It’s no secret that parenting well is a complex art form and each of us brings our own unique style and beliefs into the day to day raising of the children in our lives. But here are ten ways of thinking about your parenting career that can help, no matter what your style or the current age of your “baby”.
1. Your work as a parent needs and deserves lots of support from family, friends, neighbors, employers and the greater community around you. Your children need other caring adults in their lives and you need and deserve respect, rest, and relaxation.
2. Parenting can be especially difficult in the same areas where you faced challenges in your own childhood. It’s not fair, but science demonstrates it again and again. The spots in your growing-up that were rough are likely to be hard on you when your children go through similar things. You need and deserve special support and a caring listener as you face these challenges together with your children.
3. Paying careful attention to your past or present challenges improves your relationships with your children. The fascinating research on the Adult Attachment Interview conducted over the last several decades demonstrates how helping parents understand their own personal histories creates better attachment relationships in their children. You can help another parent—and their whole family—whenever you can take the time to carefully listen to their struggles, and they can help you in the same way.
4. Crying is good, normal and healthy. Crying is communication. Crying and upset are part of a normal cycle of stress reduction. Tears are composed of stress hormones that are literally being washed out of your body as you cry. Children who are allowed to cry with the loving support of an adult complete this natural cycle and return to clear thinking and cooperative action quickly with improved ability to solve problems.
5. Tantrums are healthy and healing. I know this one may take some time to get your mind around, but here’s the thing—when you cultivate a relationship with your child that allows for acceptance of all feelings, even though you obviously can’t accept all behavior, you increase your child’s emotional intelligence, resilience and self-acceptance.
6. Limits should be set early, at the first whiff of off-track behavior. Before you are aggravated, before the kids are “driving you nuts,” you can bring your limits.
7. Limits can be set gently, warmly, even playfully. You are in charge of the rules, but you don’t have to wait until you are angry to set a limit. You don’t have to use a stern voice, threaten or intimidate. Children want good relationships with the adults who care for them. Your children want to be with you, to laugh and enjoy your time together, to cooperate, play, and have fun.
8. Time-Out promotes disconnection, encourages emotional repression and damages relationships. Solitary confinement is a punishment for a reason. Human beings are not built to go it alone, especially in times of emotional upset. Read more about it here.
9. Spanking produces negative long-term results for both children and parents. If you’ve ever been hit, you know this. But don’t take my word for it, ask your pediatrician.
10. Paying thoughtful attention as children express their authentic emotional experience is the best way to support their development and growing emotional intelligence. You don’t even need to understand the reason behind an upset or an unworkable behavior in order to help a child with the underlying feelings. Children are smart. They will figure out what they need to express, share it, and go on about their business lighter, happier, and with a stronger trust in their relationship with you.