People often say, “Being a parent is the toughest job you’ll ever have.” That is a true statement. I can think of no job that is more challenging or more important.
The challenge is that parenting is a job without a job description. And there is no definitive parenting guide. As a result, there is no “right” way to parent. So, as parents, we have a lot of latitude as to how we approach it.
Some parents approach the job by being highly involved with their kids. Unfortunately, they then are called “helicopter” parents. Other parents are busy with their careers and other pursuits. They are accused of being “absentee” parents. And then, there are parents who fall somewhere in between this spectrum in their way of parenting.
The truth is that there is no correct way to parent. Every child has different needs. And every parent comes to the table with different capabilities.
However, even though we have a lot of flexibility as to how we approach parenting, there are certain things that all parents need to do to in order to parent effectively. They are what I call the Four P's of Parenting. These are the four things that you need to do as a parent so that your children are given the best possible upbringing.
Consider how they fit in with your own approach to parenting.
It is important to be present for your child. That is the only way to develop a close, trusting relationship. To do that, you need to spend time with your child and talk to him or her. And it needs to be one-on-one time. Your child needs to have a special relationship with you that doesn’t involve his or her siblings.
There are many ways to create one-on-one time with your child. One way is to do an activity with them that you both enjoy. For example, my daughter and I love going to Barnes & Noble to look at books and to enjoy a cup of tea. We have had a million heart-to-heart conversations at their bookstore café. I know a father who watches sports with his son. And as they watch a game, his son talks to him about anything that is on his mind.
Of course, being present for your child is a sacrifice. It is a sacrifice of your time and energy. But there is no other way to create a close relationship with your child. There is no other way to pass along your advice and wisdom. And there is no other way to be the person who your child comes to when they have a problem.
Good parenting requires patience. That is because every period of your child’s life will have its challenges. For instance, the toddler years are precious, but unpredictable! You never know what they’ll get into next. And getting them potty trained is not for the faint of heart.
The elementary school years are tough because they need to learn how to successfully function in the highly structured environment of school. They also need to learn how to be disciplined enough to get their homework done after school. The teen years are tricky as children navigate the world of high school socializing and learn to make good choices.
My daughter is now 18, and she is a lovely young lady. I delight in spending time with her. What I’ve learned over the last (almost) two decades is that there is no challenging period which lasts forever. They all pass … and then a new challenge comes along! That is the nature of the parenting experience.
So, the best thing that you can do for your child as he or she goes through sticky patches is to be patient. Love your child through it. I know that is easier said than done. I have lost my temper more than once! But I always have tried to remind myself that the brains of children are developing during this maturing process. So, they won’t always do things that make sense to us as adults. The best thing that you can do is to give them boundaries, tell them how much you love and cherish them, and know that someday your patience will pay off.
The world is a tough place. School is a tough place! Kids can be mean. Unfair things can happen. It is no surprise that children can come home after school feeling discouraged, on occasion.
As a result, your home should be a refuge for your child from the world. At the end of the day, your child should say to him or herself, “I am so happy that I can go home, see mom and dad, and rest quietly in my room.”
Your child needs a peaceful home environment. That is why it is so important that parents with more than one child aggressively control sibling interactions. I’ve seen so many situations in which siblings are allowed to be rude or mean to each other. And the parents permit this behavior with the excuse, “Well, that is how siblings act.” No, it isn’t. That is how you are permitting your children to act. There should be zero tolerance for any unkind behavior in your household. Your home should be one in which your child knows that he or she will be treated with kindness and consideration, at all times.
Similarly, children need to be in a home in which their parents aren’t constantly arguing. You do your children no favors by remaining in a marriage that is fraught with conflict. Children are far better off being in a peaceful home with a single parent than being in a home with two parents who yell at one another, or who simply don’t speak to one another.
If you and your spouse are in a bad place, figure out how to get along with each other. If you cannot, then do the right thing for your children and separate from the other parent. Give your child the peaceful home that he or she deserves.
By far, the most important of the P's of Parenting is praise. You cannot give your children too much encouragement and praise. That is the way that you instill confidence in your child.
Your child needs to be confident in order to achieve his or her full potential. The world has the ability to crush people. Unfortunately, the world can be a critical, snitty place. If you child doesn’t possess a steady, inner confidence, he or she easily will get discouraged. Without confidence, at the first sign of criticism or meanness, your child will just give up on his or her dreams and goals.
Now, of course, there is a difference between teaching confidence and teaching arrogance. When we teach confidence, we identify our child’s unique strengths. We tell our child what he or she is good at. And we praise them for their accomplishments that are the result of hard work.
When we teach arrogance, we praise our children by comparing them to others. “You are much better at math than Susie.” “You are a far better athlete than Bobby.” Teaching your child arrogance doesn’t help them. First of all, no one likes arrogant people. They are annoying.
Second, your child will never be the best at something. There will always be someone better. So, help them to have confidence in their own unique abilities. They shouldn’t need to feel superior to others in order to feel good about themselves.
Consider incorporating the Four P's of Parenting into your parenting style. We all bring our own personalities, values and skills to parenting. And fortunately, there is a lot of flexibility in how we approach this very unique job! But, at the core of your parenting should be the Four P's– Presence, Patience, Peacefulness and Praise. If you keep those Four P's at the forefront of your parenting style, your child will thank you.