Positive Parenting: 5 Tips for Success
Everyone offers them and we seem to be inundated with information, facts, how to’s and must do’s. It can sometimes feel like you’re just getting to grips with one concept and its all change again. Out with the old and in with the next study set to change the way we should parent. It’s no wonder that parenting is so overwhelming, we are truly living in the information age and it can seem, at times, as though we are losing touch with our basic instincts when it comes to parenting. We are increasingly seeking the best advice and parenting tools offered with a price tag rather than relying on gut feeling and ‘how our parent’s did it’.
Always put your child’s needs first
The world we live in today is very different to the one our parents experienced, the law and issues around safeguarding and child protection sometimes make parents feel that their every move is being watched and there is also the guilt of working and leaving your child in the care of someone else. This can make you feel that you need to ‘make up for’ the decision to go back to work.
As a culture, we are perhaps ‘child-obsessed’ and this means that parents often put their own needs aside in a bid to meet every desire their child may have. To complicate matters further, by showing our children that we are giving in to their every demand, we are possibly upsetting the natural order of family dynamics. Children are no longer ‘seen and not heard’ they are, increasingly, being treated as adults from a very early age and while there certainly is a place for your child’s opinions, ideas, desires and dreams, these should not overshadow good parenting, boundary setting and teaching them the art of self-discipline.
It is vital for parents to “put their own oxygen masks on first,” as this not only helps parents to stay healthy and focused, able to be the best parent possible, this also communicates the message to children that they are in a family hierarchy, there the parents are at the top of that system and are there to provide for and see to the safety and healthy upbringing of their children. This promotes the natural balance in family life.
Parents are there to provide protection from harm and security until children are old enough to fend for themselves. If children are left to feel in charge, they may lack the feeling of security they need and the parent-child relationship balance becomes blurry. Parental guilt often manifests in the process of giving or spoiling children in a bid to feel better about being unavailable or lacking in some way. This can send a confusing message to children in the process. If you have to work or are at times unavailable, explain to your child why and work hard to make up with quality time together rather than a trip to the toy shop. This will create a situation where your child will expect material things in exchange for their happiness.
If your child is upset, must you always fix it?
We live in a society where there is a strong emphasis on happiness. If your child has a meltdown in public or seems to kick off unnecessarily, it is not always necessary to feel the need to ‘fix the situation’. It is a normal and healthy part of life for children to experience their emotions and they learn from the way parents react to those emotions.
Unless there is a clinical reason, the majority of us are born with the ability to experience a range of emotions, some act out more negative emotions or behaviours than others and while some of this is down to personality, some is also down to the way a child is cared for, this may be as simple as giving in to a child’s demands constantly so that they child feels the need to behave in such a way in order to have their needs or desires met.
Should parents feel guilty for saying no?
Parents often feel the desire to say ‘yes’, or to feel that they are doing the right thing by saying yes to their child when ‘no’ would have been more appropriate and even accepted by the child if the boundaries were already set. In years gone by, children were raised in a far more strict environment – many of those children are parents of today – some may have felt more criticized or deprived growing up due to the strict home life they experienced and by saying ‘yes’ to their own children now, they feel empowered and able to ‘provide’ for their children on a physical and emotional level. This again, has tipped the scales in the other direction. It is not too late to find a middle ground where parents can set firm boundaries with the flexibility to give children what they want when it is appropriate to do so.
Setting boundaries teaches children various skills, helping them to feel safe and secure in their position within the family. Saying ‘no’ is not a direct act against a child if it is said with kindness and sound reason. Shouting and using negative parenting while saying no, is a different matter. It is the context rather than the way it is said that is important.
Helpful limit setting is essential in raising confident children who are able to self-regulate when it comes to needs and desires. An example may be that if your teen exceeds his minutes on his phone, suspending his usage until the following month is teaching a lesson about managing time and resources, it is not saying ‘no’ without fair reason. If you are taking your toddler to a party or out to meet friends for a play session, if he behaves negatively, it is OK to pre-warn him that negative behaviour means you will have to leave early. Follow through and while it will not be fun at the time, the lesson is valuable. Your toddler can have nice things and take part in fun activities, but she knows that she is in charge of her behaviour and if it gets out of hand, the consequences are clear and she will be taken home.
Should you have a ‘parenting strategy’?
Quite often, new parents set out with a plan in mind. A ‘parenting strategy’ which evokes a sense of order and ‘we’ve got this’ approach that comes from many years spent working in environments where without the order and control imposed in time and process, nothing would function properly. Unfortunately, the same does not apply to parenting. While it is always a good idea to discuss your parenting style and values, having a strategy doesn’t always work as well in practice.
In place of a formal ‘strategy’ it can be more productive to consider a parenting mind-set to govern feelings, reactions and interactions. Self-confident parents are more likely to raise self-confident children and the same goes for parents who demonstrate healthy relationships. Children who mirror the same values and attitudes to their own relationships based on their experiences growing up.
Equally, it research shows that parents who constantly caution or focus on a worst case scenario mentality tend to have children who overly cautious and not as quick to work towards major achievements for fear of failing. This can be questioned however when you consider the number of highly successful individuals who have come from very challenging backgrounds.
Some psychologists believe that a better parenting approach is for parents to find their own parenting instincts and go with what works for them and their child. Experiment what works best for their unique child and learn from situations that don’t result in a positive outcome. This approach recognises that parents and children are all unique and no one size fits all approach is going to work for all. Healthy parenting means being attuned and responsive to your child’s needs. This translates into engaging and being present, acting in the moment and being focused in your response.
Your adult relationship can wait while you bring up your children…
It is no secret that parenting can be an all-consuming task. It can often result in parents neglecting their marriages while busily raising their children. This is particularly true during the early stages of parenting. Having young children about can be challenging, frustrating and rewarding all at the same time but if you do no take time to ensure that your marriage is strong and healthy at the same time, your support network quickly becomes fractured and it’s not hard to see why some families appear to be single parents who happen to co-habit. Investing in your marriage or your relationship with you children’s other parent is just as important as investing your time and love in your children. Children will be looking to their parents for the clues on how to have happy, healthy relationships in their own lives so a healthy marriage or relationship is just as important as all the other positive parenting values.
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