It can be a difficult line to walk between being the friend whom your child will pour their heart out to and being the parent who gives structure and loving discipline; however, it can be done. I think we have to keep in mind the “big picture”. In other words, what is our purpose and goal of being a parent? And how can we fully experience each moment with and for our children, while keeping our broader purpose in mind? Here are some of my thoughts for great parenting and a better life with your child. If you have other thoughts or comments, I encourage you to share them with the other parents on my blog and Facebook page.
- First, think of yourself as a role model. Children often mimic the behavior of their parents, even in subtle ways. Demonstrate the actions and values you want your children to embrace, including honesty, compassion, love, a sense of humor, dedication, hard work and generosity. Surround your home and life with others who can also serve as role models to your children. Whether these are family members or friends, keeping your kids around people who are a good influence will help you be a better parent.
- Know where your child is. Know where they are, who they are with, who is responsible, and when they’ll be home. This is critical, especially for teens.
- Get to know your children’s friends. A parent cannot choose their child’s friends, but you can put your children in environments where finding and keeping a high-quality friend is more likely. Where your child spends their time, and who they spend it with, will have a deep and lasting impact on them. Make sure you know your child’s friends and keep a line of communication open with their parents.
- Make sure your child has a healthy diet and that physical exercise is a part of their daily life. Their brain is growing and needs proper nutrition. Make healthy food and avoid overeating. Share at least one meal every day as a family! Provide healthy food choices and be a role model by maintaining a proper weight yourself. Make a habit of daily exercise for lifelong good health.
- Limit television watching and video game playing. Children need to be active. Get the TV out of your children’s room and give them other activities that will help them learn and grow. It’s okay to insist that electronics be turned off, and make them go outside to play.
- Insist on respect from your children and also give your children your respect in return. Teaching your children good coping skills and communication is one of the best things you can do for them. Make sure they can handle their anger in ways that will not be verbally or physically abusive to others.
- Consistent parenting will make your job easier. Your kids will know what to expect and what consequences await poor behavior. Make sure your child knows that if you promise consequences for certain behavior, you will deliver it – every time. Give your kids consistent praise as well. Be sure to let them know when they have done well with celebrations and positive reinforcement.
- Establish and maintain open, positive and honest communication with your children about sex. Do this in little bits, starting early, so that your child always feels comfortable asking questions. Talk about the joy of waiting for that special someone, talk about respecting and caring for ourselves, talk about modesty and learning to be comfortable with our bodies, talk about showing sincere respect to the opposite gender (especially to girls), and encourage tolerance for people who look or act differently than we do.
- Prepare your child for adulthood. Ask them often how they feel about things and keep open discussions about drugs, drinking, money, personal safety, and current events. Really work at finding out where your child is on all of these topics and talk to them from a place that they will understand you. Do not just lecture- if you do your kids will quickly stop listening. Ask open-ended questions like, “What would you do if someone at school offered you drugs?” Then listen carefully to their answer and start your discussion from there.
- Know your child deeply and listen carefully to them. Paying attention and being mentally and emotionally present for our kids is essential. What are their hopes, dreams and passions? Don’t expect your child to adopt what you think is important to pursue in life, but instead really get to know where their heart is. Encourage them to pursue their own passions in life; this is one of the greatest gifts that you can give your child.
- Take a careful look at your own life. You need to be the person you hope your child will become. It just doesn’t work to expect them to be one way if you aren’t willing to do the same thing yourself. For example, if you want an honest child, you MUST be honest, and that means with everyone. Showing them it is okay to lie to others will give them the message that it’s acceptable to lie to you. Be really honest with your own personal inventory and make sure you are leading by example.
Take the time to review this list of parenting skills, and make adjustments each day. I think you will find that your children will eagerly respond. Finally, I want to share with you an extraordinary video about a beautiful young man with an amazing family who recently passed away. However, the real story is not about his death, but about how he lived, and how he helped others around him live. Enjoy!