It’s a new year and many of us consider our personal goals or our career goals, but have you considered your parenting goals? Here are 12 parenting tips that will enhance your relationship with your child this year.
- Be consistent.
No matter how tired or fed up you are, consistency is key for long-term parenting ease. The less consistent you are with your children, the harder it will become to parent them in the future. Learn to be consistent when your children are young. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. By the same token, never threaten anything that you can’t or don’t want to carry out. This doesn’t just apply to discipline! It teaches children that it’s important to think about what is said first and that your word can be solidly relied upon. Consistency makes them feel safe.
- Be positive.
My basic behaviorist code is four positives for every negative. With a toddler or a small child, you may feel as though you are saying “NO!” all the time. It doesn’t have to be so negative; consider what you choose to focus on. Make an effort to find what the child is doing right. Sitting still? Praise him or her. Walking along the table edge? Talk about fantastic balancing skills. With older children, it’s easier and just as important. Tell them what you love about them, tell them why you expect certain behaviors (they’re intelligent, they’re analytical, they’re street smart) before you explain what you’d like to see changed. Let them know they are better than their mistakes, and can make better choices next time. Both instances teach your child you believe in their abilities. Both instances give them the self-esteem to know they can do better. Only focusing on the negative is a confidence stealer and leads to children who won’t bother to make an effort to improve. Focusing on the positive is difficult and feels weird at first, especially if it was not how you were raised. Practice makes it comfortable, and you’ll see the difference in your child after you’re able to include positivity consistently.
- No response is still a response.
I see this all the time among parents and children. One or the other doesn’t want to let the other down. They don’t want confrontation, so they stand and say nothing, as though the eyes can independently pass on the message. It doesn’t work that way, the person on the other end of the gaze will read what they choose into the message. Be clear and use your words to communicate.
Parents demand respect from children, but is it offered in return? Respect should work two ways. The best way for a child to learn respect is to experience it and to see you model it with them. Children should not be treated like second class citizens; their concerns, fears, and triumphs should be celebrated and considered with equal attention.
You need to be heard, and so do your children. Listen to their achievements and their arguments. Let them know you’ve heard what they said clearly by paraphrasing it back to them. In a discipline situation, once you let them know you’re clear on their point, they can no longer argue, “You don’t understand!” Once you’ve confirmed understanding, there is no reason to continue to belabor a point and you can cut discussion short.
- Be fair.
Are you fair with your children? Do you give them equal respect, equal consideration and equal time? Keep your frustration in check to ensure that your child gets a proper “hearing.” There is a time and a place for “adult rules” versus “kid rules” but don’t think you’re fooling anyone if your rules have been created for the sole purpose of self-benefit. When you exhibit fairness to your children, they in turn will model it to others. There will come a time when you expect them to be fair to you.
- Promote Honesty.
Many parents make this mistake! Your child is caught doing something wrong, they confess and you inflict maximum punishment. Even criminals get off early for good behavior. There should be two levels of punishment: 1) for unacceptable behavior accompanied by lying and 2) for unacceptable behavior accompanied by truth telling. The lighter of the two punishments goes with the honesty. If you don’t do this, your children will lie to you to avoid the punishment and you are less likely to ever fully understand the events. If they’ve been caught, children are more likely to give an honest account of events if they know they can get a lighter sentence. Eventually, being truthful will become an automatic response.
- Allow them to make some mistakes.
As parents we try to direct our children away from mistakes and pain but there are important lessons to be learned from negative situations. Rather than protecting our children from all harm, we have the ability to choose to allow certain situations to play out as learning experiences. Obviously, dangerous situations should be circumvented all the time, but allowing smaller lessons to occur will help your child generalize those lessons to larger, more defining situations. How you choose to handle this will depend on each unique situation and child.
- Teach them gratitude.
Please and thank you are the gateway phrases to gratitude. Begin by teaching your child proper manners. It’s more difficult to learn gratitude if a child gets everything they want all the time. Open a conversation about the differences between haves, wants, and needs. Spend time guiding an imagination session on what life would be like without “x”. This doesn’t just apply to possessions, it could apply to their school, relationships or themselves, too. If a child can experience empathy, it’s easier for them to learn gratitude. Learning to live a life with gratitude helps to combat self-negativity and depression.
- Know when to let go.
We want to hold onto our children their entire lives, after all, our lives revolved around them for YEARS. If we have done our parenting job correctly, there will come a time when they don’t need us. Our purpose, as parents, is to teach our children to live independently. I’m not referring to living quarters here, I’m referring to their spirit and cognitive abilities. They should be able to make their own decisions, to understand the difference between right and wrong, to take over developing their own spiritual growth. True parenting success is when they choose to ask our opinion but confidently make their own decision.
- Live as you want them to live.
Modeling is a very strong source of education. We copy behaviors as a way of adopting them and learning about them. This learning skill is very strong in childhood. So if you are modeling undesirable behaviors like smoking, drugs, alcoholism or unrestrained anger, you are teaching these coping mechanisms to your children. Stop fooling yourself, telling them not to do it is not enough, you need to model the appropriate behaviors yourself. Seek counseling and your child will learn that asking for help is positive and that learning at any age is possible.
- Evolution is desirable.
Your children are meant to be better than you. You should be teaching your children lessons you’ve learned, so your children will get a head start on all of life’s lessons. This will allow them to adapt, learn and grow. Your children are not in competition with you, each generation is meant to evolve and be better than the last. Give them permission to excel while helping them grow beyond anything you can imagine.