Parenting children is one of the most difficult tasks a caregiver is faced with. Are you making the right choices? What punishment should be used? Where is the manual on how to raise these little humans? The decisions and questions a parent has while raising their children are too many to number. One thing, however, is very clear… How we parent our children will shape the person they become. With this understanding, what are the important topics a parent should focus on while parenting their children? Often parents believe enforcing school-based activities and focusing on high achievement, including grades, will ensure their children’s success as an adult. Is that what our children need from us? Yes and no. Children need guidance and support throughout childhood. Even so, what they need most of all is your UNCONDITIONAL love, approval, and a healthy attachment with their caregivers. Let’s talk about each of these in more detail.
“Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect” – Brené Brown.
Allowing our children to be imperfect, and loving all of them even more fiercely fosters a sense of security and promotes positive self-esteem. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes, get angry, do not do as well on an assignment or project as we would have liked, feel depressed, have a bad day, yelled at someone because we were hangry (hungry + angry = hangry)… the list goes on. Why is it, knowing we are all imperfect, do we expect perfection from our children? We expect them to never give us an attitude, or wake up grumpy. We ask that they always make good grades and we punish them when they do poorly on an assignment. We are embarrassed and ashamed if they act out in front of our friends or neighbors. We feel so many things when it comes to our kids and how they act or react. I want to stress that despite these feelings and frustrations, or when your kiddos are simply driving you up the wall, how you respond means everything to them. Responding with love and understanding does not make a child weak, as some believe, it actually builds confidence and strength. Listening and speaking from a place of understanding builds a child’s self-esteem and teaches them how to communicate in a healthy way with others.
In the heat of the moment, it can be challenging to know what to say to your child or how to start a difficult conversation. Here are some examples of positive communication.
I have noticed that your grades are lower than usual. Is there something going on that you would like to talk about? Can I help you in any way to bring those grades up?
I can tell you are very angry. I am here to listen if you want to share with me what is going on?
I hear what you are saying, you want to stay out until 1 A.M. because you do not want to miss out on the fun. Unfortunately, that is not something we as a family are willing to allow right now. We are willing to let you stay out until midnight instead.
I want you to know that I love you very much. The decision you made unfortunately has consequences.
I understand you are angry. However, I do not want to be yelled at. Please go to your room and come back when we all calm down (It is so important here that you, as the parent, do your best not to yell either OR when you do also remove yourself until you can calm down).
Never call your child demeaning names. Never Belittle them. Never make threats. Always give choices. Always explain the consequences. Always support your child. Always listen to them thoroughly without interruption. Always do these things… even if your child does not do them in return. It is sooooooo hard but remember that you are the adult and are the one teaching them how to act. If you respond with anger.. they learn that anger is okay. If you call them names.. they learn that calling you and other people names is okay.
I do not suggest these things lightly. Believe me. I understand how hard it is to not scream at your teenager when they are screaming at you. (My poor firstborn child can tell you all about how I handled that). You will not be perfect every time and you probably have already made many mistakes. This is a learning process and something you can always work on and improve. Do not be afraid to apologize to your child for previous times you may have gotten too angry. They learn humility from you in these moments and it often strengthens the parent-child relationship.
Ashley Hubbard, MS, NCC, Licensed Professional Counselor