Charles R. Swindoll says it best, “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory bank of our children.”
As a parent, myself, I know there are many days where I feel exhausted and frustrated. Oftentimes, I’m left wondering whether or not my parenting was effective. I am constantly questioning if my children actually listened to the things I’ve said or if I’ve somehow ruined everything.
Then they give me an extra tight hug, squeeze my hand three times (to say I love you) or say they appreciate me – and it’s those tiny moments that make it all worth it. It’s those times that remind me I’m pouring into them and it’s working.
But as parents, we all question our effectiveness and wonder what can we do differently? While I am no self-proclaimed parenting guru, I have learned a few things on being effective. So, I’d like to offer these parenting tips to you in hopes that this insight helps you foster a happy, healthy and satisfying relationship with your child.
Lift Up Your Child’s Self-Esteem
If you were to open my purse you would find Target + Starbucks receipts, super random objects and gold star stickers. Why gold stars, you ask? Because everyone loves stickers – even adults. I’ve found my children love praise. The size of the praise doesn’t really matter. Their little eyes light up when I tell them how good of a job they did or remind them that they are worthy.
Your tone of voice, body language and expression are absorbed by your kids. So, I make it a conscious effort to remind my kids how great they are.
I believe relationships work when an individual understands and appreciates their self-worth. If someone struggles with self-esteem, then I’ve noticed their relationships also struggle. So, I build up my kids – this way they feel comfortable with who they are and who they will evolve to be. Thus, I reinforce my words with gold stars.
Call Out Their Goodness
Remember the snap jar in Legally Blonde? Everyone thought Elle Woods was weird because she called out the goodness of others. But remember how good it made everyone feel? Everyone appreciates kind words.
At no fault to their own, parents get caught up in the daily grind. It’s common to identify the things your child is doing wrong – stop fighting with your sister/brother, lower your voice, you need to share, clean up, etc.
If your child constantly hears directives on how they are not acting appropriately, then they may think they’re only good at messing up. Be proactive and call out your child’s goodness. Some examples: “Great job reading that chapter.” “Thank you for being patient with your sister/brother.” “I really liked how thoughtful you were today.” “Good job following directions at school.”
Be Consistent with Your Discipline
Children thrive with structure. Think about it. This is why schools have schedules – even lower grade levels. If a child already knows what to expect, they can feel more at ease. Try to implement a consistent sense of discipline. For example, you are not going to yell at your child for forgetting to wash their hands or pick up their toys. And you’re not going to ground them for something minor. However, setting a strong stage of expectations is important.
Effectiveness also means you must do what you say. Instead of threatening to take away their screen time or ground them, you must carry through with the consequence. If your child doesn’t believe that recourse is going to happen, then they’ll continue to be disobedient.
Make time for your children. This can be challenging sometimes because of the daily responsibilities – baths, meals, prepping for sporting commitments, signing school papers, your career, cleaning, etc. Nevertheless, making time for each other should be a priority.
There are several ways parents can do this. Make Friday movie + pizza night – no phones, no tablets, just quality family time. If you have an older child, allow them to stay up 15-20 minutes longer, and have one-on-one conversations without siblings. If you’re going to the store, invite just one kid to join you and have that time together. If it’s nice outside take a family walk or ride your bikes together. The quality time doesn’t need to be super long and doesn’t require a ton of money; however, those ordinary moments together will cultivate a long-lasting impression.
Teach Your Child Communication
In David Thomas’ book, Are My Kids on Track, he discusses emotional, social and spiritual milestones children need to reach. If you haven’t already read this book, I highly recommend it. One of the biggest concepts he discusses is the importance of communication. When you take your child to the doctor, they track your child’s physical and intellectual milestones. But they do not track the emotional side of things.
As role models, we must track these landmarks for our children. Parents need to teach their children how to express their feelings in an appropriate way. Oftentimes, we’ll ask our children, “What happened?” But we don’t always ask them, “How did that make you feel?” If our children can understand how to process their feelings and articulate what is going on inside, then they will be courageous, compassionate, resilient, empathetic and smarter.
Nothing in life goes exactly according to the plan. Therefore, it is crucial for parents to demonstrate a flexible and willingness nature of adjustment. As your child changes, your parenting rhythms and style should also change. It’s important to understand that something that works with one child, may not worth with another because everyone is unique.
Have an open mind and switch things up if they are not working – this doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Lastly, communicate this flexible nature with your child. If they observe your openness, then they’ll mirror that trait when they are experiencing a difficult situation.
Ask for Help
I’m not sure why asking for help feels like a negative action, but society portrays it that way. Whether it’s a man asking for directions or a mom turning down a school volunteer assignment, society shames us for waving the white S.O.S. flag.
Everyone has limitations. No one knows everything. If parents are willing to ask for help, they’ll find that their children are receptive to do the same. Do not attach shame to help. If your child is struggling with a math lesson and you’re unable to help them because math is not your gift, reach out to the teacher and discover tutoring options. If you’ve had a stressful work week and need quiet time, ask your neighbor to watch the kids for a few hours – self-care is a necessity.
Being an effective parent is a culmination of many things. Recognizing the array of tips and tactics is the first step.