If one of your resolutions this year is to be a better parent, here are 10 things that will put you on that path. Following these tips can help lead you to happier, healthier and less stressful parenting.
1. Embrace being a “good enough” parent. It’s the natural curse of being a parent, wanting to be a perfect parent and role model for your children. You want to do the best by your child. The good news is your child doesn’t need a perfect parent to grow and thrive. She just needs a good enough parent. So while striving to be better is a wonderful thing, embrace your shortcomings and use them as opportunities to teach the lessons of imperfection. Believe it or not, your child isn’t perfect either.
2. Spend more one on one time with your child. Step out of the hustle and bustle of today’s world and spend one on one time with your child. You don’t have to plan an elaborate or expensive activity. Take a walk, watch a movie, or go out for pizza. The idea is to spend time together without the normal day to day distractions and focus on connecting with each other. This special time together will stay with your child for a lifetime.
3. Turn off the electronics. When was the last time you spent the afternoon unplugged from your cell phone, tablet, laptop and TV? It’s hard for your child to feel he has your undivided attention when your time together is interrupted with calls from work, texts from friends, or the game. When you unplug and focus fully on your role as a parent, both you and your child will enjoy your time together much more.
4. Get outside and play. What do kids love to do more than play? They love to share their favorite play spaces and games with Mom or Dad. Take your child to his favorite playground for the morning and let him show you how to climb to the top of the tower. Take him on a bike ride for the afternoon and enjoy nature and great company at the same time. Head to the backyard and show her how to shoot a basket or swing for the bleachers. Playing together is the perfect way to stay in shape and have fun.
5. Live by routines. Children do best when they know what comes next. While it’s easier for older kids to successfully handle change and transition, children of every age like the stability and security of routines. By working with your child to establish regular routines, your family will more easily move through the day. Trouble spots like getting ready for school, homework time or bedtime can often be smoothed out by a well thought out routine.
6. See things through your child’s eyes. Adults often get wrapped up in the details of daily life and forget how to enjoy the simple things in life. Slow down and see things the way your child sees them. Marvel with him at the ant farm he discovered in the backyard. Laugh at the silliness of the cat trying to get out of a cardboard box. Take the time to let him share his world with you.
7. Learn a new parenting skill. Good parenting is part instinct and part skill. Invest in learning a new way to do something that currently challenges you. Tap into the ideas of experienced parents and professionals to help you handle things in a more effective way.
8. Stop comparing yourself to other parents. You’ll always find parents that seem to do things better and more easily than you do. These comparisons don’t make you a better parent, they only make you question yourself and stress you out. Of course, that stress and indecision directly affects your child, so remember that you don’t know the behind the scenes facts of other families and accept that you’re doing a good enough job. You and your child will be happier.
9. Accept your child will struggle with some things other kids find easy. Every child is challenged by a behavior or skill that other children find easy. If you can accept and work with that fact rather than fight against it, you’ll be able to help your child through the challenge more effectively.
10. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Consistency is the foundation of effective parenting. When you set clear expectations and boundaries and stick to them, your child knows what he can expect from you. He’s able to rely on your words and actions. That security is the key to his healthy emotional and social development.
Being a parent means you’re always learning. Just when you think you’ve mastered one stage, your child moves into another one. Letting go and enjoying the learning curve will make for a happy parent and child.