Depending where you are on the continuum of parenting, you have learned, or are learning, that parenting is a blend of art and science. Since every child is different, our parenting styles must flex to meet the child where he or she is currently. There are some absolutes though. In my own 27 years of parenting and my 17 years of marriage and family counseling, I have seen some timeless tips emerge:
1. Be the parent.
Too often the tendency is to be so much of a friend to your child that you forget that you are some 20+ years older than they are. No matter what you know or don’t know, you know more than they.
Be the mature, self-controlled parent who is leading them into life.
The friendship will grow over time; be someone they can reach up to and find comfort, protection, and wisdom.
2. More is caught than taught.
I learned way too late that my pre-teen daughter was watching the way I drove a car way more than she was listening to my sage wisdom on driving. No surprise, when she got behind the wheel of her car, she drove just like me—which was not good.
We think we can merely tell our kiddos the right way to live life (don’t smoke; use appropriate language; no need for yelling; patience; etc.) but we forget that those little impressionable minds have no filter for separating our actions from our words.
What we do speaks volumes more than what we say.
Screaming at your child, for example, to, stop screaming, would be funny if it was not so common and so damaging.
3. Keep expectations age-appropriate.
There is a notion that since I told my child one time to do something, they will forever remember it. Have you noticed that even adults do not perform so well?
The marathon of raising a child from infancy to independence will necessitate parents repeating the exact same message again and again. Repetition builds retention.
4. Avoid the clinical definition of insanity.
We have all heard the idea that repeating the same pattern again and again and expecting a different outcome is the stuff of looney tunes. Considering my comment on #3, this one might seem contradictory.
Teaching your child to tie his shoes, or, learn her weekly spelling words will take repetition. Asking a child to please pick up their toys now and put them in the box, needs only be said once. More than that requires appropriate consequences.
I see some humorous—but sad—versions of kids training parents to repeat things so often the parent ends up doing their own toy pick up. Score: One point for the child.
Multiple episodes of this renders the parent helpless to get the child to ever listen to their voice.
Actual quote heard in my office: “You mean I can actually get my child to obey me?”Seriously?
5. Seek wisdom from those who are ahead of you.
You are not the first parent to be exhausted and exasperated with trying to be a quality parent. As special as your little bundle of joy might be, they are not so unique that other parents experience will not apply.
Some parents truly believe that their journey is a one-of-a-kind. Spoil alert: Your child has many equals in this Cosmos. Find a mother or father who has had some parenting years under their belt and drain their wisdom bucket.
It is amazing how simple tips from an outsider will make a huge difference in your own parenting efforts. I know, I am that objective voice on a daily basis to my patients. No, I am not a genius, I am just seasoned a bit and have seen most every variation at least once or twice.
Keep your sanity and draw on someone else who can look back to give you counsel.
BONUS: Remember, any child younger than their low 20’s is legitimately brain damaged. The brain is still developing, so, no, your child is NOT an adult when they are merely 12. “Act like an adult!” Impossible until the brain grows to maturity. There even may be some structural changes after the low 20’s. Continuous learner.