10 Steps to becoming a better parent
Raising kids is one of the toughest and most fulfilling jobs in the world. Here are a few tips on how to become a compassionate, connected, loving parent.
STEP 1 Give your child love and affection.
Sometimes the best thing you can give your child is love and affection. A warm touch or a caring hug can let your child know how much you really care about him or her. Don’t ever overlook how important a physical connection is when it comes to your child. Here are some ways to show love and affection:
◦ A gentle cuddle, a little encouragement, appreciation, approval or even a smile can go a long way to boost the confidence and well-being of your children.
◦ Tell them you love them every day, no matter how angry at them you may be.
◦ Give lots of hugs and some kisses. Make your children comfortable with love and affection from birth.
◦ Love them unconditionally; don’t force them to be who you think they should be in order to earn your love. Let them know that you will always love them no matter what.
Tip: Try and remember the tokens of love that you did or did not get from your parents. Try to remember how it felt to be a child receiving or not receiving those tokens of love. Write a list of 10 things that you could do on a regular basis to show your child how much you love them. Remember “fake it till you make it”. If you did not receive tokens of love and affection from your parents it might feel awkward to give it back to your child. Even though it might feel awkward and foreign, try to start small with showing affection with ways that feel comfortable for you and then gradually move out of your comfort zone into bigger displays of love and affection.
STEP 2 Set up household rules and boundaries.
As adults, it’s up to us to exercise our authority by setting boundaries with our kids. This includes not letting them bulldoze us into changing our minds when they don’t like an answer, as well as allowing them to be kids instead of confidants. Boundaries are necessary to teach your child the structure of the real world. The real world is full of boundaries that they must be able to live within (think speed limits, tax payments, showing up to work on time). If your child has not practiced living within boundaries during their childhood, they will struggle with them as an adult. Teaching children to live within boundaries is a necessary part of being a parent.
Tip: Set up a household rules board. Ask your children what rules should go on the board. You might be surprised at their answers. Children usually know right from wrong at a very young age.
STEP 3 Consequences are a necessity.
Consequences are an absolute necessity for the world we live in, not just for our kids, but for grown ups as well. As adults, we all have to face consequences for our actions on a daily basis, in a multitude of environments. For instance, a positive consequence for doing your job well is that you may get a good review and a raise. If you don’t show up and do your job, however, the consequence may be getting fired. The point is, there’s no avoiding consequences, so it makes sense as a parent to begin teaching this important concept to your children starting now, when they’re young. Another benefit is that in doing so, your kids will grow up feeling safe and secure. When kids act out, they’re often saying to their parents that they’re out of control and want to be reigned in. When you provide a consequence for your child’s actions, you’re essentially telling them, “I love you enough to say ‘no’ to you right now. I want you to be safe and to protect yourself.” Nothing feels safer to a child than having a parent who cares enough to set limits.
Tip: Invest in parenting resources. Magic 123 by Thomas Phelan has a great discipline structure that shows how to enforce rules and consequences at home. Purchase the book or dvd. It is well worth the investment. The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabary is a great book that discusses providing natural consequences for our children’s actions.
STEP 4 Control your temper.
It’s important to try to be as calm and reasonable as you can when you explain your rules or carry them out. You want your children to take you seriously, not fear you or think of you as unstable. Obviously, this can be quite a challenge, especially when your children are acting out or just driving you up the wall, but if you feel yourself getting ready to raise your voice, take a break and excuse yourself before you finish talking to your children.We all lose our tempers and feel out of control, sometimes. If you do or say something you regret, you should apologize to your children, letting them know that you’ve made a mistake. If you act like the behavior is normal, then they will try to mimic it.
Tip: Remember to disengage from the interaction when you feel yourself getting frustrated or overwhelmed. Remember that you can “step back emotionally” from the discussion and to separate yourself from the anger so it doesn’t overwhelm you or interfere with your parenting. Think of robots…they are able to handle situations from a rational standpoint. If you are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, act as if you are a robot and separate yourself from your anger.
STEP 5 Criticize your child’s behavior, not your child.
