Ten simple things to do every single day as a parent
Parenting is a 24 hour, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year job so it can be tiring, frustrating and challenging. But, bringing up a child can also be hugely rewarding, uplifting, fun and a great privilege.
Building a happy home takes patience, tolerance and unconditional love. But for the majority of the time being a great parent boils down to following a few simple principles that you can practise every day. Think of three simple habits that you would like to practice every day and write them down on a piece of paper where you can see them last thing at night. This keeps them foremost in your mind and helps you to stay focused on the important part of being a Mum or Dad.
This little habit stops you getting stuck in what I like to call “the socks and pants” of life – the humdrum and mundane. It keeps you firmly focused on the bigger picture – to raise happy, confident well-balanced adults. Today’s children – tomorrow’s future.
Here are some suggestions to get you thinking:
1. Respect Your Child
Your relationship with your child is the foundation of their relationships with others. If you treat your child with compassion, kindness, and respect, they’ll grow up to be concerned about others, caring, considerate, and respectful towards people.
If you are uncaring, rude, and dismissive, your child is very likely to have these characteristic when they grown up.
Respect is the key to a good family and it brings everyone together. Families don’t die from their setbacks, but they can wither and die from a negative, sarcastic, taunting, or guilt-ridden culture within them.
Top Tip: As obvious as this sounds, speak politely to your child and respect their opinion. Pay real attention when they speak to you and treat them kindly and remember, your children may choose your old people’s home one day!
2. Act as a Role Model
Have you ever noticed that you have many of the same attitudes, habits, and opinions that your parents had when you were growing up and even though you swore you’d do it all differently? Well, that’s because your parents were your first, important role models, and you are now the same to your children.
Imitating parents is a natural part of how children develop and grow. Perhaps you’re not aware of the subtle messages you send to your children all the time but all your actions and emotions are communicated to your kids. That’s why anxious parents produce anxious children and positive parents bring up confident kids!
3. Involve Yourself in Your Child’s Life
One of the most important things you can do to safeguard your children is to spend time with them. None of us ever feels we “have enough time” to do the things we have to do much less the ones we’d like to do! But strong family ties are formed between children and their parents if a little regular daily effort is made to spend time talking, eating and playing with them. So enhance the quality of the time you spend with your children.
Children should be absolutely sure that they can count on your time with them. Set aside time when you can give your full attention to your child: family dinner time, homework help, or once-a-week outings. Younger children need more time, although older children need regular time with you, too. And each of your children needs some time to spend with you alone, apart from brothers and sisters. Set aside together time with your children when they are younger and the habit will more likely continue as your children grow.
4. Share yourselves
The whole point of spending time with your children is to share your own values, beliefs and plans with your child. Talking with and listening to your child is one of the most important “quality time” activities you can do and it can happen anywhere, at any time—while folding the laundry, playing a game, doing the shopping, or driving home from Grandma’s house.
5. Focus on Flexibility
Your role as a parent changes as your child grows. What worked well when your child was in nursery doesn’t necessarily work when she reaches junior school and is likely to outright fail when she enters adolescence.
The drive and independence that makes your three-year-old say ‘no’ all the time is actually part of the same process that makes your 13-year-old daughter argumentative at the dinner table. It is also what makes her more inquisitive in the classroom and even later on in her career.
So embrace the wider implications of your child’s actions. Parental flexibility is all about getting inside the mind of your child at her particular age.
6. Set Boundaries and Rules
The two most important things children need from parents are love and structure. Some of the parents I work with don’t want to repeat the strict upbringing that they experienced, so they go the other way and have no rules or boundaries at all. They then wonder why their children don’t listen to or respect them or why they feel so exhausted all the time.
Children thrive on routine and rules. Like everything in life, providing your child with structure is a balancing act. Structure makes children feel the security of love around them. If your child feels insecure, she may be reluctant to try new challenges.
Remember the real reason for having rules and setting boundaries is that over time your child can develop the ability to set her own boundaries and manage her own behaviour. Although this idea may sound weird, you need to realise that your child’s ability to be controlled by you leads to her ability to control herself.
7. Be Consistent
The biggest single contributor to a kid’s disciplinary problems is inconsistent parenting.I know you’re probably thinking, ‘Well, being consistent is easy to say, but hard to do’. True enough. But the secret of consistency is keeping your expectations clear and always meeting the same behaviour with the same reaction.
Top Tip: If you’re having trouble disciplining your child, the first thing to do is take a step back and ask yourself, ‘Am I being consistent?’ Parents have many reasons for becoming inconsistent, but stress and tiredness seem to be the most common. In today’s hectic and frenetic world, everyone gets tired. When you feel like giving in or that you don’t have the energy to take on the battle or argument, you can easily get distracted or lose your focus.
So take control of your time by the three “D’s” –
Deciding – what you want to achieve each day and by setting yourself just one or two goals that you really want (not need) to accomplish.
Discarding – any tasks or jobs that aren’t really important in the big scheme of life
Delegating – tasks that other people or your kids could do. This frees up your energy and helps you to stay focused and consistent with your kids
8. Encourage Independence
From the day you play ‘peek-a-boo’ with your baby, you’re preparing her for separation from you. From her first day at school, first sleepover, and first school trip to France to the day your daughter leaves home. Good parenting is a step-by-step process, a gradual moving out into the big world, confident and independent from you.
You tread a fine line: Good parenting requires a balance between involvement and independence. Your child learns self-confidence from learning to manage her own self-sufficiency.
Parents who encourage independence in their children, help them to develop a sense of self-direction. To be successful in life, children need both self-control and self-direction. They also need self-discipline to balance their own individual needs with the needs of others.
9. Be Firm and Fair in Your Discipline
At each stage of your child’s development, you must establish your rules that you expect your child to obey. But you also need to expect that your child will at some point challenge you and test your limits. This behaviour’s just what kids do.
Remember! Your job is to do what’s best for your child, whether she likes it or not. You are the adult; you are the more experienced, wiser person who can see the bigger picture.
• Don’t let your toddler blackmail you into buying that ice cream just before lunch with a screaming tantrum.
• Don’t let your 12-year-old refuse to change her smelly shirt after a netball match because she gets all huffy and won’t speak to you for a couple of hours.
• Don’t let your teenager get away with not emptying the dishwasher because you can’t bear her sulky behaviour as she does it.
Remember you are teaching life skills and helping to develop a well rounded, helpful, self reliant adult for the future and if it helps….this phase doesn’t last for ever!
Your child’s judgement isn’t as good as yours. You are building an adult and tomorrow’s future generation so stand your ground.
10. Listen First, Talk Later
Remember! Listening is the best gift you can give anyone including your kids. Listening makes children feel valued, heard, and understood. It makes them feel important.
Through listening properly to your children, you help them find their own answers. They also let off steam. You may even get to ask the odd great question and your child may start to see things from a different perspective.
So turn down the TV, stop reading the paper, and stop peeling the potatoes. Look at your child and give her your full attention. Listen with genuine interest and really pay attention to what she’s telling you. Keep an open mind and don’t judge or interrupt her. You know how frustrating it is when your friend or partner interrupts you, half listens, or just says ‘aaahh haaa’ now and again. Your kids deserve better.
I think it helps to remember that you have two ears and only one mouth for a reason!
Top Tip: As obvious as this sounds, speak politely to your child and respect their opinion. Pay real attention when they speak to you and treat them kindly and remember, your children may choose your old people’s home one day !!!