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Want to advocate for sustainability? Teach your children to be responsible consumers. Want to see the end of racism? Teach your children equality. Parenting is a challenging task but a noble one. The first step towards good parenting is understanding its importance.
Parents raise the next generation of leaders, workers, and members of society. They have a significant degree of influence on how the world will be in decades to come.
Effective parenting isn’t about making sure your child eats his vegetables and goes to bed on time. A lot more goes into raising a child.
So what is good parenting?
Good parenting generally consists of two major pillars: love and discipline.
Love is often characterized as unconditional, accepting, warm, and nurturing. It also refers to the desire to watch them grow and be able to face the world on their own.
Discipline, on the other hand, means setting guidelines and boundaries. Without it, you will negatively impact child development.
One example would be guilt-stricken working parents who overcompensate their children for the loss of time spent together, thus potentially training the child to be self-entitled.
Love and discipline must work together to help mold a child’s character.
The truth is, there is no perfect parenting style. But we will explore some of the common traits of good parenting.
Be positive role models
Good parents teach their children by example, not by words. The social learning theory developed by psychologist Albert Bandura suggests that a behavior can be learned by observing and imitating others.
Children are always watching their parents and caregivers, which means we will need to be careful about what we are unintentionally teaching our children. When your children see you practicing good values every day, they will learn them more easily.
Determine a few parenting objectives by identifying what you want to impart to your children, such as fostering resilience, godliness, and love. Start to model these behaviors at home and introduce positive reinforcement.
Children take cues from their primary caregivers. They will be subjected to third-party influences later in their lives, but hardly to the same degree as their primary caregivers when young.
To be positive role models to a child, parents should be physically and emotionally present most of the time to foster a stronger relationship. The children will benefit from a loving and safe environment, which is vital during the first three years.
Children with a strong sense of security have positive self-esteem and are better learners. They are also better at regulating their emotional needs with the knowledge that they have a “safe haven” in their parents and family.
Talk and listen to your child
A group of researchers at MIT, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania found that talking with your children is one of the best things parents can do for them. Doing this in their toddler years will help them develop communication skills later in life.
Talking and listening also establishes trust and strengthens your relationship with them.
Spend some time out of your busy schedule to communicate with your child through songs, short sharing, or words, preferably one-on-one, to enable focus. Always keep an open line of communication, so they know you are always ready to listen.
As your children age, how you communicate with them evolves. In a practical structure of communication developed by Dr. Ron Hunter Jr, CEO of Randall House, parents could have three levels of communication with their children.
Level 1 is conversations about knowledge. At this level, parents ask simple, no-risk questions such as “how was your day?” or “did you like your lunch?” These conversations are ideal for early childhood. They encourage children to share their experiences and establish a frequent two-way conversation between parents and children.
Level 2 is conversations about understanding. Parents ask about feelings and opinions at this level, thereby potentially creating conflict. It is, however, necessary to happen so that parents can provide guidance and support. This level is en route to having deeper conversations with older children.
Level 3 is conversations of influence and is the deepest level of this three-stage structure. At this level, parents ask about desires, needs, and beliefs. Conversations like these allow parents to explore the different values they and their children have, and this is where they can influence their children.
If we disregard this level of communication, our children may find a sense of belonging with another group who share their values.
Love them through your actions
Love your children unconditionally. Every child is a gift from above, and through divine appointment, we are made parents to our child. Love them through every tear, tantrum, and savor the joy of every cuddle and laughter shared.
Some tips to love them unconditionally are seeing the world from their point of view, accepting their quirks, and acknowledging that everyone, including your child, is made unique.
Most importantly, love your children without comparing them to others, and encourage them to be the best version of themselves.
A world must be made up of good people who are skilled at different things, so emphasize values over skills and talents. Their perseverance and resilience will enable them to achieve great things in their own manner.
Show your children your love through actions such as hugs and cuddles. As children grow, they may crave different kinds of attention and affection from their parents (or no attention at all!)
You can show your love more effectively by first understanding them. A child may feel loved through words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, or touch. Every child has unique needs.
By identifying your child’s love language, you can help them cope with the turbulent teenage years and help them transition into adulthood.
