Parenting is a tough job. I have talked with many adults who are afraid they are doing it wrong. In today's climate where parents are being arrested, we have more children than ever entering into care of the state, and children seem to be "not like we were". Being a parent is a scary proposition. The holidays are a time when adults fear messing up or getting it wrong and damaging their children's holidays for years and even decades in the future. Let me tell you this. Take a deep breath, blow it out, and relax.
I want to assure you unless you are locking your children in a closet, ignoring the fact they need to go to the doctor or dentist several times a year, beating them and leaving bruises so you will not let them go to school the next day, or screaming obscenities in their faces on a regular basis you are not abusing your children. Your everyday mistakes will not harm them over time. Being a human being means you are going to screw up. What counts is how you handle them. Here are a few tips.
Live Authentically As adults it is incumbent upon us to live the life in front of our children we want them to live ourselves. Having our beliefs, thoughts, words, and actions aligned is a large part of the task. We can not tell our children to tell the truth always. Then turn around and ask them to tell someone we are not here when the phone rings. Instead, we take the phone and say, "can I call you back, I can't talk right now."
Say you are sorry. Teaching children how to handle making mistakes is mainly taught by example. When we do or say something hurtful or uncalled for we apologize. Many adults wonder if apologizing puts parents in a weak position. I do not think so. I think being able to recognize a mistake and take responsibility for that mistake is a lot more powerful and adult then not apologizing.
Take time to listen. Listening is more than just hearing. It means taking the time to really pay attention. 85% of communication is body language. You fail to really hear the whole message if you are distracted. Children notice if you are texting, watching TV, or doing some other activity and think you are not really listening. Take the time to look into your child's face as they are talking, pay attention to facial expression and body language. Then you can get the whole picture.
Recognize it is what happens over time which shapes your children. While it is true one traumatic event can shape our lives it is usually a catastrophic event (a parent, pet, or close relative dying, the house burning down and losing everything, a severe accident or traumatic illness). Otherwise, it is the simple everyday things you do which will most impact your children. I suggest you do these five things:
- Spend 15 minutes of undivided time with each child. (Good plan for bedtime)
- For every time you need to criticize, find five things to praise.
- Use positive discipline (http://www.kars4kids.org/blog/positive-parenting-defined/)
- Give honor and respect to your child's other parent and family.
- Tell them you love them and hug them.
Parenting is the only job you will ever love and hate with equal passion on both sides. However, it is what you chose to do on a daily basis which shapes them into the people they will become. Chose carefully what your daily exchanges are and you are bound to get it right!
Believe in Parenting!