It takes a lot of work to be a great parent. Everything you say or do not only affects your child, but teaches them things that they will carry for a lifetime. It is sobering to realize that the way you raise your children will affect the way your grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and perhaps even further, are raised. So many of the suggestions currently being published as parenting techniques focus on behavior modification. This misses the mark for most parents. Success depends just as much on what your children see you doing as it does on what you actively teach them.
Work on Your Self-Esteem
If you have problems with your self-esteem and regularly self-deprecate, work on this. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t showing those feelings knowingly – your child will see it and interpret is as instruction that a person should not love oneself. Learn how to love yourself and take to heart that you are a worthy person and your child will learn through you.
Right alongside this goes a mistake that many parents make: criticism. Criticizing qualities in your child that you see in yourself forces the child to see him- or herself through what they believe to be your eyes, negatively and hypercritically. This can be damaging, and it stays with a child throughout their life.
Avoid Perpetrating Your Own Parents’ Negative Behaviors
All parents have that moment of horror when they hear something come out of their mouth that their parents said word-for-word. Think back to the things your parents did with the best of intentions that backfired spectacularly. Not all of their techniques were bad, but most of us can remember the things that made us miserable as a child.
Pay attention to what you’re doing and weed out the behaviors that bothered you most in your parents. Many new parents are compelled to replicate the things they saw their own parents doing because it may have been their only example. When you’re tempted to do this, take a deep breath and find a different path. Making yourself a better parent is about change for the better.
Dump the ‘Do as I Say, Not as I Do’ Philosophy
Parents are role models, whether they aim to be or not. Make sure that the things you’re showing your child are things you’ll be proud to see them do twenty years down the road. One of the most important ways you can be a role model for your child is in personal relationships. Make sure that your relationship with your spouse or partner is healthy. Display affection to your children and in front of them. Sharing a kiss with your spouse or snuggling together with your kids can be a huge positive influence. Be warm and loving toward your kids at all times. Even – no, especially when you’re angry. Make sure your children know that anger or disappointment does not mean a lack of love. Children look back on what they saw their parents doing when they begin learning about relationships themselves.
Children will attempt to imitate your mind and body, as well. If you never finished that degree you wanted, go back and get it through night school. Keep learning, even if you have your dream job, and inject different cultural experiences into your family life. Make your weekends opportunities for new experiences:
• Local theatre groups
• Museum trips – have a dinosaur trip one week, local artist trip the next, and so on
• Art classes
Teach your kids (and yourself) how to eat well and exercise. Get healthy together. It’s not necessary to create an absolutely perfect food environment – the occasional chicken nugget isn’t going to ruin an otherwise healthy diet – but showing your children a variety of foods that are good for the whole family will broaden the mind when it comes to trying new things.
About the Author
Michele Allen, in addition to being a mother, writes on various health topics. She’s almost done with her CNA Certification and is about to start looking for CNA Jobs to begin her health services career.