“What are two things, action steps if you will, that every parent should do to be better at parenting? Hypothetically speaking, of course, because I’m the world’s best mom.”
A great friend, who also happens to be a great parent, asked me that once. She followed up with a wink-wink and a sly grin because she, like many of you, knows she’s not a perfect parent, but reeeeally wants to be.
Now, just for the record, there’s no such thing as a perfect parent, so pop that thought bubble right there. But, as someone who cares deeply about families, I gave her a couple tips I’d like to share with you.
Step One: Let go of your old-school parenting. Doing so will not turn your kid into a bratty one even though you may be convinced it will.
Step Two: Value and enjoy your children, rather than manage them. I got that idea from a book entitled Parenting from the Inside Out by Dr. Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzell, and it’s a mantra for us at Stand Up Eight.
Okay, deep breath because this may require some guts on your part. When you read those steps, did your shoulders relax a little? Did you feel a tad relieved, maybe? Does it help with some of the pressure?
Because I know it’s not easy. But I also know that at least chewing on both ideas and trying to integrate them into your life will make you a more satisfied parent. Which will make you a happier person. Which will make your children happier tiny persons. And that’s why we’re here.
Let me explain Step One, and then we’ll focus on Step Two next time.
Toss old-school parenting, and the idea that the way you were raised (whether good or bad) is the only way, right on out the window.
I’m not suggesting you throw caution to the wind and allow everything under the sun. That’s a great way to leave your children feeling confused and unsafe.
I’m also not suggesting the methods your parents used don’t have big value or a place in today’s parenting. But, as you may or may not have experienced, some of those techniques squash true relationship and connection.
What I’m talking about is evaluating the parenting philosophy you have and how it got there.
For example, but not limited to...
Why does your child have to sit so-very-still on the sofa? Is the sofa a precious, family-heirloom-sofa and the very act of moving on it will cause harm or be disrespectful? Or, do you think only the unruliest of children wiggle on furniture, and that reflects poorly on your ability to parent your child? Kids wiggle, right?
Why can’t your child have a snack before dinner? Will it indeed ruin her appetite? Can you explain how that phenomenon actually happens with most children? If by chance you can, would it be the worst thing? Kids burn all that energy wiggling, after all, so it’s no mystery they get a bit peckish.
With all that each day brings, why spend so much time stressing about the things that don’t matter nearly as much as your child feeling connected to you?
So, how about giving Step One a try? Refocusing your energy can transform your interactions with your children. You may be surprised how quickly you notice the change and how quickly your kids notice a change in you.