At its best, parenting can leave a mother or father with a feeling of satisfaction, fulfilment, contentment and pride. However, at its worst, anxious, irritable, overwhelmed and exhausted.
Often the difference between is simply in parenting philosophy and style. While it may not be possible to completely eliminate stress in parenting, it can be considerably reduced, allowing more of the joy.
The “ABC” approach
At every point and juncture in your children’s life, affirm them. Continuously remind them that they are unique, valued, loved. Too many children grow up in homes where they’re marginalised, being either told or implied that they are hopeless, worthless and won’t amount to anything. Affirmation sets a peaceful tone in the home because it is person-affirming.
Convey that you believe in your child by frequently telling them so. Says something like, “You can do it!” “I believe in you.” “You are an incredible son.” “You are an amazing daughter.” Children thrive when their parents believe in them.
No matter what is going on, keep up the line of communication. In her book Raising Confident Boys , Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer noted: “Children and adults who don’t communicate can pay a very high price. Communication skills lie at the heart of social and emotional health and success, and a boy will not be as comfortable with talking if adults, especially parents, don’t talk to him. No conversation implies no interest, which he is likely to interpret as neglect, so family silence can have a devastating impact on his self ‑ esteem and his trust in future relationships.” So tell them what you’re thinking and feeling. Listen to them, encouraging them to tell you what they are thinking, feeling.
Make a date night for yourself and your partner. If you’re a single parent, make a date night just to do something for yourself—without the children. The few hours away from parenting responsibilities will be renewing and invigourating.
Many people believe the best way they can help others is to criticise them, giving them the benefit of their own wisdom. “I disagree,” says minister and author John C Maxwell. In his book Today Matters he outlines the best way to guide and nurture children.
He says parents should look for the best in them. Use Maxwell’s philosophy, which he describes this way: “I practise the 100-per-cent principle: I look for the thing I admire in people and give them 100 per cent encouragement for it.”
Healthy families know how to ask forgiveness—and how to offer it. When your words or actions are wrong, be quick to apologise and ask forgiveness. And, when a family member apologises, be even quicker to forgive. Then forget it.
Keep God at the centre of your life and in the centre of your family’s life. When things are going well, offer God a prayer of gratitude in keeping with 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 18: “Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances.” When things are not running as smoothly, turn to God seeking strength, wisdom, comfort.
Remember these biblical words: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
Contribute to your family’s health by preparing balanced, nutritious meals. Be certain your children are getting a good night’s sleep. Encourage physical activity and exercise as much as possible. There will be less family tension when everyone is eating well, resting well, and getting regular physical exercise.
Nurture your children’s imagination by reading to them. When they can read for themselves, introduce them to a wide variety of books, music, the theater, film. By doing this, you may be helping a future Mozart, Disney or Hemingway to emerge.
Instil a sense of justice in your children so that they will not only understand right from wrong but defend those who are mistreated. Be certain that you are always just in your dealings with your children, as example is a powerful teacher.
Treat family members with the same kindness and courtesy you would extend to others.
Let there be much laughing in your home. Laugh at your mistakes, laugh at life’s follies and ironies. Laughter is sunshine for the spirit. Of course, never laugh at someone or at their expense.
Let this virtue flow naturally and freely in your home.
When someone has erred, made a mistake, show mercy. Don’t hold grudges, and don’t keep bringing up the offence.
Spend time with your children in natural settings. Nature heals and soothes troubled minds. Hike through a forest together, run along a beach, walk through a park as often as possible.
Angry outbursts are bound to take place. However, help your child learn to control anger and channel it into healthy ways. The person who doesn’t learn to manage their temper will go through life injuring friends, fracturing relationships and losing jobs. Work with your children so they learn to choose not to have a temper tantrum, but choose, rather, to talk about why they are upset.
Give children the emotional space and physical privacy. Like adults there will be times when they need privacy. In his book Spiritual Parenting , educator David Carroll advises: “When a child wants to be left alone, let it be. Don’t pester or cajole. Allowing children room for their private worlds is one of the most mannerly things parents can do.”
Without sounding like a drill sergeant interrogating a recruit, do ask your child questions. Ask how their day went, who they spent time with or sit with at school. These types of questions show you are interested in your child’s life.
Be careful when you reprimand and reproof your child.
“Avoid disparaging children publicly, especially when friends or important adults are nearby,” advises Carroll. “If children are acting up in a social situation, take them aside for criticism; never criticise them harshly in front of others. The memory of scathing reproofs given in public can leave indelible scars.”
Teach your children the importance of serving others.
Remind them of Sir William Osler’s observation: “We are here to add what we can to life, not to get what we can from it.”
“Most people give away their relational energy on a first -come, first-served basis. Whoever gets their attention first gobbles up their time and relational energy,” notes Maxwell. ‘That’s why the squeaky wheels instead of the high producers at work consume so much attention and why so many people have nothing left to give when they get home from work.” Maxwell reminds families they must give place the time-priority first on the family. “I believe your family provides the most valuable relationships in your life. They should come first as you plan to spend your time.”
Instil in every family member the importance of extending unconditional love to each other.
Parents are good about finding ways to build a child’s confidence, self-esteem and self ‑ image.
However, the intentional instilling of virtue is sometimes missing. Teach your child moderation, humility, patience, dignity, temperance, forgiveness, sacrifice, industriousness, charity and compassion.
Be careful with your words, using only those that heal not hurt; use words that inspire rather than injure. Use positive, gentle words in your daily interaction. Rather than saying, “Don’t run!” say, “Please walk.” Rather than saying, “Stop screaming!” say, “Please use a quiet voice.”
X is the mathematical symbol for the unknown.
While parents will know many things about their children, there is also much that is unknown and mysterious about our kids. Be flexible with yourself and with them as they evolve into unique individuals.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Being overwhelmed and overworked only results in a parent who is burned out. Be good and gentle to yourself.
If you can afford it, take a weekend off by yourself or with your partner for a time of renewal. If you can’t afford a getaway, find other ways to pamper yourself, such as a long, luxurious bath, a video that appeals to yourself, or visit the library and take out a book, then claim the time to read it leisurely.
Be certain you zero in on what is important and what isn’t.
Don’t get bogged in the superficial and unimportant. Your son’s hair length or your daughter’s make-up choices aren’t nearly as important as the type of individual they’re becoming. Don’t make mountains out of molehills.