Everyone has an opinion on parenting, and you are going to hear it whether you like it or not. But what about those gold nuggets that every parent really SHOULD hear? Well, after speaking with a number of parents over the years, here is a list of some of the best pieces of parenting advice I have been given.
Treat your child with the same understanding, respect, and dignity that you would give to any adult.
Many of us are familiar with children being treated as such. Children are often talked down to, their opinions are not valued, they are viewed as a bother or interruption, they are expected to do things out of their capabilities and then punished for not meeting those standards, and so on. However, when we treat our children with the same respect that we would give to anyone else, it builds confidence, trust, security, and love. It helps them learn and grow their minds, skills, and character. It models how they should be treated by others, and how they should treat others.
This too shall pass.
There is one constant in parenting, and that is that things will change. So, buckle up, take a breath, and know that nothing lasts forever. They get better at sleeping, they stop being so “clingy,” they learn to regulate their emotions (best when you help them learn how), they go through phases. Tomorrow is another day and another opportunity for success.
They are not giving you a hard time; they are having a hard time.
So often parents feel targeted by their children. They feel that their child is acting in a certain way on purpose, and their goal is to be difficult. Research that has come out over the past decade, though, indicates otherwise. Children are still learning and growing. They are not well practiced in using coping skills, and those coping skills have to be taught to them… by us. Also, when they get stressed or overly emotional, they aren’t able to use cognition in the same way an adult does. So, when they are struggling with their behavior, it’s because they truly are having a hard time. They aren’t trying to make you have a bad day, they aren’t trying to be rude and disrespectful, they are doing the best they can with the knowledge and skills they currently have. Some days they do well, and other days they don’t. Our job as parents is to help them learn to cope in healthy, positive ways.
Don’t join in their chaos.
When our children are having a hard time, it does absolutely no good to join in their chaos. If we get dysregulated – yelling, stomping around, threatening, punishing, ignoring them, etc. – it does not help make things better. Often times, it makes things worse, or it causes a disconnect in our relationship. Our children depend on us to be their emotional regulators (yes, even teens need this.) When they are struggling, they NEED us to be the calm in their storm, a safe harbor, a place of safety and security when they are falling apart. They need to know that we will be there for them at their worst and that we will help them get through this.
Go outside or add water.
When you or your child need a reset, go outside or add water. Going outside can look like breathing the fresh air, putting your bare feet in the grass, walking around, playing. Adding water might be drinking water, taking a bath or shower, or playing in the water. So many times, this simple prescription can help change the behavior or feeling and gives everyone a chance to reset. Even if it’s the middle of the night… go outside or add water.
Build a village of support.
We are not meant to parent alone. All parents need support. Sometimes we have great support networks, but if you don’t, then try to build one. It’s best for you and your child. A support network helps when you are feeling stressed, need advice, or need help. It helps your child by building caring relationships with adults outside of their parents. This will build resilience in the family and in each individual. Support can come from family, friends, neighbors, parenting groups, meetups, online forums.
Trust your instincts.
One of the best things you can do as a parent is to listen to your heart and trust your instincts. When you quiet the noise of everything everyone tells you, when you truly pay attention to your child and their needs, and when you listen to the wisdom of your heart… everything will be okay.