No doubt you’ve heard the expression, “parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever do.” Perhaps it sounds trite, or cliche, but its true. Children come to us with their own unique personalities and temperaments. What they do not come with are instruction manuals. If you are puzzling over parenting techniques take heart, all parents find themselves in a quandary or at a loss at some point in the game. Here are a few tips to remember.
Begin with the end in mind
This is advice borrowed from Steven Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Treat your children in ways that will help them become the adults you want them to be. Want them to feel confident in their decision making? Give them limited options from which to choose. Want them to feel confident in their abilities? Provide opportunities for success and offer encouragement, e.g. “it looks like you’ve worked really hard on that, or “I’m sure you will make the right decision.” Want them to feel confident that they can contribute? Give them household chores early on instead of shooing them out of the way. Want them to be interested in their education? Show an interest yourself. You get the idea.
Avoid parent peer pressure
What is right for one child is not necessarily right for another. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that if you don’t follow that pack you are doing it wrong. We have all felt heated stares from strangers when our child misbehaves in public. Remember your child’s needs at that moment and don’t give in to the pressure to exacerbate the problem. For example, if you take a tired and hungry toddler into the grocery store you can probably guess that there will be trouble; a frustrated swat will only make the problem worse.
Ask for support when you need it
There are no extra points for martyrdom. Even the most dedicated parent can benefit from regular adult time. When you are tired and drained it is reflected in the way that you interact with your child. Also, taking time for yourself provides good modeling for how you expect to be treated and shows that you consider yourself and your emotional health and well-being a priority. Keep a roster of trusted child care providers on hand and call on them when you need them…no guilt allowed.
Release the need to be perfect
Your house and your children will not always look like they belong in the pages of the most glossy magazine and that’s okay. If you have to forgo moping the kitchen floor an afternoon or two in favor of a snuggly bedtime story and a warm bubble bath, do it.
Take time to talk and to listen
Don’t think about what you are going to say. Work on really hearing what is being said and trying to understand the feelings behind the words. This will become particularly important as your child ages. Keep the lines of communication open with your teen by refraining from comments that are judgmental and insensitive.
Identify and order your priorities
When you take the time to identify and order your priorities and then parent in a way that honors those priorities…you will go to the head of the class.
There is so much to enjoy about parenting. You won’t always get it right and you will make plenty of mistakes, but that’s okay. Just do your best (which will look different on different days), and do it with love.