In my quest to be a better Dad, I was recently wondering what it is that makes those seemingly together parents with their seemingly together children tick.
What are the core values that help a parent raise an aware, empathetic, loving, strong and effective child?
In my wondering wanderings, I found this article by Amy Morin which I found pleasantly simple but potentially life changing for me. Like many ideas we take on board, it did need some tweaking for me to be fully happy with it so I present it here along with my thoughts on Amy's points.
They Don’t Condone A Victim Mentality
Getting cut from the soccer team or failing a class doesn’t make your child a victim. Rejection, failure, and unfairness are part of life. Rather than allow kids to host pity parties or exaggerate their misfortune, mentally strong parents encourage their children to turn their struggles into strength. They help them identify ways in which they can take positive action, despite their circumstances.
In this I agree. I do think that kids need to explore their reactions to adversity so that they gain an understanding of themselves (i.e. why does this hurt so much - is it embarrassment, anger or disappointment?) but I know that we as parents need to show them ways to move on from difficulties with positive action.
They Don’t Parent Out Of Guilt
Guilty feelings can lead to a long list of unhealthy parenting strategies — like giving in to your child after you’ve said no or overindulging your child on the holidays. Mentally strong parents know that although guilt is uncomfortable, it’s tolerable. They refuse to let their guilty feelings get in the way of making wise choices.
I know I do it. I put my foot down only to raise it slightly because I think I've hurt their feelings or that they've learned their lesson, but who are we kidding? I do it only to make myself feel better. I love the idea of a parent needing to make "wise choices". I say it to my kids often enough, I need to say it to myself. Because really, shouldn't I feel more guilty about not doing what I know is right?
They Don’t Make Their Child The Center Of The Universe
It can be tempting to make your life revolve around your child. But kids who think they’re the center of the universe grow up to be self-absorbed and entitled. Mentally strong parents teach their kids to focus on what they have to offer the world — rather than what they’re owed.
In my world, this requires a caveat. After all, my kids really ARE the centre of my universe but it's probably fair to say that they shouldn't always feel that. I mean, obviously they need to know that they are loved unconditionally and that they can come to me for anything, but they probably also need to learn that sometimes parents want to sit, to read, to meditate, to decompress. Or sometimes just take a shower by themselves. I actually think that effective boundaries allow us to make a children more the centre of our world than when we allow them unfettered access to our bodies and minds. It also gives them a better sense of autonomy which is a vital human skill.
They Don’t Allow Fear To Dictate Their Choices
Keeping your child inside a protective bubble could spare you a lot of anxiety. But keeping kids too safe stunts their development. Mentally strong parents view themselves as guides, not protectors. They allow their kids to go out into the world and experience life, even when it’s scary to let go.
Oh wow. Here's a doozy. We have all been led to believe that the world is such a dangerous place that we shouldn't take our eyes off our kids even for a second. And in some scenarios, that is absolutely true. But where is the line between protection and stunting. I mean, I freak out if Thing 1 wants to take the dog for a walk around the block and he's 9 years old. I still don't know if it's right or wrong but the look of sincere self-satisfaction that he has when he returns, tells me that he needs it. Fear is important - it keeps us safe. But at some point, it becomes a liability rather than an asset.
They Don’t Give Their Child Power Over Them
Kids who dictate what the family is going to eat for dinner, or those who orchestrate how to spend their weekends, have too much power. Becoming more like an equal — or even the boss — isn’t healthy for kids. Mentally strong parents empower kids to make appropriate choices while maintaining a clear hierarchy.
This also requires a caveat from me. I agree that children should not dictate and that when the decision is not theirs, they need to play along. But. I also believe that part of parenting means giving children life skills and that one of those skills is making choices. Why shouldn't the kids have a say in what they have in their lunchbox, or where you go to dinner. Or what you do on the weekend. I believe it's important that kids get a say in the running of the family which they are a part of, but equally important is the discussion and process of making good decisions that lead to it.
They Don’t Expect Perfection
High expectations are healthy, but expecting too much from kids will backfire. Mentally strong parents recognize that their kids are not going to excel at everything they do. Rather than push their kids to be better than everyone else, they focus on helping them become the best versions of themselves.
Agreed. I don't expect perfection but I do expect effort. Just because you're not going to be the best, shouldn't mean you don't try. There are so many things more valuable than being the best - teamwork, collaboration, effort, development and focus. You will rarely be the best at something in the room - but you can always be your best self.
