In previous articles we've discussed the negative results of helicopter parents who hover over their children, refusing to accept imperfection. We've focused on parents far too lenient in giving material things to their children to release their guilt feelings. We've presented the ways that parents create "entitled" children. We've looked at how children from divorce are badly affected when parents use the children for their primary support system or to communicate hateful messages about the other parent.
Becoming a better parent means having the willingness to consider other ways of experiencing the relationship with your children. It is not based on fault or blame, but more the belief that parenting is a most challenging responsibility -- and the one issue that brings up feelings of guilt and inadequacy faster than just about any other task we undertake during our entire lifetimes!
Here are some ideas for making your experience as a parent rewarding and an honest representation of the love you possess concerning your children:
Lead With Your Personal Strengths -- Children learn best by modeling what they see and experience. By relying on your strengths you are being real and positive. Learning how to adapt your strengths into parenting is a tool to learn, not a deficit. Never be afraid to learn, but be very alert to the sources you rely upon. Opinions and advice are not tools.
Children at younger ages think in black and white terms -- Stay away from wordy explanations and repeated responses to "why" questions. "No." is a sufficient reply to a request from a 4 year old. Teaching children how to make good choices, means offering them two or three possibilities that you select. You are in charge of setting the limits and being reasonable.
Children in pre-teen ages and adolescent years think more abstractly -- They can learn cause-and-effect and how to anticipate consequences. However, they are not yet adults and only on rare occasions do they think like adults. They will not do as you say, if they see you not doing it. Living with double standards does not work. The world is not fair, as they are already discovering.Your job isn't about being fair. It is about being consistent, reliable and loving.
Children in young adult years -- They may have the number of birth years for parents to expect adult functioning, but they may not yet be ready to function as one. Going to college, trade schools and serving in the military are standard actions young people have used for decades as the bridge into adulthood. We are seeing now that many young adults don't seem ready to take on any of these and many are dropping out.
The issue for them is a lack of preparation. Regardless of why, and there are plenty of theories about this, your job as a parent is to move them into adult life. This requires an honest, non-emotional assessment of the skills they need to start functioning appropriately. This is not a time for blaming, "Tough Love," or any other pop psychology guess. You need to find out.
Once you and your child know what is needed, you work together on a plan to achieve the desired outcome. This is not a time to coddle or allow them to make excuses. This is not a time for parents to point fingers at each other. A common goal or set of goals is determined and that becomes the structure and purpose of your interaction with the child.
If you are uncertain how to make this happen, get help. Acquiring the tools for successful parenting is not a sign of weakness -- it is a declaration of courage to be the best parent you can be.