Parenting can be frustrating. We may go from feeling madly in love with our children to occasional moments of dislike. If we can find a way to maintain a good relationship and parent from strength, raising our children will not sap us of our energy.
Here are 10 habits of highly effective parents:
1. They don’t put their spouse or ex-spouse down in front of their child
It’s easy to push others down when we feel anxious or get frustrated. But taking stress out on our spouse only hurts us more. Not only does our relationship suffer, but our children learn disrespect. If you do not respect mommy or daddy, why should I?
Never use your child to take revenge on your ex-spouse or to cure your sadness and loneliness. If you have an issue, speak to your ex-spouse in private.
2. They keep tone and words respectful
Parents who recognize that they are the greatest role models in their children’s lives remember to ‘walk the walk’ and ‘talk the talk’. They know that they are setting the bar for future relationships. Kindness, empathy, sensitivity, and a generous spirit are not traits that can be learned by lectures and long talks. It’s all about the way we relate to one another in our daily lives.
Effective parents do not need to scream or use disparaging remarks to be heard. They maintain authority while being firm but fair. They parent with confidence. A respectful tone and words convey a home that is a ‘safe space’.
3. They maintain calm despite tension
Life is not perfect. We never really anticipate the challenges. There can be unforeseen emotional, physical, mental and financial pressures. Children be moody, irritable, anxious and difficult. Teens, especially, do not always see the consequences of their actions clearly. Effective parents do not fly off the handle. They do not parent from rage. A common mistake parents make is to mirror their child’s moodiness. “If you are sullen and don’t respond to me, why should I talk to you?” A wall between parent and child is created.
Good parenting requires calm. “This too shall pass.” Instead of losing it when a child speaks or acts wrongly, say: “Let’s try this again.” Act, don’t react. Strong parents are anchors. They bring tranquility to counter the turbulence and parent with wisdom.
4. They give time
Time is one of our most precious resources. Time spent together with a child can either be wasted or used purposefully. We can seem interested or bored. We can listen or be distracted. We can engage or be self-absorbed. We can be patient or dismissive. The choice is ours.
Parents who maintain good relationships with their children have spent years nurturing, communicating, and learning about their children’s hopes and dreams and disappointments. They have limited screen time, enjoyed meals together, read bedtime stories, and at times said no to phone calls and emails that would take them away from the family. There is no toy or technology in the world that can replace looking into a child’s eyes and peering into his soul.
5. They set clear rules
When children are confused about standards of conduct, misbehavior becomes normal. If one day it’s okay to stay up till midnight and the next I get screamed at for the same exact behavior, what am I supposed to do?
Curfews, when homework is supposed to be done, how we treat one another, responsibilities in and out of the home are all part of parenting. If I want to be effective, my rules must be consistent, clear and fair. I cannot allow a certain behavior and then get upset or act disappointed. I need to provide real expectations and not wait for a problem to get out of hand in order to address it.
6. They focus on the behavior instead of criticizing
The point of discipline is to improve/correct behavior and teach right from wrong. Criticism just makes a child feel badly about himself. Mocking, calling a child by a sarcastic name will never teach the child how to improve himself. Saying things like “You’re impossible,” “What’s your problem?” does nothing.
Effective parents focus on the behavior they’d like to improve. They realize that criticism is not discipline. Instead of making a child think that they are the definition of bad, they point out bad behavior that needs fixing. You made a mistake does not mean that you are a mistake. Your room is a mess and needs to be put into order does not mean that you are a mess.
7. They set appropriate consequences
When we give consequences that have nothing to do with the misbehavior, we are missing out on a great learning opportunity. Life is about responsibility. When you are given a blessing that you take for granted, you will lose out. When you abuse your privileges or act inappropriately, there will be repercussions. To teach this we must link both the responsibility and the consequence.
Capable parents know that when a child misuses his computer time, consequences are related to those actions. When grades suffer because of too much texting or time on-line, the privilege of having a phone/laptop must be addressed. Consequences are not overly harsh, were spoken about beforehand, and not just talk. Children respect parents who are clear and follow through.
8. They maintain their sense of humour
It’s okay to smile and laugh out loud. There are times that a good joke diffuses the tension. Our children should not be afraid of us. Children should know that home is a haven, a place of warmth and love, a beacon of light in a very harsh and hard world. Effective parents know when to be serious and when to be lighthearted. They do not confuse the two moments.
9. They stay positive
Negative talk casts a shadow on a home. Seeing situations as ‘disaster’ doesn’t allow a child to try to do better. Making children feel hopeless instead of hopeful strips them of any desire to do more; to be more. Instead of failure being the end, see it as an opportunity to begin again.
Positive parenting comes when we see hard work and effort as true values to be recognized. Parents who allow for mistakes and then teach them how to fix it, instead of fixing it themselves, encourage their children to thrive.
10. They create a doable goal
Parenting wisely means that I have a goal. I ask myself: What am I trying to accomplish and how do I get there?
If two children can’t sit together at the dinner table, what do I do? Sending each to his room vs figuring out how to have both siblings able to sit at one meal without fighting each other becomes a doable goal. Setting goals becomes a great way for the family to bond.
Parenting is not all or nothing. Adopting even some of these behaviours will help us lead, inspire and parent through strength.