by Dr. Dan Peters
Parenting is not about getting it “right” and there is no way to be a “perfect” parent. I say this as someone who has spent a lot of time trying to do the “right” thing “perfectly.” Sound familiar? There is no manual for your child or how to best parent him or her. In my years of practice here are a few things I have learned about being an aware parent and thus, a better parent:
- Know where you came from. How did your parents raise you? What was it like when you grew up at home? Did you like it, some of it, or none of it? How does how you were raised impact the way you raise your children? We all have our pasts, there is no way around it. Being aware about our past experiences and how they impact us today as individuals and parents is key to choosing how you want to raise your own children.
- Be aware of what you expect from your child. Do you have expectations about your child’s behavior, grades, or work ethic? Of course, you do but you may not be fully aware of it. Our expectations for our children are always in the background, or foreground, in a parenting situation. Where did those expectations come from? Is that what was expected of you? Are you doing the opposite of what was done to you? There is no right or wrong, the key is to be aware of what your expectations are for you child so you can choose your parenting behavior in line with your values.
- Learn about who your child is and what is important to him/her. What does your child care about? What don’t they care about? Do you have interests and activities in common? Does your child show disinterest in what you care about? Is your child like you or different? We all have expectations for how we think our child should be and how we want them to be – it is normal. The question is whether we are accepting our children for who they are so they can find their path. The key is to be aware of who they are and what we are showing them about who they are.
- Manage your own emotions and reactions. Do you yell at your child to stop yelling? Do you use foul language and tell your child to stop cussing? Do you react to your child because you are tired or had a difficult day? If you have done any of the above, you are in the majority. Being human can be hard and managing our emotions can be one of our biggest challenges. Regardless of whether we are tired or had a tough day it is important that we dig deep and manage our emotions as we react to our children. We need to be aware of how we feeling, and how we are showing our feelings to our children. Take a breath, or two, and show your children how to remain calm in challenging situations.
- Be the person you want your child to become. Are you consumed by your role as a parent? Do you have little time for you own interests? Have you lost touch with your friends and people you care about? Do you have dreams that you have yet to fulfill, but want to? We are the models of what an adult looks like for our children. We often lose sight that being engaged in our own life is one of the most important elements of showing our children what we want for them. We need to take inventory and be aware of what is lacking in our life and where focusing on ourselves will improve our own lives because this focus and commitment will also have an important impact on our child.