Every job under the sun has some sort of educational qualifications required or training needed. Except for parenting! Parents often joke that how to bring up children doesn’t have any manuals or “How to…” books to refer to. Ever since the beginning of time (starting from the garden of Eden – where two brothers wouldn’t have got into a fatal fight if they had been brought up properly!) being a good parent has been largely a hit and miss affair.
But, over millennia, some parents seem to have hit the right notes and brought up kids who have turned out to be decent, well-behaved, caring and loving, considerate human beings! A credit to themselves and to society at large. And, it’s not as if the parenting styles used were the same. No, obviously, that depended on the social milieu, the conventions and beliefs that the child was exposed to and the personality and character of the child. However, the most successful parents all tend to follow four basic components of good parenting.
Offer the child options
Guide the child towards choosing better options. This will help them to problem-solve their own behaviour and make them more accountable. Sometimes offering choices helps the child make better decisions.
Let your child learn about consequences – good and bad
Teach your child that there are consequences – good and bad – depending on the child’s action or behaviour. If your child makes the right or good choices – he/she will reap the rewards of those choices. If the child makes bad choices, the consequences will be equally bad.
Consistency is the good parenting mantra!
Through all the years spent in bringing up a child, the one beacon guiding parental behaviour should be consistency. Children file away everything little thing a parents says, does or stands for. Children archive what you said yesterday and notice if you followed through. Will you say the same thing, today? Do you keep changing your mind about rules and expectations? They will constantly keep testing the waters and pushing your limits…Once you say something, stick with it. And don’t make idle threats. If you say, “If you do that again [blank] will happen.” – do that [blank] when it happens again. Because – it will happen again. But, once they know that you will carry out your promise of doing (blank), over time they will learn that you mean what you say.
Caring for and respecting your child
If you don’t show your child love and respect – your parenting will leave much to be desired.
Children learn the most from their parent’s actions. If we demean, belittle, mock or get violent with our children – they will do the same thing to others. If your parenting style consists of shouting at them, all the time, they will soon become deaf to your words and wait for you to scream before they listen to you.
Some good parenting guidelines
- Spend time on a regular basis to have fun with your child
- Don’t argue about discipline in front of a child
- Never give a request or command without being able to enforce it
- Agree on what is good behaviour, and what is not
- Agree on the punishment for undesirable behaviour
- Once you have clarified the stand you are taking, and the child attacks that position, do not keep defending yourself. Just restate your position and stop responding to the attacks
- Look for gradual and positive changes in behaviour. Keep your expectations within reasonable limits. Praise good behaviour that is close to what you want.
- Reward desirable behaviour as much as possible
Good parenting and how to achieve it
- Be firm when disciplining your child: Consequences of bad behaviour should be clearly stated, and then adhered to, when the behaviour occurs. As mentioned earlier, do not make empty threats which you can’t carry out.
- Be fair when doling out any punishment: The punishment should always fit the crime. In instances of recurring behaviour, the punishment should be clearly stated in advance, so the child knows what to expect. A simple time out can be effective if it is used consistently, every time the inappropriate behaviour occurs.
- Be friendly without being soft: Use a firm yet friendly communication style when letting children know they have behaved inappropriately. Inform them, in advance, that they will be at the receiving end of the “agreed upon” consequence, should they step out of line.
- Put yourself in the child’s shoes: See a situation the way your child would.
- Use a soft, confident tone of voice: This will help to calm them when they are upset.
- Be a good listener: Make eye contact. Literally, get down to the level of smaller children. Don’t interrupt. Ask open ended questions rather than questions that can be answered with a yes or no.
- Give them clear directions. Get them to repeat these back to you.
- Use rewards and praise whenever possible. This kind of positive reinforcement will motivate your child to improve his/her behaviour.
Parenting is a challenge, being a good one is even more so. It can be tiring, frustrating, maddening and complicated. Yet, over the long term, it can also be joyous, gratifying and rewarding. But, all parents have their bad days. So do the children! There are times when we re-act without thinking – angrily and impulsively. And, then, we wish we had a rewind button. But, we all have to understand that being a good parent isn’t about perfection – it is about our intentions and goals. Identify your parenting intentions, take one day at a time, and you will be on the road to being a really good parent.