We’ve all seen the meme, ‘I opened my mouth, …and my mother came out.’ But how many times does your child open their mouth, and YOU come out? As a parent, when these meme’s become our reality, we want it to be for the right reasons.
I’m sure you recognize those little phrases and expressions that your child does, which imitate yours. You are your child’s first teacher – just as your parents were yours. Your past and your childhood affect the choices and decisions you make now as a parent. You decide what practices to repeat and what not to repeat, with your children.
Kids are observers of people, and just as they observe peers and teachers. They observe us as parents and learn good and bad habits from us. If you express gratitude regularly in front of your children, they are more likely to be grateful. However, if your kids see you as a parent being disrespectful, they will learn that discounting others is OK. It’s easy to assume everything your kids do is somehow related to what you do.
However, this way of thinking can discount your child’s individuality, as well as the negative influence of peers and our broader culture.
Did you know what influenced your childhood, can profoundly change your parenting style?
How you recreate your own experiences
As parents, we often recreate what we experienced when we were growing up.
For example, you decide to take your toddler out to have a splash around in puddles. Why? Because this activity is something special, you remember enjoying participating in it with your mom or dad. Equally, some parents may well try to do the opposite of what their parents did.
For instance, you may never insist that your child play a sport because your parent forced you to do so against your will. So it’s something associated with negative feelings. You don’t want to pass that on to your child.
Being conscious of your own childhood experiences can help you become more aware of the meaning behind your reactions toward your child.
Examples of this would be the loss of a loved one, parental separation or divorce, significant tension between parents, financial insecurity, parental mental health issues, or parental substance abuse. How is it impacting your parenting?
How to make the change
You can’t look to change your childhood and who you are, but you can look to improve HOW you are – as a conscious parent.
This is where you can implement a set of guidelines to steer your parenting away from repeating the mistakes of your parents.
1. Don’t bad-mouth the other parent, and leave your children out of your arguments.
2. Realize the world has changed since you were a kid.
3. Don’t compare your child to other kids, especially their siblings. No child likes to hear ‘Why can’t you be more like so and so?’
4. Be mindful of your fears, and try not to instill your fears into your children.
5. Constant nitpicking and disapproval can stay with children. They are programmed to seek your approval, and a cycle of not appreciating them creates a negative feedback loop.
6. Be honest. Don’t lie to save their feelings, but look for an age-appropriate way to explain where you met may have gone, for instance. If you are honest with your children it can help change their behaviors. And it can also repair problems that have occurred because of your parenting mistakes. You don’t need to put on the facade of being the perfect mom or dad.
7. Don’t threaten to leave your kids behind as a punishment. Even if you become frustrated or angry. Don’t be tempted to try this tack. The threat of abandonment is profoundly your child.
One of the essential things in a child’s development, especially in the early years, is the bond formed with their parents or caregivers.
This is something Dr. L. Alan Sroufe, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development, agrees with.
She says making the threat of abandonment, even in what could be a lighthearted way, can shake the foundation of security and well being you are giving your child.
According to Sroufe, when you say things like, “I’m just going to leave you here,” your child can think you will not be there to protect and care for them. The thought you could leave them alone in a strange place is frightening. It can begin to erode their attachment to you as the secure base from which they can encounter the world.
8. Don’t go for one-size-fits-all parenting. Dr. David Elkind, is a Professor Emeritus at Tufts University, and a development expert.
He says: “The same boiling water that hardens the egg softens the carrot … The same parental behavior can have different effects depending on the personality of the child.”
9. Own your bad behavior. Children are like sponges. They absorb everything around them. But this means they can mirror both good and bad actions.
Modeling the behavior you want from your child is one of the best things you can do. What you do has a much more significant impact than what you say to your child they should do.
Did you know the children of smokers are twice as likely to smoke as the kids of non-smoking parents? The best way to get your kids to eat their broccoli? Eat it enthusiastically yourself, and make it delicious for your kids.
Children detect falseness a mile away, so believing in what you’re doing is an integral part of leading by example.
10. Acknowledge what your child is feeling, rather than dismiss it.
Many parents make the mistake of telling their children they are experiencing a feeling they are not. However, they are more likely to say to them they aren’t feeling what they are feeling. The result of this creates a feeling of distress and confusion.
For example, before your children go to school for the first time, they may be feeling scared. Rather than brushing it off as being silly, you can consciously acknowledge your child’s feelings.
You can say: “I know you’re scared, but I’m going to come with you. We’ll meet your new teachers and your classmates together, and I’ll stay with you until you’re not scared anymore. Sometimes excitement feels a lot like being scared. Do you think you are also excited?”
Embrace the truth and help your child work through the confusing feelings. It will be much better for their health over the long term.
If you liked this blog, then check out my blog on 7 ways to combat boredom when your kids are stuck at home.
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A 3xTEDx speaker, media contributor, parenting coach, and a mom of two - helping families thrive by using the Guidance Approach to Parenting.