A few years into this parenting thing and most of have a moment, or a few, where we have a complete meltdown. Like the ugly cry in the car type of meltdown. Hopefully, that car cry doesn’t take place in the carline while waiting for the kids to get out of school but it is bound to happen. As a parent, it is so hard to know if you’re making the “right” decisions for your children.
The hope is that we will be perfect parents but the harsh reality is that there are no perfect parents. I encourage you to stop torturing yourself by trying to be the parent you saw on television. Claire Huxtable and June Cleaver and were both great moms but I’m willing to bet that even their real-life parent life didn’t parallel that of their fictional characters.
Grab a cup of coffee or tea as we explore how we can make good parenting decisions.
1. Every Child is Not the Same
If you have more than one child then you may have already realized that siblings, heck even twins, can behave like polar opposites. My daughters, two years apart, are similar in many ways but couldn’t be more different in other ways.
If you think that you’ll be able to take a parenting guide, follow each outlined step in order and be able to parent each of your children in the same manner, please close the “manual” and walk away slowly because you’re in for a long ride. What works for one child may not, and probably won’t, work for the other children in your family. As individuals, we each respond differently to stimuli. Accordingly, it’s important to keep that in mind as we attempt to make good parenting decisions.
2. Your Child isn’t Really Your “Mini Me”
It’s so easy to get caught up in the daydream that our children are going to be perfect clones of the best pieces of their parents. Our favorite clothing retailers now sell matching outfits for the entire family so that we may catch the perfect snapshot to post on Instagram or Facebook. However, the little people in those matching outfits are not our clones. They are forming their own personalities resulting from their own experiences. With that said, it isn’t ideal, or even fair, to parent our children as if they are just like us.
You may need to sit down for this one, but some of those experiences are when they aren’t with you. Frightening isn’t it? I know, but it’s true! Some of the things you experienced in your childhood will no longer be relevant to their childhood. Does anyone remember life before social media? Did you play outside for hours? Might you had to wait for your parents or your friend’s parents to give you a ride instead of booking a rideshare? All of those experiences contributed to building your character and made you into who you are today. Times have changed. Your child will never know what life will be like without social media and you will always remember what life was like before it.
You’ll bore your child to death if you pull out the “when I was a child, my mom would have done x if I did y” and honestly they will probably not respond to being parented the same way you did. You also are likely not exactly the same parents your parents were as they were parented in a different generation than you. Therefore, you will be wasting your time by attempting to parent your child as if they are your clone.
Instead of clone parenting, keep in mind making good parenting decisions starts with leveraging the wisdom you’ve gained from your own childhood and life experiences. But, it doesn’t end there. We have to take ourselves out of the equation and make good parenting decisions by considering the individual needs of our children. Try to engage in intentional parenting to guide your parenting decisions.
3. Intentional Parenting
Intentional parenting is exactly what it sounds like, taking a step back in order to make intentional, and ultimately good, parenting decisions. For example, let’s imagine it’s dinner time and you’ve prepared a meal for your child. S/he likes most of what you’ve prepared but doesn’t love one of the side dishes on his/her plate. Your child decides to eat his/her food in the order of most to least favorite. You wish for him/her to eat the least favorite first. Cue the music because a power struggle is about to ensue.
Here’s where we take a step back. Why is it important for them to eat in the order you want? Is what you want them to do really, really necessary in order to achieve a good parenting decision? Is your intention to make sure that they’re taking in the nutrients offered by the well-balanced meal you’ve prepared or is it to assert your role as the authority figure in the moment? What if you swallowed your pride, filtered your ego and waited to see if your child was going to finish their entire meal? If they did indeed eat everything, would the order have really mattered? How much of a distraction might you have injected by interfering with their plan to eat dinner? One of the keys to making good parenting decisions is to ensure that said decisions are purposeful and intentional. It’s not even about losing battles and winning wars. It is about allowing your child some flexibility to be empowered to make the decision, if feasible, on their own. By making these kinds of good parenting decisions you will encourage your child to make his/her own good decisions.
4. You Live. You Learn. You Carry On.
There will be many times when you will look back in hindsight and realize that you simply made the wrong decision. It’s inevitable. One of the greatest things about parenting is that you get to wake up each day and start anew. If you make an attempt to be a better parent tomorrow than you were yesterday, then you’re winning in my book.
Make a conscious decision to make better parenting decisions each day because you’ve learned from your past parenting mistakes. When possible and appropriate, try to reflect and discuss your parenting mistakes with your family. An open dialogue provides an opportunity to learn and grow. Teach your children by example that you’re not perfect and you don’t expect for them to be perfect either. Show them that you make good parenting decisions because you face adversity head on, dust yourself off and try again.
Although there is no such thing as perfect parenting, we can make good parenting decisions being cognizant that our children are individuals and aren’t necessarily going to benefit from being parented like their siblings or even in the same manner in which we were reared. Additionally, parenting decisions should be made because they are the decision that is right for our child, not our need to win some imaginary power struggle with him/her. Finally, when we do make an error or bad parenting decision, we should reflect upon it and learn from it; thereby, affording ourselves the opportunity to make better decisions in the future.