Some Tips on Successful Parenting
If you were to ask any parent, they’ll likely tell you that raising kids is a full-time job. From the late-night feedings in the early years, to struggling our way through helping them with math homework after they’ve reached a grade beyond our humble abilities, the work never really ends. While it’s also true that they’d all probably tell you that they wouldn’t trade the role for anything in the world, it doesn’t come without its costs. The attributes that are celebrated for their uniqueness of individual personalities in our children are the same ones that can have some parents feeling like they’re assembling the plane in mid-flight.
Although there’s certainly no shortage of books, blogs, vlogs, and workshops on parenting, your child isn’t going to come with an instruction manual. There really is no “correct” way to be a parent, though there are of course some things we try to avoid doing, like letting them run with scissors.
There are also things that we can do that will not only help maintain some degree of sanity for us parents, but also ensure that we’re properly addressing the many emotional and intellectual developmental needs of our children. From breakfast to bedtime, every part of the day deserves careful scrutiny to make sure that our heart’s and heads are in the right place, and that we’re doing our best for our kids. Naturally, individual circumstances may necessitate the need to adjust or modify some key tenants to parenting, and that’s okay. The goal is to do our best, and the more we know, the better we can be as parents.
From the first moment you hold your child all through their lives, one thing they will always need is your love and attention. One of the most underrated parenting aspects is the value of giving and expressing physical love through hugs, kisses, and cuddles.
As a baby, your child is probably going to feel their most safe and secure in your arms, after all, to them the world is a pretty large and scary place. As they grow into their toddler years, they’ll seek your approval in the things that they’re learning to do, unsure if what they’re doing is right or not. Around this age, you’ll also probably start having moments where you get upset or angry at them from time to time.
Broken vases and crayon covered walls will certainly test your patience and limits, but it’s important to not withhold showing love to them. As they begin to develop their own personalities, don’t try to force them to be who you feel they should be in order to receive your love and attention, instead celebrate their unique qualities, so long as they aren’t harmful or destructive to themselves.
Parenting is a lengthy investment, more akin to running a marathon than it is a sprint. Likewise, your child’s development in many areas can be a slow process. It’s important not to rush things that you feel your child should be able to do.
Some children develop at different speeds than others, so as long as you’re doing the right things, don’t get caught up in how fast your friends kids accomplished certain benchmarks. Be patient and encouraging with your little one, as challenging as that can be at times. We all want to speed up the clock and get them to eat solid foods, learn to walk, or be potty trained, but the truth is that skipping over these things too fast and not allowing the learning and development process to unfold can have negative effects on a child’s development.
Another area that is going to require patience is in disciplining your child. As they grow they will have the need to test limits and boundaries, which is perfectly natural. You want to avoid over-reacting to these tests while still ensuring that they understand right from wrong. It isn’t always easy, but taking a few moments to compose yourself before you get into the consequences of their actions will help prevent any over-the-top punishments.
Kids flourish under structure, as counterintuitive as that may sound. As they grow, an environment that is minimal in its boundaries can not only be unsettling for them, but also lead to imbalances in their emotional and intellectual development. One of the best ways to avoid this is through having a daily routine.
Our household has a routine for the mornings before school, after school, after dinner, and before bed. This not only allows us as parents to structure the days, but gives our boys boundaries and limits. It also teaches individual responsibility, as aside from some assistance here and there and a little supervision, they’re able to carry out most of what is expected of them on their own. Just how much and what type of routine works best for you is something that you’ll need to figure out as a family, but once you do you’ll likely find that your child not only adjusts to it, but thrives in it as well.
Be a Role Model
From ages 2 to 70, a lot of how we see the world, and also ourselves in it, has to do with our parents and the influence or impact that they have on us. Your children are going to look up to you to learn not only the difference between right and wrong, but also how to handle any number of situations in life.
Parents that adopt a “do as I say, not as I do” type of parenting may find that their children grow up with very confused views of the world. On one hand you’re telling them to do what you say, and on the other they’re observing you do something that you’ve taught them not to do, such as use curse words. Parents can raise their children to possess the necessary social skills and character attributes by simply modeling appropriate behavior.
Learn to Say “No”
As parents, many of us enjoy doing things for our kids that we never did, and giving them things we never had. While that certainly has the potential to be great for a kid since you’re applying the lessons learned from your own upbringing, it is a slippery slope. You need to know how and when to say “no”, and stick to your guns when you do. Your child needs to understand that they can’t have everything that they want, when they want it.
