People become parents for lots of different reasons. Some adore children and want to experience the thrill of sharing their life with a young person. Others think that is what is expected of them when they reach a certain age. Others want to prove they can do a better job than their own parents did raising them. And for some, it may just be an accident. Whatever the reasons, parenting, while one of the most rewarding parts of life is often one of the most challenging, as well.
In today’s digital age, it seems harder to know what to do and how to keep our kids safe, without keeping them in a bubble. Many years ago, I wrote a pamphlet on tips for successful parenting. I think they still are pretty basic but helpful tips.
1. Be prepared to give unconditional love. This means that even if your kids are naughty, do badly in school, or keep you up at night, they understand they are loved. I understand that for those individuals who grew up in neglectful homes, this is not always easy. Remember, it is hard to give what you don’t have. If you don’t love yourself, it will be harder to love your child.
2. Be prepared to offer guidance and discipline. Kids need help in learning to cope with the world around them. A good parent serves as a positive role model through telling and showing a child how to handle life. This means that parents need to demonstrate good problem solving abilities.
3. Communicate with your children. Be clear about what you expect of your children and make sure they understand. Encourage them to express their thoughts and really listen to them. They may not always be right, but at least they will know they have a voice that is heard.
4. Be consistent and firm. Don’t give punishments you are not going to enforce. Kids need to believe what you say. Appropriate discipline keeps kids safe.
5. Teach responsibility. Give your child age-appropriate chores and involve them in home management. Even simple chores can give kids a sense of accomplishment.
6. Be flexible. Although it is important to be consistent, some flexibility is important in raising kids. Needs change, things happen and compromises have to be made. Compromise is an important part of living with teens. But, even teens need the security of relatively consistent structure.
7. Remember you are first and foremost an authority figure. Trying to be your child’s best friend can really interfere with your ability to set appropriate boundaries.
8. Be patient when your children make mistakes. That is how we all learn. Remember your own mistakes. And while you may be able to keep your kids from making all the same ones, they have to make their own.
9. Help them build their self-esteem. In today’s world, I sometimes feel we have taken this to an extreme. Every kid has to be a winner, receive a trophy etc. But they also need to learn to accept defeat and some failures. Helping kids understand that being a person who can appreciate the positives but not be destroyed by and even learn from the negatives can really help them develop a positive self-image.10. Remember to laugh. A sense of humor is critical to surviving and thriving as a parent.
Parenting is really hard. Our kids don’t come with manuals. But there is a lot of support for parents. On line information is readily available. There are support groups, especially for parents of young children. We really could use more support groups for parents of teens.If you are having difficulty, think about talking with a therapist who is well trained in working with families and children.