(Note: I personally hate it when people tell me how to parent my child! But, that doesn’t stop me from honestly consider suggestions that might fit my life, me and my child. So, feel free to take and implement what is helpful and leave the rest behind.)
Parents usually enter my office worried and full of questions. My feeling is that many parents today parent out of fear and uncertainty about what exactly is the “right” thing to do.
Newsflash: There is no one right thing to do.
There are definitely things you don’t want to do but, when it comes to helping a child grow into a productive, independent, caring, courageous, and respectful adult who gives generously back to the world, many roads lead to Rome. And the road is dependent on a child’s, as well as a parent’s, personality. Even though the road might be different, there are some basic guiding principles which you might want to take into consideration.
In any profession, there are issues that repeatedly come up which you tend to consistently answer in the same way. This is how it is with being a therapist as well.
Following is a list of the most common things I teach or point out to my clients when parenting questions are brought up. There are grouped under two categories – change your perspective and improve communication. Many (or all) of these may be familiar to you but, it’s nice to have a reminder once in a while.
Change your perspective
1. Consider the resources needed by your child to succeed.
Does your child have the skills and resources needed to comply with your requests and expectations?
2. Don’t get into a power struggle.
Ignore negative reflex comments (“I hate you!”) made my your child and stay focused on the goal.
3. Avoid judgments.
Focus on changing behavior, not negatively defining yourself, your child or their behavior.
4. Be a good example.
Demonstrate through your own behavior what you would like your child to learn.
5. See it through their eyes.
Consider your child’s experience and how you would like to be treated if it were you in that situation at that age.
6. Teach your child how to express and manage his/her feelings; build their emotional quotient.
They will use these valuable skills for the rest of their lives in more ways than you can image.
7. Anticipate potential problems.
Put strategies in place beforehand instead of responding reactively in the moment.
8. Don’t lecture.
Speak briefly, clearly and with authority (which is not the same as yelling). You don’t need to yell to get respect. Stay in control of yourself.
9. “Catch” them doing the right things.
Children respond to verbal praise much better than they do to punishment and criticism.
10. Be consistent.
Rules, expectations and schedules are important and children find them comforting.
11. Follow through.
Mean what you say and say what you mean. Do I really need to say more?
12. Give them choices whenever possible.
Help children feel and learn that they can choose how they want respond. Life is almost never about only one choice but, one among many.
Ultimately, it boils down to one thing – does your child feel loved?
There are so many great parenting books out there. But, keep in mind that the way someone else parents may not work the same or as well for you and your child because you and your relationship with your child is unique. Take whatever is helpful and leave the rest – trust your instincts as a parent. However, try something consistently for long enough to build habits and don’t give up too soon.