8 Ways to Tune-Up Your Parenting
8 Ways to Tune-Up Your Parenting
There are ups and downs and sometimes sideways or even upside downs when it comes to being a parent. Children can be challenging and often our adult brains tell us to handle our kids as if they are mini-adults. Unfortunately, this can run us head-on into challenging situations. As counselors, we recommend periodic tune-ups for parenting education. In this post, we will suggest a few easy-to-implement tips and ideas to enhance your positive parenting style. WARNING: With time and practice, positive changes in the behaviors of your children may occur!
- Proactive vs. Reactive
Being proactive tends to be far more productive than being reactive in almost every aspect of our lives. However, putting that into practice can be a bit more difficult with your kids. Be conscious of your own coping style with regards to your child's behaviors. Try to set ground rules and expectations BEFORE there are problems.
- Choose Priorities
If you find yourself feeling like "nothing works" or your child's behavior is "always" a problem, stop and think about your priorities and the real-world actions your child is taking. In short, pick and choose your battles more carefully. Leaving socks on the floor versus failing a test due to not studying should not be treated as the same offense. Consequences you institute as a parent should reflect this.
- Structure, Consistency, Frequency
Children thrive on schedules and routines even if they outwardly avoid them. It may appear that they desire more free reign but this in actuality is part of their developmental growth and learning process. They are testing boundaries, figuring out what"s acceptable and unacceptable behavior, etc. Routines lessen the chance for anxiety and maladaptive behaviors.
- Patience is YOUR virtue
Grace under pressure should be the motto you carry with you on a constant basis and in every reaction to your child's behavior. By regulating how you react to a child's maladaptive behavior, you minimize highly charged emotions. So, what to do when you're having a bad day and just walked in the door from work to find your child is watching television when he/she was supposed to be doing homework. If you start screaming and yelling at him/her, it is virtually guaranteed that this will escalate and most likely turn into reactive responding. Instead, take a moment to check in with your emotions. You're frustrated and disappointed. That's okay. Request that he/she discontinue the activity and rely on what consequences you have set out ahead of time as an intervention.
- Emotional Regulation
Just as the above motto is important to keep in mind, making sure you're taking care of your own emotional health is key to healthy parenting. How do you deal with your anger, frustration, or sadness? Your child is not a mini-adult and cannot be reasoned with when you're feeling large doses of these emotions. If you escalate an argument or a consequence because you can't regulate your own anger or frustration, you are role modeling a behavior for your child that they will then use themselves in the future.
- Sensory Activities and Learning
With the advent of parenting activity blogs, Pinterest, and other online resources at our fingertips, taking active approaches to spending time with your kids has never been easier. Be sure not to over-structure with a constant stream of prepared activities but maybe consider spending every Sunday afternoon as a time for sensory play or activities. We've learned that some fan favorites like sand trays, glitter jars, and glitter slime can all be completed with common household items. This encourages tactile learning, creativity, and family interaction.
- Have a sense of humor!
There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Have realistic expectations of yourself, your spouse or partner, and your children. Just as we pick our battles, know that there is time for laughter and joy, even when things don't go to plan.
- Work with a Counselor
Professional counselors do more than "fix problems" and can be an extremely effective guide to teach skills for more successful parenting before problems start. Some common parenting education areas we focus on are:
- Listening Skills
- Communication Skills
- Appropriate Consequences and Rewards
- Practicing Skills in Real Life
Parenting is hard but rewarding. There is no perfect parent no matter what you see on social media. If you are struggling, try to follow some of the above approaches for a happier and healthier home and family environment.
Meghan Reitz, LCPC, NCC, has worked within the counseling profession for over 17 years. Her therapist experience includes providing individual, couples, family, group, and crisis counseling. She also speaks with companies and groups on mental health and wellness topics. Learn more about Meghan here.