So you want to be the best parent you can be–good for you and good for your kids. The problem is most of us don’t quite understand what that means much less how to do it. Many parents think that we have to be tough on our kids to make them responsible. We also think that how our kids are seen is a direct reflection on us as parents. Still, other parents will say that they need to make sure their kids respect them and showing weakness is not something that is helpful to the development of the child. Admirable to be sure but not very helpful or inspiring. All this with the best of intentions. Go figure. Unfortunately, intentions aren’t enough. A knowledgeable foundation is what is needed. As parents, we are our children’s teachers. What is it we want them to learn from us?
I have always believed we need to have a comprehensive parenting program in our schools. It needs to be an integral part of any child’s overall education. Not just some 3-hour class to pay subject lip service and to say it happened but a program that looks at all the different aspects of parenting and one that encourages the input of the kids themselves.
Let’s take a look at one of the most misunderstood but good intentioned practices in the whole parenting business. That is mistaking praise for encouragement and encouragement for praise. So many parents see these as interchangeable or similar in meaning when just the opposite is true. By not understanding the differences we can create more confusion for our kids that can, sometimes, morph into mental health and self-determination issues over a period of time.
What is it most kids want to do more than anything?? To please their parents-to have their parents see them as skilled and talented and good at many things. They want to know that their parents see them as capable and that they are pleased with who they have become or are becoming. Nothing wrong with that but this is where most parents drop the ball.
- One of the major mistakes that parents make is believing that kids learn best by being punished for what they do wrong. As parents, we need to learn that it is OK for kids to make mistakes. That’s how most of us learn, isn’t it? We don’t learn much from what we already do right. Should there be consequences for poor choices made-absolutely but it doesn’t have to be punishment. Just a simple question is often enough to learn something valuable without diminishing the impact of the decision. “So what would you do differently the next time?”
- Our love for our children should NEVER come with conditions attached. Our kids need to know that our love is unconditional and will not waver in the face of poor decision making or a lapse in judgment. This is absolute. We need to let them know that our love for them is not negotiable and does not depend on their successes or non-successes. “I will always love you no matter what.”
- Parents need to understand that perfection is not the goal nor should it be. Our kids are not machines and their best effort is what needs to be recognized here-NOT a comment concerning the outcome. They don’t want to hear “Don’t worry I know you’ll beat him next time.” What our kids are likely to hear is parental disappointment–that he/she was not good enough. What they need to hear is a parental comment on the great effort they put out like “did you give it all you had–then good for you”. Their performance should never be tied to a parents disappointment about their effort. Let’s not ‘judge’ them but rather let’s just accept them for who they are becoming. Kids are no different than adults in that there are days when they will perform better than others. That’s just life. They won’t compete any harder if they are discouraged.
- As parents, we need to make comments on what we observe. “Even though that was a really tough job, you got it done–thanks” or “It looks like you worked really hard to get that assignment done on time.” Our comments need to be more about their effort, not our satisfaction. They will often work harder the next time because they know that we appreciate what they are doing and how they are doing it.
- Our kids need to hear support, not frustration from us as parents. What they really need from us is for us to help them learn how to think and not what to think.When our kids are concerned about ‘what to think’ so they can be seen favorably by others that’s a problem because it takes away their freedom to choose who they will be in their lives. We want our children to learn ‘how to think’ so that they are free to make decisions that are in their best interests and not the interests of others.
Anyways, that’s how I see things. All the best and thanks for stopping by–Jim
Comments will find their way to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org OR jimcloughley.com
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