5 Secrets to Parental Success
Parenting is the most important and demanding job on the face of the planet. Children are our future, and parenting is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year job that doesn’t really end when they turn eighteen. The goal is to nurture and guide children into well-balanced, secure, and independent lives. Parents are teachers, nurturers, coaches, and providers for their children, but even the most dedicated parent makes mistakes. With so many other stresses and demands in our daily lives, it’s hard to remain focused and give parenting as much attention and energy as it deserves. Keeping the following five basic guidelines in mind can help parents to stay on the path to parental success.
Stay Calm—one of the hardest things to remember when parenting is that you are the adult and they are the children. Children are very intuitive and smart. Just as you know how to work around them, they know just exactly which buttons to push on your control panel. Remaining calm will help to keep a parent’s head clear, and a lack of negative energy will help the child to find constructive ways to react to situations.
Be Consistent—keeping the rules, rewards, and disciplines as consistent as possible gives the child structure and boundaries, and provides a stable environment for them to grow. Of course, rules and boundaries will need to fluctuate as the child gets older—a seventeen year old will undoubtedly balk at a 7 o’clock bedtime—but it’s important to keep these changes steady and consistent with the child’s progress.
Follow Through—to build a trusting relationship between parents and children, it’s important to always follow through on what you say. If you offer a reward and then later revoke that reward, or if you promise some action and don’t follow through on it, the child learns to distrust what you say. This can cause the child great anxiety and create instability, which can hamper their development.
Give Choices—children learn independence through freedom of choice, even if those choices are actually restricting. Always making choices for them doesn’t allow them to think for themselves, and it gives them a sense of reduced value. If you give them the option to choose, even if it’s a choice between the lesser of two “evils,” a child will respond much more readily than to parental dictates.
Pick Your Battles—not every situation has to be a battle. Keep in mind that living with someone means compromise, even when that someone is your child. There will be times when a situation arises that may cause strife between parents and children. Try to evaluate each situation with the final goal in mind—how important is it to a child’s development and to a parent’s peace of mind that this situation goes the way you want it to go? For example, how important is it to stop a three year old from wiping his or her dirty fingers on their clothes? Those are decisions for each parent to make, but life is too short to spend every moment in battle.
Children are our society’s greatest asset. Just as parents try to shape their childhood, children will grow to shape their parents’ future. We act and react as we have been taught—if the lessons are nurturing, the responses will also be nurturing. The love, structure, and guidance that children learn from their parents will be the foundation upon which they build the future, a future that we all will share.
Written by M. O’Leary