You know what good parenting looks like: parents guide their children instead of controlling them, they take the long view, they are unconditionally supportive of their children, they look for opportunities to celebrate children’s good behavior and they try to make children’s good behavior a habit.
Why, though, if we know what it takes to be a good parent does our own parenting so often fall short? What can we do to be better at this most-important job?
Knowing what to do isn’t enough. Think of all the things you know (eat well, exercise more, meet deadlines, be nicer) that you still struggle to do. We have to make good parenting a reflex. Which is exactly what good parents do for their children.
To become better parents, we might try good parenting techniques on ourselves.
The summertime, when kids are home from school, is the ideal time to work on our parenting by practicing good parenting on ourselves. Here are some tips to try:
- Guide your behavior ahead of time, rather than trying to control yourself later. Begin the day by imagining how you will respond to kids’ behavior calmly and without strain. Mentally walk yourself through the tricky parts of the day ahead, in trying to manage your children. Mentally plan what you will do to make those parts go more smoothly.
- Give yourself time to improve. Rather than trying to stop yelling at your kids altogether (if yelling is something you tend to do), try to reduce the number of times you yell at your kids today and reduce how long your carry on. Aim for a transformation of your parenting style over time, not an immediate make-over.
- When you mess up, move on. If you are a hitter and you understand that hitting is bad for kids, you may still hit your child today, out of habit. Making a mistake doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Don’t wallow in self-incrimination or give up on your ability to make a change. Instead, learn from your mistake and vow to do better. You’re a good person. Support yourself unconditionally.
- Notice when you’ve had a good day. A day with no yelling or hitting from you is a day to congratulate yourself. End your day the way it began, by mentally reviewing your parenting. Pay attention to your progress. You’re doing well!
- Repeat. Becoming a better parent requires changing old habits and adopting new ones. Work on your parent each and every day and, in fact, each and every minute. Make better parenting a habit by practicing, practicing, practicing. Every interaction with your children is a chance to parent better.
Parenting well is good for your children but it’s also good for you. Feel less frustrated and more happy, just by adjusting your interactions with your kids. Do that by adjusting your interactions with yourself.
Practice great parenting by parenting yourself.
© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s new book, Parenting: A Field Guide, at your favorite bookstore.