These last few days I have been thinking about parenting strategies. It’s something I think a lot about in my own life, talk a lot about with my clients, and am asked a lot about by reporters. I have written before about my thoughts on parenting books – namely they can be overwhelming and confusing if not used properly. Not to say that parenting education and exposure to different techniques isn’t important – it certainly is! Sometimes it’s just too much for my brain to comprehend and implement at home. Maybe no other parents feel that way, but for the moment I am just going to assume that I am not alone.
So today I am going to add my (hopefully) simple, #1 strategy for raising healthy families: be a genuine, honest, and present parent. This is what I mean:
Apologize to your child when it’s appropriate. “Julie, I’m sorry I was short with you this morning. I didn’t sleep well and was kind of grumpy. It’s no reason to treat you poorly, though, so I apologize.” Why is this important? It teaches our kids to be humble and apologize themselves.
Pay attention when your kids are around. None of us can be tuned into our kids at every moment. We have to work, take care of our other kids, do the laundry, and feed the family too. But when you are able, really focus on them. Put the Blackberry down, turn off the TV, drive with the radio off – whatever you ha
Talk about your own emotions. I am not a fan of being our kids’ best friends, and don’t recommend using your child as a support system or counselor. However, it can be useful to be honest with your kids (in a developmentally appropriate way) about your own mental health. Here’s an example of something I said recently to my 7 year old. “You know what, I am feeling pretty overwhelmed by all of the things I am having to clean up around the house. I have noticed that many of the items I pick up are yours. Can you help me come up with a solution to these feelings I am having?” Why is this important? It’s crucial that we model communicating about our emotions to kids. It’s also a good idea to show them that it’s OK to ask for help solving tough problems. Wouldn’t it be great if the above conversation led my daughter to eventually say something like: “Mom, I’m feeling overwhelmed at school because all the kids are talking about drinking beer and I don’t want to. Can you help me come up with a solution?” That would be parenting gold.
So, for this week at least, that’s my #1 parenting technique. It may be something different next week, but being a more genuine, honest, and present parent is probably something we can all work on.