We all have expectations about the type of parent we are going to be. Our exact expectations might differ from each other's, but for the most part the moment we find out we have a child (either through natural means or adoption) we start with the dreaming. How patient we are going to be, how we are going to discipline, things we already know we are going to do and things we know we never want to do. We start making promises to ourselves. Moreover, while our wording might be different, it all boils down the same thing — we want to be a good parent. No, better. We want to be a kickass parent.
We want to be the type of parent our kids grow up respecting and emulating.
As it turns out, it is not all that hard to be a good parent. It takes much practice, of unlearning bad habits while learning good habits to replace them, and of learning how to treat yourself well.
Here are ten things you can do to be a good parent.
- Tell your children how much you love them, all the time. Especially when you are angry. Let them know that no matter what, you are there for them, you love them and that this love is unconditional. That means they cannot mess it up — no matter what they do.
- Give your children the same respect you expect them to give to you. Ask for permission to enter their room, give them their privacy, apologize when you step out of line. Don't interrupt or talk down to them — the best way to teach them how to be respectful is to show them, and the best way to do that is to be respectful.
- Correct the behavior without shaming or ridiculing your child. It is okay, even normal, for a child to feel guilty after doing something wrong and being corrected. Shame is a whole different game. To explore criminal means “I did something shitty.” To feel shame means “I am shit.” Learn to separate the behavior from the child's identity so you can teach him or her to do the same.
- Remember that to your child; everything is a big deal until it's not. If you don't listen to them when they want to tell you the story about their imaginary friend, they won't come to talk to you when anything really big comes up — like peer pressure, drugs, or sex. Teach them that their words are important by listening to them whenever they speak.
- Be honest. Your toddler may not be ready for the exact anatomy of a man and a woman and how babies are made, but that doesn't mean you should hide from the question by making up some off-the-wall answer. Do a bit of research if you need to, and make the answer age-appropriate. But make it an honest answer so you won't have to explain your lie later.
- Be kind — not only to other people but to yourself as well. Avoid putting yourself down or talking negatively about yourself for any reason. If you make a mistake, don't call yourself stupid…your negative self-talk is being heard by more than just you, now. Your children will learn how to talk to themselves by watching and listening to how you talk to yourself. Remember to give yourself some slack, encourage yourself to do better, and learn from your mistakes. Most of all, learn to forgive yourself out loud.
- Learn to see things from your child's perspective. Remember, when they are throwing a tantrum, it's not because you wouldn't let them pet the bumblebee, it's because their world shattered the moment you placed a boundary around them. When your child is throwing a temper tantrum, help them work through their feelings by not losing your temper in the meantime.
- If you start to feel yourself losing your temper, take a breath and remember you are teaching your child how to handle their anger and stress. If you lash out or yell, they will learn to do the same. Instead, take a few minutes to try and avoid adding extra stress, learn some calming techniques, and react to a stressful situation after you have had a chance to cool off a bit.
- Show your child you can stand up for yourself without having to step on anyone else. Don't let others walk all over you or treat you as less worthy. You don't need to be mean to be direct — honest and firm is more than enough to stand up for yourself, realize your self-worth, and surround yourself with others who will recognize your worth. This will not only teach your children to hold respect for you but will also teach them how to stand up for themselves using respectful methods as well.
- Realize that you cannot control your child. No matter how hard you try, your children are going to do something that you would rather they didn't. They are going to make bad decisions because you can't make those decisions for them. All you can do is try to give them the tools and resources in a safe environment to teach them how to make good decisions.
Above all else, remember that you don't need to be a perfect parent to be a good parent.
Like it or not, becoming a parent does not make you infallible. You are still going to make plenty of mistakes, and some of those mistakes are going to make you feel like you are failing as a parent. The only thing it's going to take for you to be a good parent is for you to want to be.
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