This not only helps them learn the value of different things, but they also learn to appreciate what they do have more. Believe me, I get it, I really do. Seeing your child turn on the puppy-dog eyes or make all kinds of promises in return for what they want is hard to endure, especially when all they want is something small or easily affordable. But not telling them “no” enough risks raising a child that can be spoiled or entitled; a condition that will carry over to other aspects of life as they grow, such as school and work.
Instead, try and link gifts and treats to something good that they’ve done. It not only reminds you to properly praise their good behavior, but it also reinforces the concept of reward for performance. Did your daughter pick up her room when you asked? Take her to get ice cream and let her know that it’s not only because you love her, but because she did what you asked and took care of her things so they didn’t get lost or broken.
Teach Them Empathy
Empathy, or the ability to sense other people’s feelings and emotions, is an important lesson for children to learn. Children who lack empathy often grow up to be bullies or mean kids in their class, and it doesn’t improve when they get older. The best way to teach your child empathy is by being empathetic to them first.
No one would ever say that children exhibit a ton of rationale as they learn to express their feelings. Often lacking not only the ability to put their feelings into words, but also having difficulty attributing the right emotion to what they want to express, kids can be a mixed bag of outbursts. As the parent, your role is to see past the expressed emotion and target what the problem could really be underneath.
Your child may come home from school mad at their friend because they chose to do something with another classmate rather than your kid. It wouldn’t be unnatural for your child to say that they “hate” their friend, but you can express that while you understand why they’re upset, they likely just feel hurt. Helping your children to learn how to express emotion and understand other people’s emotions will help them develop the necessary social skills needed for navigating life.
Expose them to Group Sports or Activities
I’ve never met a good parent that has an abundance of free time. Work, school, social obligations, chores, the list goes on. It would seem foolish to suggest one more brick to the pile, but group activities are that important for your child’s growth. Group sports and activities not only get them active, (an immeasurable benefit in itself), they also teach values like teamwork, communication, discipline, responsibility, and respect. You may have to try a few before you find the right fit for your child.
We did soccer, baseball, and cub scouts before ending up where we started with soccer. Yes, it takes some of your free time, and yes, it’s likely to cost some extra money, but the benefits will be well worth it, even if you just get to enjoy some tired kiddos at the end of the day.
Attend Regular Doctor Visits
Regularly going to the doctor and dentist for things like check-ups, physicals, and exams not only gives your child a sense of being cared for and safe, it also lets you catch problems that may cause long term pain and suffering before they come to a head. On the surface, not many kids are going to enjoy going to these appointments, but as they get older they’ll appreciate that they had parents that cared enough to make sure that they did go.
More than just making sure that your kids teeth are healthy and they’re current on their vaccinations, (should you choose to vaccinate your children), they can also let you know how your child is physically developing in comparison to the averages for their age and sex. As an added bonus, hearing about things like flossing and eating vegetables from the professionals will also reinforce the many lectures you give at home as well.
Dedicate Time for Them
Life can get pretty hectic, and while you think that once your child is a little older it will slow down, it doesn’t. It’s just different stuff; from changing diapers to googling math equations, your children will always need you there. It’s important that you make sure to dedicate time for your kids.
Sometimes we try and take a shortcut by simply allowing them to tag along with us while to get our many chores done, but they need more than that. Spend time doing things that they want to do. If your child likes to color or draw, devote 30 minutes in the evening to just coloring or drawing with your child. No cell phone, no television, no distractions; protect the time and guard it jealously.
Look After Yourself
It might sound counterproductive to talk about self-care in an article about taking care of your children, but in fact it’s one of the most important things you can do as a parent.
Sure, it’ll keep you happy and healthy, which is important, but it will also make you a better parent. When kids see you practicing self-care, it teaches them to also value themselves.
You will also make better decisions and have more credibility in what you impart to them if you’re looking out for number 1. Parenting is a busy job with no set hours, but you still want to avoid cutting as many corners as you can. Your kids need you at your best every day, and if that means taking a little “you” time, then that’s what you need to do.
While this list is in no way comprehensive, it’s a great start to effective parenting. You may find that you end up doing things differently than your friends household, and that’s okay.
What’s important is that you find a method that works for your own family while still allowing your child to be raised with love, boundaries, and nurturing. You’re not always going to get things right the first time, but as long as your heart is in the right place, you’ll bounce back as a better parent each time.