Like all loving parents, you want a good grade this year. It’s part of what drives you to be your best. To bring your “A” game, even when the little-one’s whine, don’t listen, or melt-down. Getting a good grade (being your best) is part of your calling, your purpose, your mission in life. Getting an “A” on your parenting report-card is a big deal, and for good reason. It helps you do right by your kids so they become well-adjusted little people who thrive. Best of all, getting a good grade helps you avoid one of your biggest fears:
Ruining your kids or screwing ‘em up.
Like all parents, you make a mental list of habits that you would like to change (e.g.: yell less, more warmth and empathy). Of course, the New Year seems like a perfect time to refocus.
If you are like most adults, you make the same resolutions each year and here’s why. According to a recent survey in the University of Scantron Journal of Clinical Psychology, over 45% of people make them. Unfortunately, their statistics suggest that only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually stick to them. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that you don’t need make a New Year’s resolution to be get a good grade or to be “the perfect parent.” Truth be told, children don’t need parents who are perfect. Instead, they need parents who are less-than-perfect and try (key word… try) to:
- Accept them unconditionally.
- Model empathy and respect.
- Apologize and repair well when things go wrong.
Here are 4 ways to get a good grade on your parenting report-card.
1. Want a good grade this year? Regulate your emotions well.
Doing so positions you to be the patient, empathic, and resourceful parent your children deserve. For starters, this involves taking excellent care of yourself firs. Try this: Go to bed earlier so you’re more rested, eat healthier to gain greater access to your brain, and transform the voice of your inner-critic into one of encouragement.
Next, move at a pace that works for you so you have greater awareness, increased sensitivity, and more confidence to handle stress. For example, when your emotions are difficult to handle your brain is in fight or flight mode. Your child will no longer see you as a safe-haven of rest, an emotionally calm resource to rely on. Slowing the pace will help you resist the temptation to react while you’re angry or annoyed. Moving at a slower pace will help you calm yourself before, during, and after you engage your children.
2. Want a good grade this year? Help your child feel loved unconditionally.
Developmental psychologists tell us that kids who feel loved, accepted, and cherished thrive. Notice, I did not say kids who ARE loved thrive. Plenty of kids whose parents love them don’t thrive. However, kids who thrive are those who FEEL loved, accepted, and cherished for exactly who they are–not who you want them to be, or who they are “supposed” to be. Every child is unique, so it takes a different approach for each child to feel loved without conditions.
It’s no secret that accepting a child (warts and all) is no easy task. It’s even harder as you try to guide his behavior. If you want a good grade this year, put yourself in his shoes. As you slow down and try to see things from his perspective, it will help you manage your fears better and use a positive lens. Even more, it will help you grant him the autonomy and space that he needs to grow, mature, and discover his unique, God-given strengths.
3. Want a good grade this year? Get connected.
Research shows that kids tend to cooperate more and follow your leadership when they feel connected. Unfortunately, separation happens (you’re busy, distracted, or mad) so it requires that you focus on reconnecting.
Remember that reconnecting is about quality time, not instruction. It has far less to do with life lessons. Instead, reconnecting with quality time is mostly unstructured time. The goal here is to be together and just enjoy each other’s company.
Another way to stay connected is to make a habit out of hugging your child first thing every morning and when you say goodbye. When you’re reunited later in the day, take a brief fifteen minutes to focus solely on your child. If you’re not sure what to do in that 15 minutes try these tips: Listen, gaze into his eyes, commiserate, hug, roughhouse, laugh, play, empathize, and listen some more. It will help you get (and stay) attuned to you little-one.
To stay connected, you may need to do some different methods. Try these: stop working so hard before dinner time and devote the evening to your family. Next, eat dinner together at the dinner table and not in front of the T.V. (or ripping down the highway on the way to soccer practice). At bed time, don’t just focus on getting to bed. Instead, start a bit earlier (you can afford 15 minutes) so you can focus on relationship and getting emotionally engaging with each of your children.
4. Want a good grade this year? Relax and silence your inner-critic.
Getting a good grade when your kids hate you for being firm with your values doesn’t always come easy. And I’m sure you will agree that you will make mistakes. But rest assured that there are no perfect parents, no perfect children, and no perfect families. (You may want to read that last sentence again… go ahead… it won’t kill you.)
However, there are families who honor and embrace each other in the midst of life. And the truth is that the fastest way to get (and maintain) a good grade is to decide, in advance, to tell your inner-critic to sit down and just shut up so you can do what it takes to be a great resource to your kids this year. Relaxing and silencing your inner-critic is certainly not magic. But when you pause and give yourself grace, it gets you back on course when life inevitably throws you off.
So remember… good parenting (or shall I say good-enough parenting) is a journey, not a destination.
Want Additional Support?
Do something different today and mark the date for I’m holding a private seminar called “Raising Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice” on Saturday, March 18th at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa (go ahead, mark the date… pencil it in). More details to follow.
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...