Becoming a parent is a life changing experience that comes with many challenges and hopefully many joys. It is also the most important job you will ever have.
Parenting today comes in many different forms. You may be a solo mum or dad, be a married couple or you may be parenting within a same-sex relationship. Your family may be from a non-western culture, you may have a disabled child or you might have step-children. You may have many supports or few, have some good skills already or feel you are lacking in skills. There are many, many circumstances that impact on how people parent.
Parenting is affected by your situation and your resources, and also needs to change as your children grow up. It’s an evolving process for you and your children and you will often have to work things out as you go. The following two myths relate to this fact and often cause parents a lot of unnecessary worry.
Myth 1. Parenting comes naturally.
This is simply untrue. Parenting is learned in various ways, such as from your own parents or other people of influence. And what you have learned can be ‘un-learned’ if you choose. The parenting habits that don’t work in the long term can be replaced with lots of new and creative skills, so you can become a highly effective, loving and supportive parent.
Myth 2. Making mistakes means I’m not a good parent.
Not at all. Every parent makes mistakes but the important step is to recognise mistakes and build your skills so you don’t repeat them. Rather than striving to be a perfect parent or to have perfect children (there are no such things) it is better to aim for ongoing improvement. When you use effective parenting skills you may find your children respond almost immediately, but some changes can take more time. Parenting skillfully is a journey, not a destination, and many parents benefit from learning more about what’s effective and what’s not.
Having a positive attitude towards parenting and your children will enhance your family life. Here are some tips to help you do this:
- Create some ‘just the two of us’ time each day to spend with your child. Children thrive on your positive, undivided attention and everyone needs to feel valued with one-on-one time.
- Show interest when your child wants you to engage in what interests them. You might be surprised at what you learn.
- Share tasks between everyone. Children like to feel they are a part of the family system and asking them to do age appropriate tasks helps give them a sense of responsibility.
- Praise your children often – look for the good things they do and highlight these.
- Tell them what you DO want them to do rather than tell them NOT to do something. For example “don’t throw the ball in the house” becomes “go outside to throw the ball please”.
- Set routines as much as you can. Routines make a child’s life more predictable and therefore more safe and secure.
- For older children, try to foresee stressful times or events and discuss with them how everyone in the family could help respond to minimise the impact.
- Make life fun! Try to always have something in the week that children can look forward to. It doesn’t need to be expensive and may be a simple as you going to the park to kick the ball around. Remember, deep down, time with you is they want and need the most.
- Create your own family rituals. It might be a special song to announce bath-time or a game you play in the car. Use your imagination – older teens can still enjoy rituals such as a family board game one night a week or going on a walk together.
Parenting is challenging yes, but it should also be enjoyable. If you could use a little help, we offer many cost-effective services and courses that are available to everyone. Many parents who attend our parenting seminars find it a relief to know that other parents are experiencing similar issues. Click here to visit our education courses page.