Hello parenthood! It's funny, there is not a parenting 101 class in college. Being a parent can be one of the most difficult tasks a human can experience. The responsibility of raising a child can feel overwhelming and downright scary at times. Then factor in a complex mix of the environment, biological twists and turns and our own personal issues and the daily task of parenthood is definitely "a rollercoaster of love". What are some important areas to think about as we parent our kids?
- Strive towards more proactive time with your child.
Kids from the age of 1-18 (and maybe even older) want your attention. Every child has an innate desire to connect with dad and mom. Kids want the relationship, whether they admit it or not. You as parent must learn to be proactive in meeting this basic need of your child. Look at time with your kid as a bank transaction. Positive time (playing, being attuned to their world, going to their games, calling them on the phone, texting, being interested in PS3, XBOX, Wii, speaking their language) needs to be built up every day. This could be seen as credits. If you haven't done this consistently, it's not too late to start. If you are gone a lot on vacation or work-realted trips, you could video chat/facebook with your child. Work evenings? How about meeting them at school for lunch! The possibilites of positive interactions with your kids are endless. Negative time (fighting, punishment, enforcing unpleasant consequences) can be seen as debits in the bank transaction. Now these times are necessary also; the important point to realize is that these times are not the main bulk of attention. If we are not proactive, we tend to be reactive. With needy attention hungry kids, our reactions can be closer to frustration. Spend that positive proactive time with your child.
- Strive for stability and security.
What is in the best interest of the child? There are multitude of family situations today. Kids living with aunts, uncles, grandparents, mom one day, dad on the weekends, married but unhappy parents, happily married parents, etc. The list goes on and on. Each family and their situation is unique. Here is another key to strive towards in raising your child- stability and security. Kids need a stable environment with a deep sense that they are safe in their home. Research shows that low conflict really helps in the raising of a child. How can we lower conflict in the home? Again, diverse situations call for different ways of handling situations. If you are realizing that the conflict level in the home runs a bit too high, make changes for the betterment of your family and child.
- Oh the difficulties of consistency!! One day it's "Go to your room, you fought with your sister!" The next day it's "No TV for a month for fighting with your sister!" Some basic principles are in store.
- If at all possible, both parents need to be involved in the life of the child on a consistent basis. If dad only gets to see the kids twice a month on weekends, dad can try and make consistent special contact each day. This might be through texting, Facebook, Twitter, IM chat, etc. Be creative and consistent! If mom has to work late multiple times every week, she can set up a way to check in with her child so the child feels secure and cared about.
- Parents need to work together to maintain basic schedule for sleeping, eating, etc. This establishes routine in a child's life, creating a sense of safety.
- When dealing out consequences, be fair in the way you deal them out. The punishment needs to fit the crime. A "C" on one test does not warrant losing the cell phone for the rest of the year. Kids want a sense of control in their lives. Perpetual and endless grounding usually creates feelings of helplessness and despair, rather than motivation. Be fair and consistent, and give your kid some input on consequence setting.
Parent, you have one of the most underpaid professions in the world. Yet your relationship with your child is something that is priceless. Keep working towards building a solid foundation of consistency, proactive play, fair consequences, and stability in their lives. One day they might even say thanks!
Jarrod Hood is a LPC- Intern who enjoys the opportunity to work with families. He has been working in association with Dr. Beckloff since January 2010. If you need to reach him, firstname.lastname@example.org
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