice.

How To Get Kids To Listen is available for free download here