Developing a Parenting Style That Works for You and Your Family
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Developing an effective parenting style that works for your family is vital to a happy home life. There are various aspects to parenting that will be covered in this article, including setting and holding positive and realistic expectations, communicating effectively with your children, and setting and implementing boundaries for acceptable behavior.
It is also highly desirable that if you are co-parenting with a partner, you and your partner apply a consistently compatible parenting style. This is worth spending some time working on together if you feel there are some major discrepancies between your parenting style and that of your partner.
Here are ten key points for creating a parenting style that is positive, balanced and successful:
Believe that your children are capable of being happy, healthy, well-behaved, polite and friendly. This is really important, as our expectations are such a major factor in creating the outcome in any area of our lives. If you have strong positive expectations of what your children are capable of, they will tend to prove you right, and the same goes for having negative expectations. A great parenting style incorporates a strong focus on what you want to experience with your children, and a conviction that it is not only possible but inevitable.
Respect your children and treat them as intelligent beings rather than talking down to them. You can maintain your position of authority while still allowing your children to feel valued and understood. When you treat people with respect and consideration, they tend to respond accordingly, and this applies just as much to your children as to anyone!
Avoid having unrealistic expectations of your children. Not everyone is going to be a straight-A student or a sports star. Pushing children too hard, or in directions that don’t align with their talents and desires just creates tension and resistance. Part of a positive and nurturing parenting style includes allowing your children to be who they are and encouraging them to do the things that they love to do.
Have a clear and reasonable idea of what you expect from your children in terms of behavior. Decide what things you are not willing to tolerate, and what things you are prepared to keep some flexibility about. For example, in my home, speaking rudely is simply not accepted, while not finishing the food on a plate is sometimes excused.
Make it clear to your children what is expected of them. Be prepared to use a lot of repetition for the household rules to be understood, accepted and (mostly) adhered to. State things simply and plainly and give some explanation of the reason for the rules. “Play quietly” can seem more reasonable when the children are made aware (and often reminded) that Daddy is upstairs sleeping after a night-shift, Mommy is working on her website, and the neighbors’ peace and quiet should be respected.
Create as much balance as possible. If children are expected to play quietly all the time, a lot of pent-up energy will be the result. Give them time to blow off steam, too.
Be consistent and be fair. This is one of the very most important points in creating an effective parenting style. If you tolerate a certain behavior one day, and get mad about it the next, children become confused and frustrated. Their respect for the parent and feelings of stability are also compromised, as they don’t feel that they know what to expect from you or their life. Don’t make exceptions for any of your children unless they are based on genuine reasons such as age or physical ability. Explain to your children that it is fair for the three-year-old to do a smaller share of the chores than the five- and seven-year-olds, and that when the older siblings were three, they also did less.
Do give your children responsibility. Being taught, allowed, and expected to do as much for themselves, each other and the family as possible is empowering to your children. They experience feelings of capability and being integral parts of the family. It takes effort and patience not to swoop in and tie Timmy’s shoes in a tenth of the time that it is taking him, but the results will reward you and your children many times over.
This also applies to fostering children’s ability to amuse themselves. Children have amazing imaginations, but these can be stifled with too much reliance on adults to provide constant stimulation. Supply some materials that allow creativity and mental stimulation such as books, drawing materials, and building blocks, and send them off to play. Once they get used to not hanging around you all the time looking for direction, they can keep themselves very well occupied. It just takes a little time, persistence, and will-power (yours!) to develop these aspects of your parenting style.
Establish clear consequences for unacceptable behavior and follow through consistently. In my home, being put in the corner is the preferred consequence after a warning or two. My friends were amused to see this in action with my youngest from the age of about 18 months, but the results speak for themselves with the very mature, well behaved, fun loving and well balanced three-year-old boy that he is today.
What I have noticed is that the implementation of discipline is much harder for the parent than the child. Many parents can’t bear to hear their child cry, and kids learn to play on this amazingly early. It is also a case of wanting their kids to ‘like’ them, and not to be seen as the bad guy. The thing is that kids need and even want boundaries and stability far more than they need to ‘like’ their parents.
Often I see people cajole a child out of a tantrum with treats, TV or bargaining. This is a very counter-productive parenting style, as it encourages the behavior that got the ‘reward.’ Yes, they will scream when you put them in a corner, but if you pay no attention whatsoever, the length of time they scream will usually be very brief. If they are not getting anything out of making a fuss, with a bit of repetition, they will realize that it’s not worthwhile, and that they would rather behave better and be allowed to rejoin the normal activities.
For a loving and firm parenting style, pay lots of attention to good behavior and as little as possible to bad behavior. Give your children as much love, appreciation, and encouragement as you can when they are doing something good. It doesn’t even have to be big amounts of time; we parents rarely have heaps of time to fit everything into our busy lives.
Just a couple of minutes of real focus here and there throughout the day can make an amazing difference to a child. Look your child in the eyes as he tells you about what he did at school, tell him how wonderful that is and he is, give him a big hug (even if he squirms), tell him you love him more than chocolate, and send him off to play while you do the next thing you want to do.
Make opportunities to balance the times when you are the ‘bad guy’ who expects, demands and gets good behavior, with times that you pillow fight, make blue mashed potatoes, blow bubbles or do anything fun and frivolous with your kids and let your own inner child out to play at the same time!
Whether the points contained in this article are things you already know and apply, things you are aware of but don’t apply or apply erratically, or things that are new to you, I trust that they will encourage you as you seek to create the parenting style that works best for you and your family.
I work with many parents in creating routines, behavior management strategies, and communication techniques that help to transform the dynamics of their families. If you want to develop or fine-tune a parenting style that you and your kids can really benefit from, talk to me about family life coaching. Helping parents to enjoy the experience of raising happy and well-adjusted kids is something that I love doing and would welcome the opportunity of doing with you!