As I work with children and families, I continue to be surprised by the missteps that parents make in raising their children. No, most of these are not intentional, yet out of fear and embarrassment or just plain busyness with the stuff of life. Unless you as parents/caregivers are more proactive in your approach to parenting, you will risk your child growing up with a dysfunctional sense of self. This distorted sense of self will have a foundation of feeling unwanted, unloved, not good enough and/or of being an inconvenience. These will then be carried into adulthood and impact how your child functions at home, school, work and the world at large.
You have the power to prevent these negative messages by being more mindful in your approach to creating the structure and nurture your children need to not only survive this chaotic unstable world, but also to thrive. The following are even more ideas of how to do this to create healthier children who will grow up to be healthier adults.
- Take risks in doing things that might not match your interests or energy level as means of connecting with your child. This might entail getting on the floor to play with dolls or actions figures, playing dress up and matching your voice to the character you are acting out, letting your child wear mismatched clothes because that is part of his/her style.
- Work at tolerating your child’s quirks or temperament. You can do this by joining in on your child’s sense of humor, ignoring certain noises that drive you crazy, teaching your child about indoor vs. outdoor volume and activities, letting the other caregiver know that you need a break, find something good to highlight in your child’s behavior.
- Learn to accept that some things take time to do and will promote dependence if you do too much for your child. If your child is learning to tie his/her shoes, to get dressed, to eat, to clean up then he/she needs the time to do this and to not be rushed or disciplined for not doing it right. It takes time to master skills.
- Invite your child to speak up more to be more clear about his/her thoughts and feelings as well as his/her wants and needs. Help your child learn how to do this in a respectful and constructive manner. These communication skills will be useful in all of your child’s interactions at home, school and community.
- Teach your child how to cope when feeling sad, scared, overwhelmed, impulsive, angry, etc. to develop emotional regulation and acceptance of being human. You are setting an example yourself in how you role model how to cope with a wide range of feelings. Are you being reactive or proactive in the example that you are setting for your child?
I wish you well as you continue to reflect on your parenting style. I admire your courage as you put these strategies into practice to have a healthier family.