Being a parent is one of the toughest jobs a person can ever have. Even when you have the best intentions, things often go differently from what you’d hoped. In the face of these challenges, you may wonder if you’re parenting correctly or doing your child more harm than good.
Self-doubt and worry are common and signal you care deeply about your parental responsibility. The truth is, there is no tried-and-true parenting method. The way you raise your child will likely reflect a combination of your own personality and your child’s individual needs. Even though each parent puts a unique spin on childrearing, there are a few tips that can help every parent when parenting feels overwhelming.
1. Prioritize Safety
This may sound obvious, but it bears repeating – all the worry you’re going through right now about your relationship with your child won’t matter if your child is not safe and healthy. Children benefit from safety lessons at every age, and you should be open and honest with them about potential dangers at home, in school and in the outside world. Keep in mind that no matter how well you teach them, they still rely on you for protection.
For babies and toddlers, babyproof the house, cut foods into small chunks, use a backward-facing car seat, and watch your child carefully around bodies of water. Older children might need to be reminded about safely crossing the road, stranger danger, and best procedures in case of emergency. Teens may have the basics down, but need a confidant to trust with more difficult topics like drugs, sex and relationships, no matter how anxious those topics may make you feel. Also, parents must have agreed upon protocols in place for screen time, including the use of cell phones, tablets, and access to technology and the internet.
2. Keep Discipline Consistent
Make sure your child isn’t receiving mixed messages about discipline. Outline acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and explain any disciplinary action so they understand what they did wrong and how to fix it for the future. When in doubt, follow the 3 F’s: be firm, fair and friendly.
Depending on your situation, others may also have a significant influence on your child’s life. This could be a spouse, significant other, ex, family member, friend, nanny, babysitter or daycare worker. It’s important that they are also on board with your parenting methods. This can be difficult if you and the other person have different beliefs. Still, you want to present yourself as a united front so your child understands discipline guidelines and knows what to expect even when they aren’t with you. You can always re-group with other caregivers and reflect after the immediate problem has been resolved.
3. Practice Positivity and Praise
Sometimes parents become frustrated and verbally lash out. No one is the perfect parent all the time; however, it’s best not to make negativity a habit or rely on overly harsh punishments. Children are much more responsive to love, care and respect. Use positive enforcement, like rewards of healthy snacks, games or playground time to reinforce the good behavior your child is already exhibiting, or use it as an incentive to follow the rules.
Remember that children (and even teens!) act up because they can’t verbalize the turmoil they feel inside. Encourage them to share their feelings by prompting them with questions. Thank them for their honesty and show them healthier ways to channel their emotions.
4. Ditch “Do as I Say, Not as I Do”
It’s so easy to say “because I told you so” to a child. You may simply be trying to assert your authority as a parent, yet you have to admit it’s confusing if you tell your child not to eat too many sweets, then polish off a chocolate cake right in front of them. What are they supposed to believe: your words, or your actions?
Practice what you preach by setting a good example in addition to giving advice. Remember that children naturally mimic their parents. They will be much less likely to pick up your bad habits if you take the time to model good behavior.
5. Spend Quality Time Together
Sometimes all children or teens need is some extra connection with their loved ones to feel secure and grounded. Take time to do things together, whether it’s playing pretend, reading a book, competing in board games, going for a picnic, taking a weekend vacation or watching your child’s high school game. These are wonderful, relaxing times to bond and get to know each other better, and the happy memories can last a lifetime. This part of a child’s life will flash by in the blink of an eye, so savor it while it lasts!
6. Let Them Grow
There always comes a time when your child no longer needs you. Or, more accurately, they won’t rely on you as heavily as they once did for their basic physical needs. Young children may want to dress themselves and help with chores, kids may want to choose friends and join new activities, and teens might be ready to start driving and get a job.
Signs of independence are good at any age. They show that your child is confident in his or her opinions and decisions. These skills will only serve to help them as they transition into adulthood.
Make the Right Decision for Your Child with Conniff Law Offices
Even though you love your child unconditionally, life throws curveballs that may put strain on you as a parent. In those moments, Conniff Law Offices wants to help you make legal and other family decisions that will result in the best life for your child. Our services include divorce, civil union dissolution, parental decision making, parenting time, child support and more. We stand by our values of compassion, excellence and discretion with all our legal cases so you and your family can adjust as quickly as possible. Contact us online or call us at (708) 763-0999 for more information.