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Improving your Parenting: Helpful Insights

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Parenting is challenging. One of the most difficult things about parenting is not having a manual to help parents maneuver the day-to-day of parenthood. It’s even more challenging for a parent who never or rarely had a parent or both parents around.  Some parents have natural abilities while others have to learn essential skills. However unique your situation is, here are some helpful insights about parenting:

  1. Children are possible triggers: How often have you found yourself snapping at your kids and felt terrible about it? How often is it that you find something about your children that irritates you and you can’t exactly figure out why?  Probably more often than you realize. This is not to shame any parents but to bring awareness; awareness of the unresolved issues in your life. Seeking professional help has benefits in resolving past issues and making positive changes. Some things to think about and consider:
    • Behavior and thought processes that you know are more harmful than productive
    • Reactions that you know your kid/s did not deserve
    • Existing generational patterns/cycles you want to break
    • Unintentional messages you are giving your children through your responses/reactions
  1. Meet your children where they are: Some parents set such high expectations for their children and put too much pressure on them (intentionally or unintentionally). Yes, it is healthy to want your children to be successful and have good traits. But at what cost? Children are still human beings, just tiny ones. Children have feelings that they are not able to  verbalize most times. When parents tell children how they should or should not feel, children may possibly internalize that by feeling like they cannot express how they feel, they do not know what they feel, and they feel unsure and/or scared to talk about how they feel, which carries through adolescence and into adulthood. Take a look at:
    • Human Development Stage: Did you know that the frontal lobe of the human brain does not finish developing completely until the age of at least age 25? The frontal lobe of the human brain is responsible for regulating emotions, controlling behaviors, problem-solving, and cognitive functions. In simpler terms, the frontal lobe is the behavioral and emotional control center and how humans can make sense of things. So, is it possible that your child has reckless behaviors, doing and saying things that do not make sense, and acting out because they are simply functioning at their level? A child is only capable of doing things and making sense of things at his/her level of functions and abilities. Also, researching and reading about the different stages of human development can help you better understand where your child is.
    • Question yourself: Have I taught my child how to identify and express his/her emotions? Have I taught my child that it is okay and safe to talk about feelings? Have I taught my child, or do I have unrealistic expectations? Do I expect my children to do things I have not taught them about? These questions are to help you see where you are as a parent so you can identify what you want to work on.
  1. Identify your values:  Have you taken the time to identify what you value as a parent? Values such as respect, humility, courage, honesty, and discipline are just a few of the common values a parent desires for his/her child to attain. However, if you have not identified what you want to instill in your children, it is easy to forget and get deterred. Reflect on the following as a guide to discover your personal values:
    • Things you disliked about your childhood
    • Things that give you a sense of purpose
    • Things you are passionate about
    • The difference you want to make in this world
    • The type of parent you want to be
    • The type of children you want to have
  1. Create realistic goals: Remember that raising children to become good and successful human beings is a process and a long one. Making small goals can help keep you on track. Here are some ideas:
    • Pick one issue you’d like to work on with your child
    • Jot down the reasons why you’d like to work on this particular subject
    • Brainstorm ideas about how to implement the change
    • List ideas of consequences you’d like to give (good and bad)
    • Commit and stick to it (children learn better with consistency)
  1. Talk to your children: talking to your children requires a parent to provide feelings of emotional safety and security. Children are often afraid to speak about what they are thinking or feeling because they are either afraid of getting in trouble and/or don’t want to make the parent upset.

In other cases (and cultures), children do not get a voice and only do what a parent tells them to do. This kind of parenting teaches children that they do not matter, they do not have a voice, that whatever they feel, or think is not important. When the children become adults, they struggle with expressing themselves, develop low self-esteem, and become emotionally detached or distant. Here are some ways to help your children how to express themselves:

    • Check-in and ask your child how he or she is feeling about something (person, place, and/or situation) and just listen (don’t correct or interrupt)
    • Validate your child’s feelings and thoughts and connect by saying “yeah I can see why that makes you feel sad or angry (whatever the emotion is).” If your child cannot identify feelings, naming a few feelings can help the child verbalize
    • Ask and listen to your child’s reasons, even if they are wrong and do not make sense to you
    • Teach by educating your child about what is right and what is wrong and help him/her to come up with a resolution or a different approach
    • Reassure your love and point out the child’s strengths/positive traits
  1. Take care of yourself: Parenting gets exhausting and your overall health is detrimental to your effectiveness as a parent. It is important to take time to take care of yourself and do things to replenish your energy. Here are important factors that affect your mental and physical health:
    • Get an adequate amount of sleep: not enough sleep causes mood irregularities, irritability, irrational thoughts, haste decisions, increased reactivity, decreased energy and focus, and lack of motivation.
    • Develop healthy eating habits: Certain foods affect moods. Eating unhealthy foods makes a person more susceptible to sluggishness, bloating, heartburn, fatigue, and lack of energy. Food is fuel to your body and there are specific foods that help boost metabolism, increase energy, and help with mental clarity and memory.
    • Socialize: It is easy as a parent to find yourself barely interacting with adults, especially if you are a stay-at-home parent. Reconnecting with friends and family has some benefits. However, it is also important to confide with someone you trust if needed. Seeking professional help to sort out past issues or trauma is also very beneficial to your overall health.
    • Dream again: As a parent, pursuing your dreams may have resulted in being on the bottom of the list. That’s understandable. But it is never too late to revisit a dream you once had or even come up with a new dream for yourself. There is no need for guilt and shame in taking time for yourself and pursuing your goals. Taking time for yourself does not make you a bad/neglectful parent but it does make you a better, happier parent.

Parenting is intimidating to those who never or rarely had parents who modeled good behaviors and characteristics, or to those who had a terrible childhood. It is normal to want your kids to have a better life than you had, to have good manners, to have confidence, and to be resilient and successful in life. Most parents can probably relate to the statement, “I don’t want them to go through what I went through.”

A great parent acknowledges his/her role and realizes the influences and impact on the child/children. Children learn more from what they see and hear than what their parents tell them verbally. So, reflect on your ways, natural tendencies, thinking process, behavior, and responses. Ask yourself, “what are the unspoken, unintentional lessons I am teaching my children based on how they see me act and what they hear me say?” Whatever answer you come up with is a good start to improve your parenting.

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