So there you are, perhaps pregnant or weighed down with diapers and there’s a snot streak left across your sleeve from your toddler’s nose from the fourth meltdown that morning and you’ve been wondering thoughts like, what the heck am I doing? All of a sudden you take a glance at your smartphone and notice an article online that says, ‘ten tips for successful parenting.’
Suddenly your heart is filled with optimism and you devour the list in the vain hope that somewhere buried in that list is the one thing, the overlooked and hidden secret to removing all your worries. The key to happy children. The vaunted road to parenting success! Yay, you’ve found it! Or have you? Or perhaps you look at the article and think, ‘Oh no, not another lame excuse for a few mashed together bits of optimism.’
Regardless of how you come at it, what does it mean to have parenting success? Well, what defines it is determined by who you ask. To some people, parenting success would mean creating a bright go getter that gets up early and works hard, logs their gymnastic scores to keep themselves personally challenged and who is chosen to make the class grad speech. To another it’s that their child is kind and thoughtful, even if their career takes them no further than the local coffee shop.
So before you look for parenting success, define what it is you want. What’s attributes do you consider important in a grown-up? Is honesty important? Is career success? What about thoughtfulness or kindness to others? Resilience or loyalty? What do you think defines a good citizen?
So here are my ten tips for successful parenting.
- If you want a kind loving child, model kindness and love. Go out of your way to do things for other people and drag your child along despite the whining. Shovel other people’s driveways and get them to fundraise for the school charity, boring the neighbours with their cookie sales in the process. Turn up on Saturdays to help with forest clean up or serving soup for the homeless. Take the focus off them and put it on other people. Cuddle and snuggle often.
- If you want a child with tenacity that can get up over and over again despite the odds, that’s resilience. You can’t breed resilience if you hover and won’t let your children take risks or learn by themselves. That means letting them take calculated risks by climbing trees and going to the neighbours house without you.
- If you value honesty, make it a priority. If they transgress and nick a candy or a toy from the store or a friend, make an example of them and take it back and have them apologize in person, even it if it’s inconvenient.
- If you want an independent thinker, be one yourself. First give them a solid base with good leadership so they have a clear path to follow. As they grow, teach them to question the status quo and ‘group think.’ Make it ok to disagree with an authority figure provided they are polite. Talk about societal assumptions often, dissect them and encourage and back children up whenever they stand up for what’s right.
- If you want your child to be happy with high self esteem, give them a role. Let them make a real contribution by helping you. Let them clean the dishes away and help you with the laundry or wash the car. Make them part of the activity but not the focus of it. Make special entertainments special, by which I mean not all the time.
- If you want a child to value cleanliness, have expectations. Keeping your room clean and your bed made are habits and the only way to teach habits are to be consistent in your expectations, notice and encourage when they get it right and when they don’t, reinforce logical consequences each and every time.
- If you want a child that values real human engagement, don’t buy a smartphone or tablet. Remember it’s much more difficult to ‘limit’ it than simply not buy it in the first place. Eat a proper family meal together at least four to five times a week and both talk and listen.
- If you want your child to be a ‘citizen’ rather than a ‘consumer, teach social and environmental responsibility. A consumer has no responsibility but a citizen does. Reduce your intake of stuff by visiting the thrift store with unwanted toys. Pick up garbage or recycling and notice when others do too. Read children stories from the news and point out different viewpoints. Take them voting with you.
- If you want a child that’s successful in their career, value all skills. Your children will have their own path so help them discern and follow their natural abilities. Teach skills like attitude and discipline but don’t forget humility. If your child learns to disregard others in a race for the top, are they going to be nice to be around? Would you want to be around them? Winning with grace is equally as important as losing with grace.
- If you want a child that’s grateful, teach them to value what they have. Go for picnics and walks in the wood, read stories and sit under the stars. Play and enjoy being silly together. Stop and smell the roses so they can marvel at the wonder of life.
If you’re looking at this list and feeling overwhelmed, I empathize. Parenting, although rewarding is by far hardest job you’ll ever do which is why there is always a professional behaviour therapist around to give you a hand if you need it. Reaching out for help is not an admission of defeat, rather it’s an appreciation of the enormity and importance of the task ahead. The results will be with you, your family and society for ever. It takes a village to raise a child. Sad part is, we’ve lost the village.