Updated: Aug 26, 2021
If you find yourself asking how to improve as a parent, know you've done two things. One, you've made the first step to becoming the best parent you can be. Second, you'll find this post useful!
We've rounded up 5 quick ways you can switch to healthier parenting! It goes without saying that you care very much about how you interact with your children and how you raise them.
Parents that struggle with their parenting responsibilities negatively impact their children. Harmful experiences during childhood can be very damaging to your child's developing brain. You can mitigate this by improving and adapting your parenting skills.
Listen to Your Kids
Start by listening. No really. Listen. Have you ever found yourself in a situation with a colleague, friend, or maybe even a family member, where you feel like you're not being heard? Now imagine how that must feel to your child when they try to explain or talk about things to you and you're on your phone, checking emails, or scrolling through facebook. Do you notice your child stops talking or stops explaining things? If this sounds familiar, don't worry, it happens to the best of us.
When you find your child is in one of those moods where they want to talk about everything, stop what you're doing and focus on them. Even if it is for 20 minutes out of your whole day. Make it your priority to know what your children are hoping for, what they're afraid of, and what they feel anxious about. Listen and ask some questions, even if they change the subject, be gentle and demonstrate that you care.
Being able to actively listen to your child is a powerful tool for building a strong relationship with your child. A relationship where they can come to you in times of true need and open up to you. Simple things like kneeling and getting down to their eye level, making eye contact, and reaching out to touch their arm or hold their hand when they're upset not only communicates that they have your full attention but that you also empathise with their situation.
Be a Good Role Model
The simplest way you can do this is by, not doing anything in front of your child that you don't want them repeating in a public place in front of your boss! And if you find yourself exhibiting a behavior that you don't want your child to copy, then it's a sign you need to change how you react in certain situations. Children WILL copy exactly what you do, and not what you say.
Especially in a pandemic, your children have been watching you work every day, doing chores, making dinner, and paying the bills. They see you happy, upset, angry, disgusted and all the range of emotion you exhibit. They watch you problem-solve in real-time too! That sounds exhausting! But as long as the children are around, it is important they see you managing your responsibilities to the best of your abilities. You don't have to be the perfect human being, but you can be a well-behaved one.
Control Your Emotions
So what happens if you do lose your cool in front of the children? Every time you lose control, you yell or argue with someone aggressively, you're showing your children that this is how people react when times get tough. But that is not the case. Emotionally regulated and healthy adults process negative experiences before reacting. If you find you have many outbursts, it is important that you seek therapy to address and overcome those root issues.
In the meantime, find ways to demonstrate how you can keep your cool and resolve problems without having to yell at the top of your lungs. When you do so, you are showing your children what an emotionally intelligent adult looks like, which they will model and too become emotionally intelligent adults.
When you lose your temper in front of your children, they become fearful or anxious, especially if they are younger. Whether you're arguing with a customer service representative on the phone or you're having a disagreement with your partner. It is best to remove yourself from the presence of your children and after you've calmed down, apologise and take responsibility for your behavior and explain how you should have gone about things. Mean what you say and do not exhibit these behaviors in the presence of your children in the future. Doing so is another way to model healthy behavior.
Review the expectations you have of yourself and your children. Are they realistic? or are they unrealistic? If you feel overwhelmed, chances are your child does too. This is an indication that your expectations might need to be adjusted. That you will need to be more flexible with yourself, your children, and your parenting style.
That would mean that you'll have to stop putting extreme pressure on your child to perform in flawless ways such as getting perfect scores. If you find yourself worrying about what other parents think, or that you will be shamed for your parenting skills, for example, you might feel that your child isn't doing well in school. Recent events in the news have shown how this kind of pressure can backfire, especially if your expectations set your child up to feel like a failure if they don't meet your expectations.
We recommend that you learn to be more flexible and let the things that do not matter go. Both you and your children will benefit from a more "go-with-the-flow" attitude.
Show Lots of Love
It may be the case that you didn't grow up in a household that was highly affectionate. But that doesn't have to be the case in your household. When a baby is born, doctors often encourage skin-on-skin contact. The simple act of giving your child a hug has the power to make them feel safe and loved—so will holding their hand, stroking their hair, and kissing their cheek.
Another way you can show love is to simply spend time together. When you do this, you show your child that they are a priority. Don't forget to actively engage with them! See healthy parenting ways no. 1. This means putting your phone down, listening, and talking to your children!
Other fun activities, like Friday night game night, outdoor activities, walking your dogs. Showing interest in things that they are passionate about is another perfect way to show your children that you love and understand them! Take Snoop Dog, for example, YES you read that right, the multi-millionaire mogul hip hop star is an ice-hockey fan because of his son. In an interview, the rapper shared how his son was a big Anaheim Ducks fan and had asked him to take him to a game and Snoop Dogg ended up enjoying it!
So if your child loves basketball, watch basketball-themed movies or play the game together. Introduce them to March Madness or the NBA playoffs. Likewise, if your child likes painting, consider spending some time painting with them or take them to an art museum.
No matter what your child's interests are, these are great ways to engage with them.