Give them freedom, but don’t let them run wild
One primary goal of parenting is to help our children become independent eventually.
Letting children be independent allows them to think on their own and encourages them to unleash their potential.
The key principle here is to not do for your children what they can do for themselves. The benefits of children who are more independent include increased self-awareness, sensitivity towards others, and becoming good decision-makers.
Children yearn to be independent at a young age. Does a toddler getting frustrated from being restricted sound familiar to you? Or when they get frustrated if stopped from doing an activity their way? If it is safe, children should be allowed to explore and experience the cause and effect of things on their own. They would learn better from experience.
So to what degree of independence should we allow our children? That depends.
Jim Taylor, a psychologist, retracted his earlier paper encouraging parents to raise independent children. The reason is that the children could become detached from their parents. Because we are social creatures, the children may instead look to others, including harmful sources, for their values and attitudes. This is a valid concern.
Children should be encouraged to be independent within the boundaries, and anything beyond that will need to be corrected. Sometimes, this can be a tough line to draw, but it is possible if mutual love and trust are established between parents and children.
Be consistent in your discipline
So now the boundaries have been set and communicated clearly to the children, what happens when the boundaries are breached?
Parents need to find discipline methods that effectively teach a valuable lesson, not just deliver a consequence.
To reduce ambiguity, parents need to be firm and consistent about the boundaries set. Children will then learn to weigh the benefits and consequences of their actions. If the boundaries can be compromised, children may not take their parents seriously and thus reducing the effectiveness of any disciplinary action.
Numerous academic papers advocate for a different approach to disciplining, such as no spanking, no time-out, talk it out, amongst others. But one common agreement between all is that there are no one-size-fits-all discipline methods due to the uniqueness of each child.
Parents can adopt the following framework. When misbehavior happens, try your best to keep a level head and consider the various factors that could have led to this misbehavior.
Be careful not to react out of extreme anger to avoid regrettable actions, and walk away if necessary.
Speak to your child. Seek to listen and understand. Let your children know how you feel about his misbehavior. This step seeks to connect you with your children emotionally.
The next step is to deliver the consequence, if need be, and explain your decision for doing so. Always end with positive reinforcement and tell them that you love them.
Apologize for your mistakes
Parents are not perfect, and there will be times when we will do or say regrettable things. It is important that we do not wallow in self-pity or be so guilt-stricken that we end up overcompensating our children.
We need to move forward, strive to do better next time, and apologize. By apologizing to our children, we model humility and give rise to a learning opportunity for our children. You will be surprised at how good they are at forgiving.
Promote positive behaviors
On the other end of the spectrum is rewarding positive behaviors to encourage your children. One way is to praise them. Find opportunities to sincerely praise your children to build their self-esteem.
But will we enter a praise paradox?
A study conducted by psychologists Jennifer Henderlong Corpus and Mark Lepper suggests that praise can be a powerful motivating force if you are sincere, specific, and realistic. The study also suggests that if praises are simply given, they can backfire.
In another study by Carol Dweck of Stanford University, when children are praised for their ability (and not their effort), they pressure themselves to prove that they are smart. But when they hit a roadblock, they give up more easily, thinking that they may not be capable.
In sharp contrast, when children were praised for their effort, they focus on learning and improving themselves and do not give up easily. If they encounter a roadblock, they just try harder.
For instance, praise your child for his willingness to help a friend with homework instead of praising his ability to do his homework better.
Take time off for yourself
It is not a walk in a park to be parents hence you ought to take care of your well-being. Take some time to strengthen your relationship with your spouse and rejuvenate both physically and mentally.
When facing a challenging parenting situation, reach out for help and do not let challenges take away the joy of parenting. A happy parent will raise a happy child.
Also, know your needs and limitations as a parent. Try to have realistic expectations of yourself to avoid burnout. Developing parenting skills takes patience and practice.
Final thoughts on good parenting
The parenting journey is one that is arduous but rewarding and gives incomparable joy. It is also a transformational journey not only for your children but also for yourself.
Always remember how important your role is to society, remember your parenting goals and strive to care for your children to the best of your ability. The reward will come after the hard work, but it will surely come. Let us do our best and happy parenting!