- Begin with the End in Mind: Ask yourself the big questions. Am I parenting in a way now that will lead to the greatest most holistic success for my child in the future? Am I parenting in a way now that will result in a healthy mutually loving/respectful relationship with my child for years to come? Am I parenting in a way that will make my child feel truly loved and empowered so that he or she feels capable to take on the world in his/her own unique way? These big questions give us a sense of urgency. What we do now, in the moment, actually matters. It refocuses our efforts, helps us stop sweating the small stuff and makes clear what is really important. Compare the idea of the future with what you are doing in the present. Is it matching up?
- Regulate Yourself: Learn how to breathe. Study the art of Belly Breathing. Breathe often. Breathe when things are easy and when things are hard. Seriously. Put alerts in your phone several times a day that remind you to do belly breaths. Never lose your breath. If you lose your breath, you can easily lose your temper. Stay centered, stay inside of yourself, stay grounded. If you are a tightly wound person, self regulation and self care will be of special importance to you. Beyond the breathing, you will want to adopt a self care regime. What activity for you cuts through stress but also restores and rejuvenates you. Commit to a regular practice of these kind of activities, for yourself, and for your family. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
- Slow down. First, let’s take our time. Time is on our side. Parenting is a long game. If we let it, our intuition can guide us in the right direction. So, let’s insert some patience and spaciousness into our lives. Life, and parenting, can be as hectic as we make it. So, slow your actions down. Pause. Pause often. Breath and pause. I know that in my parenting experience many times things would have gone better had I just had paused before acting. If you know that your parental instincts might need some fine tuning, or that you lean toward impulsive behaviour, think about this, and think about just breathing and just observing, even if only for a second or two. If may feel like many of these things you worry about need to be addressed very quickly and in the moment. Many of them don’t require this kind of knee jerk reaction. In fact, so many of your parenting decisions will improve if you would just give yourself a little time to think.
- Redefine “Good Parent”. My parenting worth used to be tied up in being able to control my kids and have them mind, or listen to me. If I couldn’t control their behaviour, then I didn’t feel like a good parent. I have come to redefine what a good parent is. I traded in my desire for obedience for a better relationship and a better future for my children. I checked my ego at the door. Now, my idea of a strong/good parent is someone who is patient, loving, and someone who really empowers his or her child. A good parent is someone who walks the walk, and models the behaviours she wants to see.
- Believe in Goodness. Is your child good or bad? What is her true nature? What is your perspective? How do you view your child when things get challenging? Is she trying to make your life hard or is she having a hard time? Loving leaders assume the best of their children. This doesn’t mean that we think our kids are perfect or that all behaviour is wanted. It means we trust in their good nature. If we view our children as good and pure of heart, then everything we see gets filtered through that lens. This allows us to parent from a mature and loving place. Take this leap of faith and fully believe in the goodness of your child.
- Trust and listen to your child. Trust and listen to them and they will learn to trust and listen to you. Trusting and honouring your child, his thoughts and his feelings is the greatest thing you can do for your child’s sense of worthiness and wholeness. This is easier said than done. This involves a lot of listening and reflecting back what you hear. It’s hard to do with a little person. The desire might be to ignore, distract, or even fix problems for your child. Let your child feel your presence and your caring in how you listen and how you speak to him. When you empathize and validate your child’s emotions they will feel seen and heard. This leads to a child who feels valued and feels secure. A child who feel like this is more likely to be calm and self regulated. This makes your job easier and allows you to have a deeper more connected relationship with your child.
- Change the Focus: Parenting is hard and it should be. Because it is incredibly rewarding. The importance of our jobs as caregivers and loving guides cannot be overstated. Take the opportunity to appreciate the importance and significance of this work. The future of this world literally depends on how we raise our children. It is the most important job in the world. This realization might help you make it through a difficult day. It might help you make it through some challenging moments. Actively choosing to be of service and actively choosing to step into the esteemed role of helper/guide/mentor, shifts the perspective for the better. We start to see the BIG picture and the true importance of our role…and how much we have to give, not lose.
- Adopt a Growth Mindset: You can learn, your child can learn. We do this by asking ourselves smart questions, questions that will lead us in good directions. The questions you ask yourself greatly influence your mindset. Instead of asking: “Why is he such a brat, or why can’t I be a better parent”, ask yourself better questions. For example, “How can I help here, what do we want to get out of this interaction, what tone do I want to set, what do I want my child to learn from me? Look for solutions, not problems. Asking questions allows us to be curious about our kids and who they are. Combine curiosity with fully trusting your kids and you’ll be surprised just how your kids can help you help them.
- Appreciate: Sink into the gratitude for what you have, and do what you can with what you have. This helps us feel gratitude and accept things we cannot change while helping us focus on what we can change. Slow down and pay attention to the little things. Take time to notice the smile on your child’s face, the curl of her hair, his eyes looking at you. There is a calming and connecting phenomenon about this practice. Just choose one small thing and stay there, focus on it for 5 or 10 seconds. That’s it. Repeat throughout the day, throughout life.
- Positive People: Surround yourself with positive people and other positive parents. Don’t settle for less. Life is short and parenting is hard enough as it is. Search out positive energy and hold on to it.
- Heal Yourself: Preoccupied with our own past pain and injustices, we are destined to become reactive and unpredictable parents. A tantrum, a misinterpreted comment, a missed “thank you” can seem like a bullet right through the heart. When we hurt, we are tender. When we hurt, we get triggered. A toddler’s tantrum has nothing to do with your worth, but you might take it personally. My daughter once got so upset because she had spaces between her toes. Luckily for me, there was no way I could have taken it personally. But, it opened my eyes to the fact that her behaviour and her upset, although real for her, was not mine to take on…and certainly not mine to be threatened by. So much challenging behaviour is really just your child having a hard time coping. That’s it. It’s theirs, not yours. Do not take you child’s misbehavior personally! Learn how to identify your own upset. Own it and take responsibility for it, and then regulate yourself. See #1 – Breathe. See a counsellor or therapist if you can’t seem to stop being triggered and taking things personally.
- Be Compassionate. Let your kids know that you are human. Let them know that you make mistakes, that you fail too. Apologize when you mess up. But let your child(ren) also know that our failures don’t define us, in fact, failure informs us. Failures are growing opportunities. Living like this sets us free. It allows us to be bold, creative and brave, to take chances and to strive to be our best. So, have some compassion for your kids, and yourself too. Know that you are trying. Know that you are going make mistakes. We all do. Learn how to forgive yourself. The important thing is that you give yourself some grace and then recommit yourself to being the best you can be for yourself and your child(ren). Yes we can learn from our mistakes so that we might do better, but there is not point in judging and demonizing ourselves for making a mistake. Use your present day mess-ups as way to get back on track, to refocus on what it is you really want to do. You are trying! You are on the path.