It’s important to criticize your children’s actions, instead of your actual child. You want your child to learn that he or she can accomplish whatever he or she wants through his or her behavior, instead of being stuck being one kind of person. Let him or her feel like he has the agency to improve his behavior. When your child acts out in a harmful and spiteful manner, tell him or her that such behavior is unacceptable and suggest alternatives. Avoid statements such as: “You’re bad.” Instead, say something like, “It was very wrong to be mean to your little sister.” Explain why the behavior was bad. Be assertive yet kind when pointing out what they have done wrong. Be stern and serious, but not cross or mean, when you tell them what you expect.
Avoid public humiliation. If they misbehave in public, take them aside, and scold them privately.
Tip: Make a pact with yourself that from this day forward you will no longer criticize your child that you will practice speaking to the behavior instead of them. Remember that criticizing your child can have a very negative impact on their self esteem and belief in themselves.
STEP 6 Establish everyday routines.
Household routines are procedures that make our lives easier. For example, there are certain things you do every morning as part of getting ready for the day, and things you do each evening as you prepare to sleep. Similarly, there are things your kids need to do each morning and evening. Remember that having your child accustomed to routines as a child will give him practice to being able to create and follow his own routines as an adult.
Tip: Create a daily routine chart. Discuss with your children what the “plan of the day” will be. Ask them if they have any special ideas for weekend routines. Remember that life is not always consistent. Plan for flexibility around the consistency.
STEP 7 Set a positive example.
Your kids are learning endurance and determination by what they see in you, right now! Remember that children do not learn how to be adults with what you tell them but they are learning by how you live your life. Are you living the life that you would want them to live? Are you making the choices in your life that you would want them to make? Remember to hold yourself accountable for the type of life you are living. Not only to live the life you deserve to live but to show your children that they can create and live the life that they deserve to live.
Tip: Instead of creating New Year’s resolutions, create New Years Goals!!! Every New Years day create a list of financial, personal, family goals and encourage your children to create their own list. Review previous annual goals to see how well you have done with sticking with them.
STEP 8 Listen to your children.
It’s important that your communication with your children goes both ways. You shouldn’t just be there to enforce rules, but to listen to your children when they are having a problem. You have to be able to express interest in your children and involve yourself in their life. You should create an atmosphere in which your children can come to you with a problem, however large or small. You can even set aside a time to talk to your children every day. This can be before bedtime, at breakfast, or during a walk after school. Treat this time as sacred and avoid checking your phone or getting distracted. If your child says he has to tell you something, make sure you take this seriously and drop everything you’re doing, or set up a time to talk when you can really listen.
Tip: Use car time to start a conversation with your child. Strive to have at least 3 family meals together each week to reconnect. Put away all electronics after a certain time in order to re-invest in family time. Try to do one family activity each week in an outdoor setting (park, hike, movie).
STEP 9 Make time for your children.
Be careful not to stifle or smother them, however. There’s a big difference between protecting someone and imprisoning them within your too unyielding demands. You want them to feel like your time together is sacred and special without making them feel like they are forced to spend time with you.
Spend time with each child individually. Try to divide your time equally if you have more than one child. Listen and respect your child and respect what they want to do with their life. Remember though, you are the parent. Children need boundaries. A child who has been allowed to behave as they please and had their every whim indulged will struggle in adult life when they have to obey the rules of society. You are NOT a bad parent if you don’t allow your children to have everything they want. You can say no but you should provide a reason for saying no or offer an alternative. “Because I said so” is not a valid reason!
Tip: Set aside a day to go to a park, theme parks, museum or library depending on their interests. Attend school functions. Do homework with them. Visit their teacher at parents meeting to get a sense of how they are doing in school.
Step 10 Know that a parent’s work is never done.
Though you may think you have already molded and raised your child into the person he or she will become by the time your child dons his or her graduation cap, this is far from true. Your parenting will have a life-long effect on your child and you should always give your child the love and affection he needs, even if you’re hundreds of miles away. While you won’t always be a constant daily presence in your child’s life, you should always let your children know that you care about them and that you’ll be there for them, no matter what.
Tip: It takes a village to raise a child is a good adage to remember. Enlist help from others to become a better parent. Connect with a therapist to get support. Join a mommy and me group. Read a book about parenting. Go to parenting support groups or take a parenting class.
Article by sd-cc.org