Parenting is one of the noblest privileges known to mankind, and like anything worthwhile it comes with particular challenges and lessons to be learned along the way. Making mistakes and fumbling around a bit can be a vital part of the adventure and the learning process. That’s if we recognize our failures, and use them to hone our parenting skills as we press on bravely raising our kids as best we know how. Sitting back and taking stock every once in awhile is a valuable exercise which can help you go forward with renewed insight. This article will describe how to avoid ten typical blunders and stumbles which can easily happen along the parenting road. With these few tips under your belt, hopefully you can dust yourself off and continue on parenting… with a smile.
1. Great expectations are great, but…
Before you have your own child it’s easy to think and say what you will and won’t do, but be careful that you don’t set yourself up! You might just find yourself doing those exact same things you vowed you never would before you became a parent. It’s great to have expectations and to prepare yourself, but try not to set your ideas in concrete. After all, every child is different. Rather, wait and see who your little one is and be flexible and teachable in the process.
2. Enjoy the ride
No doubt about it – parenthood is the ride of a lifetime, so you might as well enjoy it. If you are going to stress and obsess about every little thing, you will make yourself and your kids miserable. Allow your children the freedom to fail and fall down, get a few scrapes and bumps, climb trees, play outside, and get dirty. Overprotecting our children robs them of a lot of fun and also the valuable experience of learning to cope and get through the knocks and bruises of life.
3. Say what you mean, mean what you say
We all know how frustrating and downright exasperating our kids can be at times, but barking out vicious threats is not going to help in the long run. It may get them to give you a few moments of peace and compliance, but pretty soon they will learn that your “bark is worse than your bite”. Rather say what you mean and mean what you say, and then you will be more likely to gain the respect and cooperation of your children.
4. Make consequences count
On a similar note, it’s great to set clear boundaries and explain the consequences when a boundary is crossed. But then you must be prepared to follow through with those consequences – every time, consistently. This is the only way to see lasting results. If you let it slide now and then, you will have to start all over again from scratch. So make the consequences count.
5. Sometimes Ok is not OK
Once you have firmly established those boundaries and consequences, don’t ruin it by tacking on an “OK?” For example, “Now you are going to wash the dishes and dry them, ok?” Although we mean this rhetorically, it somehow creates a loophole and gives the child the idea (even subconsciously) that if it’s not okay he doesn’t have to do it. So make your path smoother for yourself and leave off the “OK’s”, OK?
6. Expect some embarrassing moments
One of the most precious things about children is their innocence and oblivion to the social airs and graces of the adult world. Inevitably this may lead to some embarrassing moments in public places such as the supermarket when your child asks those awkward questions in a loud voice. Try to take it in stride and see it as a teaching opportunity. If you can’t settle the matter on the spot, sit your child down when you get home (or in the car) and explain the answer in an age appropriate manner.
7. Take responsibility for your own feelings and behavior
Blaming our children for our own feelings and behavior is highly unfair, whatever their part may be. Saying to a toddler, “You make me so mad I can’t help screaming at you,” is blame shifting, and basically teaches the child to do the same – to blame others for their negative feelings and bad behavior. Rather take responsibility and apologize if necessary and then you will set a memorable and positive example.
8. Help kids face their own failures
If you have set a good example of taking responsibility for your own reactions, then you will be able to help your kids face up to their own failures. This is a really important life skill; being able to humbly admit when we are wrong, apologize, and make amends when necessary. The alternative is pride and blame-shifting, which is unpleasant to say the least and may cost your child dearly in the future. So if your child has lost his temper or hurt someone else, don’t cover up for him and say it doesn’t matter. Rather coach him to make an honest apology and repair whatever was damaged.
9. Avoid cutting comparisons
Comparing is a bad idea for anyone, whatever your age. Each one of us is unique with our own special personality, abilities, and gifting. It can be very hurtful when a parent compares siblings, setting them up against each other and creating jealousy or resentment. This is also true where friends or peers are concerned. Avoid cutting comparisons, whether it is in your child’s hearing or not. Rather focus on each child’s talents and success, encouraging him or her to be the best that they can be.
10. Stranger danger and personal space
Sometimes we can be so careful to teach our kids about ‘stranger danger’ and not letting anyone they don’t know into their personal space. But then a long lost friend or family member appears out of the blue and we expect our kids to give them a hug and a kiss. This can be confusing for a child. Rather let them get to know the person at their own pace, starting with a polite handshake perhaps, until they can reach a more familiar footing and build trust appropriately.
Now that you have your newfound checklist, what about your parents’ relationship with your children? Here are 7 Tips for Setting Boundaries with Grandparents. Healthy boundaries, healthy you, healthy kids, and healthy relationships!
Photo credits: Andi L