As soon as we become parents we want to give our children the world. If it is within our emotional, physical or financial reach we will find a way to make it happen. We will purchase the newest toy, buy the latest sports equipment, and find the best schools.
Yet, what is most important is what is happening 'inside' of our children's world.
The outside things are simply the icing on the foundation we are gifting them with at home.
1. Spouses Treat Each Other Well
The way we treat our spouse can determine our children's long-term happiness. It will certainly play a role in their relationship success. Yet, often this fact does not receive the 'parenting' attention it deserves.
We pour love into our children neglecting to remember the love we show one another will be what they ultimately model.
Therefore, an incredible value should be placed on treating our spouses well.
Children go out into the world and gravitate towards the familiar. They will feel comfortable around those who resemble their own family of origin. Thus, the most invaluable thing we can do for our children is to demonstrate great love and respect for our spouse. This includes kindness, honestly, availability, accountability, and generosity amongst other things.
An important question to ask ourselves? How would we want our children to be treated by their significant other in the future? How would we want them to be loved? That is what parents should model to ensure their children are treated well in their relationships.
2. Improve Communication
Marital relationships as well as parent-child relationships will benefit from improved communication.
Learning these types of skills not only encourage greater emotional intimacy but can teach us when to listen and when to talk. They also provide greater insight into our children's feelings and how to handle them. Is this a time when they just want their emotions to be heard and not necessarily fixed? Do they need quiet time to decompress? Do they want solutions? And so on.
The best way to enhance communication is through a great family or marriage counselor. Reading instructional books may supplement but they do not provide insight into behaviors we do not see in ourselves. A critical factor since communicating is a two-way street.
When we learn valuable communication skills it can remove our personal 'ego's' and give our children a chance to feel truly understood. Thus, making home an even safer place from the outside world and reducing overall conflict.
3. Understand Stressors
Every person experiences stress and parenting certainly doesn't reduce it.
It's important to understand three things. The stress we can control. The stress we can't control. And the stress which is unique to us as individuals.
Many daily household triggers are within our control. Stock up on necessities to avoid midnight runs for diapers and milk. Routinely fill the gas tank on certain days to avoid adding stress to tight morning routines. Assign household chores so one person isn't overburdened having to do all things. Keep individual family member cubbies or baskets by the door to hold keys, papers, etc. to escape last minute search chaos.
It is truly important as parents to understand the stress which is unique to us as individuals. It more than likely stems from our own childhood and therefore, can trigger even greater stress. Make a list of the top three. If it is finances or being late or leaving town then plan for it. This means save more, allocate more time, etc. Most importantly discuss these with your spouse and ask them to respect these factors rather than discourage them. We do not need to be talked out of our feelings and likewise, we need to respect the stressors of our spouse.
As parents we owe it to our children to understand our intrinsic pressure points and reduce them.
4. Reduce Frustrations
Life is busy and parenting kicks it up a notch.
We often run on autopilot. We need to stop long enough to assess the 'little baggage' in our lives. The type of things which temporarily and unnecessarily distract us, frustrate us, and make us vent.
The items we leave unattended because life and family and work have us otherwise preoccupied.
It could be the raccoon who has once again feasted on dog food in the garage - it's finally time to buy that plastic storage bin. The dog broke through the fence we've been meaning to fix. The one remaining car key can't be found - time to make another.
We need to stop long enough to make a monthly list of the common recurring events we can easily rid ourselves of. This can also include planning for the month. Life is so busy that buying gift cards to keep on hand for birthday parties, cards to send for various occasions, extra batteries for all household gadgets, etc. is never a bad idea.
5. Establish Boundaries
We want to do everything for our children because it's an expression of our love. Yet one of the greatest gifts we can offer them is a sense of self and self-responsibility.
While it may feel loving to continually make their lunches or run their homework to school it does not necessarily empower them. It enables them and keeps them from growing into themselves and feeling the sense of accomplishment which accompanies self-responsibility.
A toddler feels like a big kid when they learn to dress themselves and a small child feels great accomplishment tying their own shoes. Children crave self-responsibility from a young age.
But most importantly, as the saying goes, "We are raising children not adults."
A second grader who repeatedly forgets their homework may become a sixteen-year-old who still forgets their homework - or needs constant reminding.
There is a simple way to make this less painful for both parent and child. We can sit with our child and explain we are going to let homework be their responsibility. No parental reminders. We can let the teacher know we are allowing our child to learn to take responsibility for their own homework in the coming weeks. It won't be long before our little student remembers their own homework.
Consequences teach our children to be accountable.
The world is not black and white and neither is parenting. There will be days we need to run the occasional project, lunch or uniform to school. It should however, be the exception and not the rule.
These are five incredible gifts we can bring home. They also happen to diminish stress and conflict in our children's lives. This added bonus is kinda like a gift with purchase. They also improve our ability to be our 'best' selves and in turn, our 'best parenting' selves.