No one ever said parenting was easy, in fact, I dare say that parenting is harder than most of us expected. But, we don't parent because it is supposed to be easy; we parent because we love our children.
We all want to be good parents, perfect parents perhaps, but that just isn't possible. What is possible is to constantly strive to be a better parent. Parenting is a process; some things work and some things don't. The following are just a few suggestions on how to improve as a parent.
Parenting takes patience. From the first night without sleep, to the tantrums of toddlerhood, through the battle of wills that accompany the teenage years, it all requires patience. What is unfortunate is we often find ourselves running low on patience.
When we are running low on patience we tend to take our frustrations out on our kids, most often, more harshly than we would like. As you try to be a better parent, be more patient with your children by counting to 10, taking a deep breath, ask yourself, "Does this really matter?" or leave the room for a quick break.
I was about six when I first realized my mom often took breaks from her children so she wouldn't lose her temper. It only took breaking her favorite cookie jar to realize this. Even though it was an accident, it didn't matter. I remember my mom grabbing her keys and simply leaving the house. She didn't leave the three of us alone, my dad was also there. But when she got back, although still sad and probably disappointed, she didn't yell or get angry with me. I watched her and my dad glue the cookie jar back together.
Make time for your children. We all know that sitting on the floor with your kids playing Barbies or Legos isn't the most exciting part of your day, but chances are, it's theirs. Become a better parent by playing with your children. Put away technology, get rid of other distractions, and give your kids all your attention for an extended period of time.
This is one thing that I often find myself struggling with. I am constantly setting a goal to play with my children more. It works for about two weeks and then I find myself on the couch with the computer beside me checking the news and social networking sites, which then leads to me setting a goal again. I try not to get too upset with myself, all parents make mistakes, I just make sure I try harder the next time around.
Set boundaries and be consistent. Kids need rules. They need to know what is expected of them day in and day out. Without boundaries or with boundaries that are always changing, kids get confused. With a clear set of rules children feel safe. Make sure you discuss these boundaries with your kids and adapt them as they age. Also, make sure your kids know that there are consequences associated with stepping outside the boundaries.
Be a good example. Your kids look up to you. When they go to school they tell their friends they want to be just like you. Make sure you are someone you would want them to be. Children learn from what they see and hear. It is your job to ensure that everything they take in is positive. Be kind, be honest, be giving, be compassionate, be soft-spoken and have good moral values.
Teach work ethic. Kids as young as two can start learning the value of work and should be learning it. It doesn't require much to teach a preschooler to sort the silverware from the dishwasher or add a scoop of food to the dog's dish. Nor does it hurt to teach the preteen and teenagers to vacuum, dust, clean the bathrooms and other simple household chores. Work will not only develop their character but will increase their self-esteem when they see a job completed.
My parents did an excellent job of this. I remember seeing a picture of me on the counter putting dishes away with my brother, I couldn't have been more 4 years old. I started cleaning bathrooms, including the toilets, at about 8 years old. I got my first paper route at age 9 and my first minimum wage job at age 15. This wasn't because my family needed the money, however little I earned. It's because my parents wanted me to learn how to work. I may have hated the chores, the paper route, and the endless dish washing at my job, but as I matured I saw the benefits. I far exceeded most of my college roommates in my ability to clean our apartment and purchased my own car to take with me to college.
Take a break to take care of you. It is a well-known fact that it is hard to care for your family when you are not taken care of. Parenting is hard work. Make sure you reward yourself every now and then. Take some time alone or with a group of friends and do something that will renew your energy and refresh your outlook on life.
Parenting is one of the most fulfilling things many of us will do in our lifetime, but also one of the hardest. Use the above suggestions to help you on your journey to become a better parent.