They Don’t Let Their Child Avoid Responsibility
You won’t catch a mentally strong parent saying things like, “I don’t want to burden my kids with chores. Kids should just be kids.” They expect children to pitch in and learn the skills they need to become responsible citizens. They proactively teach their kids to take responsibility for their choices and they assign them age-appropriate duties.
Kids should be just kids. Except that part of being a kid is learning. Learning to be part of a team. Developing skills and good habits. Chores help us build strength in the family unit and they build appreciation for the work we all do but they have to be appropriate. And they have to be done because kids see the value in them, not because we said so.
They Don’t Shield Their Child From Pain
It’s tough to watch kids struggle with hurt feelings or anxiety. But, kids need practice and first-hand experience tolerating discomfort. Mentally strong parents provide their kids with the support and help they need coping with pain so their kids can gain confidence in their ability to deal with whatever hardships life throws their way.
Boy, this is a tough one. Over the years some would say that we have very much shielded our kids from pain. For example, we still monitor the movies they watch to avoid unnecessary death and/or sadness (they haven't even seen The Never Ending Story because of the way Artax dies in The Swamp of Sadness - but how messed up that movie is requires an article all of its own). So we do shield them from that false sadness because...well, why not. But we don't shield them from real world pain - when a pet dies, or we have to go away for work or any of the other worldly things that impact them directly. Those things they need to deal with but at least they have context with the pain.
They Don’t Feel Responsible For Their Child’s Emotions
It can be tempting to cheer your kids up when they’re sad or calm them down when they’re angry. But, regulating your kids’ emotions for them prevents them from gaining social and emotional skills. Mentally strong parents teach their children how to be responsible for their own emotions so they don’t depend on others to do it for them.
To be honest, it took me a while to work this one out. At first I thought it meant not consoling them or not diverting their emotions but eventually I came to understand that what we often do is simply try to change the emotion rather than acknowledge it and help them work through it. In other words, don't make a joke when they're sad, comfort them and talk to them about it. And don't distract them when they're angry, talk them through how they got there and where they need to go. But ultimately, it is they who needs to regulate themselves - parents need to give them the tools to do so.
They Don’t Prevent Their Child From Making Mistakes
Whether your child gets a few questions wrong on his math homework or he forgets to pack his cleats for soccer practice, mistakes can be life’s greatest teacher. Mentally strong parents let their kids mess up — and they allow them to face the natural consequences of their actions.
So hard. But so, so necessary. However, allowing them to make mistakes and face consequences also means that parents need to be there to help the child navigate them in an emotionally mature way. We need to let them see the benefits of some mistakes (such as learning and getting better) without succumbing to negative emotions and to understand that some mistakes must never be repeated because they are dangerous.
They Don’t Confuse Discipline With Punishment
Punishment is about making kids suffer for their wrongdoing. Discipline is about teaching them how to do better in the future. And while mentally strong parents do give out consequences, their ultimate goal is to teach kids to develop the self-discipline they’ll need to make better choices down the road.
No parent wants their child to suffer. But sometimes we feel that punishment is more about jail than it is about corrections. . For example, if a child is home late, don't stop them going out altogether - this will just make them resentful and not see the problem with perspective. Rather, shorten their curfew for a week so that become more mindful of not only the time, but of how lucky they were to have the original curfew in the first place. Or if they hit a sibling, don't send them away in silence with no communication, have them sit and console the injured party - face the consequences of their actions and the face of their victim.
They Don’t Take Shortcuts To Avoid Discomfort
Giving in when a child whines or doing your kids’ chores for them, is fast and easy. But, those shortcuts teach kids unhealthy habits. It takes mental strength to tolerate discomfort and avoid those tempting shortcuts.
Sometimes we just give in because life is hard enough already. I'm certainly guilty of it. But as I read this I suddenly thought, "but what if they're needy and clingy and helpless when they're 30?" So I'm putting in the hard work now.
They Don’t Lose Sight Of Their Values
In today’s fast-paced world it’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day business of homework, chores, and sports practices. Those hectic schedules — combined with the pressure to look like parent of the year on social media —cause many people to lose sight of what’s really important in life. Mentally strong parents know their values and they ensure their family lives according to them.
This means something different to everyone. For me, I had to write down what my primary values as a parent were and make them the lock screen on my phone (because putting the phone down was one of my goals). But whatever your values - live them.
To be honest, I really like these ideas - they're not exactly brand new, but sometimes it's nice to refresh yourself on some good advice.
You can read the original article here.