Raising children is one of the toughest and most fulfilling jobs in the world — and the one for which you might feel the least prepared.
Here are some child-rearing tips that can help you feel more fulfilled as a parent.
Boosting Your Child’s Self-Esteem
Children start developing their sense of self as babies when they see themselves through their parents’ eyes. Your tone of voice, your body language, and your every expression are absorbed by your children. Your words and actions as a parent affect their developing self-esteem more than anything else.
Praising accomplishments, however small, will make them feel proud; letting children do things independently will make them feel capable and strong. By contrast, belittling comments or comparing a child unfavorably with another will make children feel worthless.
Catch Children Being Good
Have you ever stopped to think about how many times you react negatively to your children in a given day? You may find yourself criticizing far more often than complimenting.
The more effective approach is to catch children doing something right: “You made your bed without being asked — that’s terrific!” or “I was watching you play with your sister and you were very patient.” These statements will do more to encourage good behavior over the long run than repeated scoldings.
Make a point of finding something to praise every day. Be generous with rewards — your love, hugs, and compliments can work wonders and are often reward enough. Soon you will find you are “growing” more of the behavior you would like to see.
Set Limits and Be Consistent With Your Discipline
Discipline is necessary in every household. The goal of discipline is to help children choose acceptable behaviors and learn self-control. They may test the limits you establish for them, but they need those limits to grow into responsible adults.
Establishing house rules helps children understand your expectations and develop self-control. A common mistake parents make is failure to follow through with the consequences. You can’t discipline children for talking back one day and ignore it the next. Being consistent teaches what you expect.
Make Time for Your Children
It’s often difficult for parents and children to get together for a family meal, let alone spend quality time together. But there is probably nothing children would like more. Get up 10 minutes earlier in the morning so you can eat breakfast with your child or leave the dishes in the sink and take a walk after dinner. Children who aren’t getting the attention they want from their parents often act out or misbehave because they’re sure to be noticed that way.
Be a Good Role Model
Young children learn a lot about how to act by watching their parents. The younger they are, the more cues they take from you. Before you lash out or blow your top in front of your child, think about this: Is that how you want your child to behave when angry? Be aware that you’re constantly being watched by your children. Studies have shown that children who hit usually have a role model for aggression at home.
Model the traits you wish to see in your children: respect, friendliness, honesty, kindness, tolerance.
Make Communication a Priority
You can’t expect children to do everything simply because you, as a parent, “say so.” They want and deserve explanations as much as adults do. If we don’t take time to explain, children will begin to wonder about our values and motives and whether they have any basis. Parents who reason and communicate with their children allow them to understand and learn in a nonjudgmental way.
Make your expectations clear. If there is a problem, describe it, express your feelings, and invite your child to work on a solution with you.
Be Flexible and Willing to Adjust Your Parenting Style
If you often feel “let down” by your child’s behavior, perhaps you have unrealistic expectations. Parents who think in “shoulds” (for example, “My child should be potty-trained by now”) might find it helpful to read up on the matter or to talk to other parents or child development specialists.
Children’ environments have an effect on their behavior, so you might be able to change that behavior by changing the environment. If you find yourself constantly saying “no” to your 2-year-old, look for ways to alter your surroundings so that fewer things are off-limits. This will cause less frustration for both of you.
As your child changes, you’ll gradually have to change your parenting style. Chances are, what works with your child now won’t work as well in a year or two.