It is never too late to make New Year’s Resolutions. Just because the New Year began a few days ago doesn’t mean you can’t try to make things better in some areas of your life.
One area that frequently needs some cleaning up is the area of parenting. It is not unusual for people parenting to wish they had done something different with their child. Regrets are common. So what things could you change to make yourself a better parent? Notice I do not say a perfect parent. They do not exist. While we can’t expect to be perfect, we can all hope to be better.
Good parenting happens to parents in a moment. The key is recognizing these times when what you do is helpful to your child to help him or her grow and learn in the best ways possible. The trick is recognizing those moments when your actions and reactions can really help your child learn and grow in the best possible ways. Here are some ways to become the best parent you can be.
1. Set a positive example
Kids watch you and watch what you do. Many times your behavior is more powerful than your words. You are the model your child is watching. Everything you do is teaching your child. When you say hello to a neighbor, your child is watching you and learning from your behavior. Just having your child with you as you go through each day is teaching your child how to behave.
2. We all make mistakes
Learning from mistakes helps your child understand better than trying to shield him from mistakes. When your baby is trying to learn how to use a sippy cup or is learning to dress himself, as a parent you need to let mistakes happen. Instead of trying to prevent the mistakes, let him try a few times and he is then likely to succeed. It isn’t just your child who learns from mistakes; it is also the parent.
3. Give attention for comfort
If every time your child falls and cries you offer him a cookie you are making a mistake. What is important to give your child is your attention. That is what he seeks and what he needs.
4. Be careful comparing, labeling
When there is more than one child in your family, it is easy to compare the children. This leads to labels. One child might become the “happy baby” and another one a “smarty pants.” One could become a “wild child” or an “energetic child” and the next one the “quiet one.” Labels can even become part of the problem. If you have a child you have labeled a “picky eater” this might cause him to really become a “picky eater.”
5. Talk about behavior
One of parents’ most important tasks is to help their child learn to control their behavior. Children over time will break every rule you make. You don’t want to overreact or to show the same amount of disapproval each time. Talk with your child about what happened. Have a calm and compassionate conversation about it. Ask your child questions and make suggestions. What are ways your child could have handled the situation that you might suggest?
6. Do your best
No one has all the right answers to raising children. Talk with others but don’t let them decide what makes sense for you. Consider what is best for your child and for you. Think it through and then try it. Nothing is in concrete. If things work, try it again. If they don’t, change things.
7. Love your child
A baby who once loved an activity now rejects it. Parents can be quick to assume that something’s wrong when, in fact, it may be that he’s matured and changed. The parents’ role as their children evolve from infants to toddlers and beyond is to love them as babies, toddlers and all the way through. Your love should evolve right along with them.
Enjoy your role as a parent. It is vitally important and also rewarding. Be the best you can be.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. To reach interim First Teacher Executive Director Patty Waite, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-681-2250.