Cliché as it may seem, parenting can be the most joyful, fulfilling, frustrating, annoying, angering, fearful, exhilarating, obnoxious, peaceful, sleep depriving, challenging, scary, invigorating, esteem building, source of pride, rewarding, “biggest mistake I ever made”, growth inducing, amazing, dumbfounding, enlightening, hair pulling, costly, draining, source of endless gratitude, all kids are different, heartbreaking, inspirational, emotionally uplifting, moving target, thing I was never taught how to do, peak experience, maddening, thankless, experience of a life time. (Did I get them all?)
It would be great if there were only 3 easy rules to follow toward successful and rewarding parenting. We do know some of what is helpful across most infant, children, teens and young adults. At the same time, in that each and every parent and child is unique (needs, talents, strengths, weaknesses, health, desires, level of motivation and what motivates them, etc) we need to employ the old adage, “Start where the client (family) is”. Family living is about creating and maintaining positive and safe relationships (not just for children but for parents as well).
Through my counseling and coaching for parents, I help parents see that parenting is part science; part art. When attempting to help parents and their children “relate” in more rewarding ways, here are a few things that matter and towards which we will strive.
Helpful things to keep in mind when striving for "response-able" parenting:
- Parents become aware of and own issues within themselves that might negatively impact your parent/child relationship.
- Modeling positive living is perhaps the best way to educate children.
- Mutual respect (earned with trustworthiness and love not demands or entitlement).
- Focus on strengths not weaknesses.
- Being truly present for each other (EVERYONE I know wants, to one degree or another to be seen, heard and supported).
- Empathy and compassion.
- Parents will be most effective if they parent from what is called an “authoritative” stance; part increasingly democratic and part lovingly and age appropriately limit setting- In short, at 1 year old – one choice; at 3 years old – two choices; for teens greater democracy needs to evolve, “let’s talk about all the choices and make the best for all concerned”.
- Nurturing a craving to know what makes the other tick. General questions while a good start (as opposed to harsh demands) but could best be replaced by specific questions with open curiosity and unique understanding as motivation - Particularly with teens, questions are best if they are engaging and encouraging rather than instructive in a controlling sense.
- Strategies for conflict management that do not avoid problems but reach out to discover healing solutions.
- Thoughtful and specific, age appropriate, limit setting.
- Fearless interventions when necessary by parents to protect children and teens from self harm.
- Compassion guides every communication.
- Giving to each other and experiencing gratitude.
- Parents support a “growth” rather than “fixed” mind set. (See Dweck’s book, “Mindset” which should be required reading for every parent!) - Parents and children are best if they can learn from their mistakes rather than run from them.