As parents, we’re always trying to do our best for our children. And, most days, we really do a great job caring for our kids. In fact, when we stop to take account of our days, there’s often dozens of items we can check off our parenting lists: Play with our kids, cook healthy meals, read stories, help with homework, etc. But, when you look at the smaller details of the days, the in-between moments and chaotic minutes, who are we as parents then? Are we consciously helping our children navigate their lives? Or, are we reverting back to what we were taught, focusing on having obedient children that do what they’re told “or else”?
In all honesty, the majority of us as parents don’t pay much attention to how we talk or what we say to our kids, especially when we’re busy or stressed. Unfortunately, even in these small moments our children are absorbing what we’re saying and doing. And when you add up the months and the years of all of these small moments, they amount to more than those “big things” we tend to focus on.
But, how do you go about changing your habits, especially when it comes to your parenting style?
First and foremost, you have to start by knowing where you are right now. What do you think your main job is as a parent? And, once you know that, what do you think is the best way to get the job done?
Past generations of parents, including most of our own parents, spent their time and energy creating children who listen, are respectful, and who understand who’s in charge (the parents, of course). Superficially, this can all seem well and good, but the means of creating children who fit into this box often ended up being quite harmful. Not only were relationships damaged by the parents trying to exert power over their children, but children were left feeling like they had to “act a part”, rather than discussing their real emotions and thoughts. As a result, a lot of families looked like they had it altogether, but in reality they were each fighting battles, both against themselves and against each other.
Today, conscious parents are learning to take another approach. Rather than viewing their kids as something that belongs to them and, therefore, something they need to control, this new generation is learning to see children more as students, individuals here to learn and who are eager to be guided in a loving and respectful way. More focused on developing a real relationship that goes well beyond the surface, these parents work with their children day after day to find ways to collaborate and communicate. Instead of mandating orders and setting strict rules with equally strict punishments, these parents focus on taking time to really talk and listen, teaching their children to share their emotions and to be unafraid to speak their minds.
While this type of parenting is much more time consuming (for example, rather than spanking a child or sending them straight to their room, this type of parenting spends one-on-one time with a child, helping them work through their emotions and coming up with a consequence that is fair and agreed upon by everyone), the long-term results are worthwhile – for parents and their children.
To get started, remind yourself each morning that your main role as a parent is that of a teacher, not a dictator. When you find yourself reverting to old habits, take a deep breath or drink a glass of water, and start over again. No day will ever be perfect, but the more mindful you can be of your goals, and the more open and honest you can be with your children, then perfection doesn’t matter.