As adults with children, we’re all looking for the best parenting tips to help guide our journey. To start off the New Year, I wanted to share my 5 best parenting tips for 2018.
Parenting Tip #1: Resolve to plan ahead
As a parent of young children, you know that any successful outing, event or project requires careful planning. If heading to the zoo, you most likely plan your day ahead, packing snacks, mapping out your route and deciding which exhibits you’d like your children to see. Planning ahead helps minimize disappointment, provides clarity, and helps ensure things go as smoothly as possible. Although plans don’t guarantee perfection, they make great results much more likely.
When it comes to your child’s development, you don’t want to leave it to chance. Steven Covey, the author of the best-selling book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says, “Begin with the end in mind.” As a parent of young ones, it may feel daunting to look ahead ten or twenty years. But doing so provides the answers you need to parent your child today. If you’re not sure where to begin, start by asking yourself this important question: “What do I want my kids to look like when they are older?” Do you want your child to feel loved, respected, and significant? Does a child who grows into an independent person appeal to you? Do you want your child to want to come home for Christmas when he is grown? Each of those images will help lead, guide, and direct your parenting, especially when you are upset.
Resolve to sharpen your self-care skills
Sometimes parenting young ones feels like going to battle. It can be difficult to remember to practice self-care in the midst of running a carpool, wiping runny noses, checking homework and making dinner. Yet science shows us that parents who practice regular self-care are able to think more clearly, remain more relaxed and stabilize their emotions. When your batteries are charged, you have full access to all your best capacities so you can be the most effective parent possible.
Believe it or not, as parents, we aren’t much different than toddlers sometimes. Ever heard the old acronym HALT? (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired). When a person (toddler or adult!) is melting down, it’s always a good idea to take a look at these four things and ask if one or more is in play. For example, if you’re hungry, your blood sugar is most likely low, which means you aren’t going to be able to think clearly. When you’re angry, you’re going to fly off the handle more easily. If you’re lonely and craving some adult conversation, you probably aren’t going to engage with your child effectively. And if you’re just plain tired, well, you’re going to act out too.
Practicing self-care can help you avoid these HALT problems. For example, take an early morning walk with the dog. Sit with a cup of coffee and a good book before the kids wake up. Make sure you get plenty of rest. Take the time to go to lunch with a good friend. Schedule a date with your spouse. Sign up for a spin class at the gym. You may feel guilty about taking time for yourself, but rest assured, by practicing these things, you will remain more well-rounded, healthier and happier so you can be a more effective parent in 2018.
Resolve to be more emotionally accepting and engaging
Returning to parenting tip #1, ask yourself again, “What do I want my kids to look like when they are older?” Then ask yourself the following question: “When I am dead and gone, how do I want to be remembered by my kids?” That question may feel jarring, but it’s an important one to ask. Do you want your children to remember you as someone constantly yelling, distant and cold? Or, do you want them to remember you as an emotionally present parent, engaging, and sensitive to their unique needs?
In the midst of day-to-day parenting, it can sometimes feel difficult to stop and remember this. After all, there are lunches to be made, homework deadlines to be met and soccer practices to rush off to. But taking a moment to look your child in the eye, listen to his stories, and assess his emotional needs is powerful because it speaks the language of acceptance. As you identify, understand, and meet their emotional needs it can do wonders for their – and your—soul.
Resolve to have age-appropriate expectations
In school, children are placed into age-appropriate classes where they learn best. Unless a child is a genius, you would not place a 5-year-old in an advanced algebra class or a toddler in an SAT prep course. Just as children need an age-appropriate education, they need age-appropriate expectations at home. As you assess your parenting style, take a moment to ask yourself, “Are my expectations for my child too high (ultra-demanding) or too low (permissive)?” Next, ask yourself, “Are my expectations age-appropriate (demanding and emotionally responsive)?” Asking yourself these questions will help you assess how to parent your child effectively in every situation.
For instance, expecting a 2-year-old to sit quietly at a restaurant table for three hours may be an unrealistic expectation. Two-year-old, as we know, have short attention spans and need plenty of space to move. If hoping your child can sit still while you and your spouse enjoy a lengthy, romantic conversation, you may be in for a big disappointment. On the flip side, expectations that are too low can hinder growth. Not sure if your 7-year-old son is capable of tying his own shoes or taking his plate to the sink? Most likely, he’s more than capable and has been for some time. Finding the right balance will give your children a gift, raise your confidence, and help provide harmony in your busy home.
Resolve to develop relational discipline strategies
Want to know a secret? When children misbehave, your relationship with your child IS your biggest asset and your best parenting tool. That’s right. It’s not the amount of money in your college fund, the lavish trips you provide your family, or the arsenal of techniques you’ve mastered (e.g., ignoring, redirecting, or a timeout). Your relationship with your child is what matters most when kids need some form of discipline to shape their character or conduct.
The purpose of discipline is essential to stop unwanted behavior and refine life skills. But beyond this, the purpose is to cultivate a stronger relationship with your child. By approaching discipline from a relational standpoint, you can do just that. Relational discipline involves being aware of how you come across to your child, regardless of how upset you are. For example, when the situation heats up, does your child see you as a resource or a mere disciplinarian? The key is to focus on connection first. Once the connection has occurred, you can begin the correction. It’s natural to veer straight toward correction when your child acts out. But focusing on connection can lead to better, lasting results for a lifetime!
Returning to parenting tip #3, again ask yourself, “How do I want to be remembered when I am gone?” Do you want your children to remember you as someone who focused on setting rules and limits or as someone who cultivated a warm relationship with them? By striking the right balance of relational discipline (kind and firm, demanding and responsive), you can be remembered as a parent who disciplined with the intent to connect and let kids figure things out for themselves.
A Point To Ponder
Raising young children can feel daunting at times. But with these five best parenting tips at hand, I hope you can begin this new year with confidence, resolving to be a healthy, happy and emotionally connected parent.
If you want help in mastering the tips I shared today, I have good news. In just two short weeks I’m going to launch my latest parenting program called “How to Tame Tantrums Without Raising Your Voice.” More details to come…
Author: Steve Cuffari For many, Steve Cuffari is the mentor that parents call on to make their parenting style warmer, easier and more affective. He is the founder of inTouch Parenting, a company devoted to helping today's parents calm the chaos, raise emotionally intelligent kids, and nurture families that thrive. read more about Steve Cuffari here...