I’ve probably made more mistakes than you when it comes to parenting. The funny thing about making mistakes–mistakes make you an expert. I’ve screamed, smacked, got defensive, ignored, chastised, and ridiculed my children. I’m not proud of the way I’ve handled some things, and I often apologize to them for it. Honestly, I never meant to do any of those things, but when I was tasked with making difficult decisions while dealing with my own demons, it’s really hard to do the right thing. I’m definitely an expert on making mistakes! Parenting a child in today’s world is terrifying. A parent is responsible for a child’s health, education, well-being, security, inspiration, and everything else. But, it’s not the responsibility that makes parenting terrifying, it’s the forces that come against parents–peer pressure, drugs, mediocrity, and materialism. Getting a child through middle school, the driver’s license, graduating high school, and everything else in between– without long lasting scars–is almost an impossible job. Add unrealistic expectations, the generation gap, and reliving our own failings through our children to the list, and there you go, terrifying. Here’s just a few tips that I have learned in my many failings.
Accept them for who they are
When a parent accepts a child for the person they are, everything about the child becomes exciting and new–we live through our child’s individuality instead of trying to have our child live through ours.
Be specific with praise
As a veteran teacher, having been trained for over 13 years to deliver praise, the one thing I’ve learned is to be specific. I’ve actually tried being generic with praise just to see what happens–nothing good comes from it. Kids pick up quick that all you’re doing, is checking “praise” off your good-parenting-skills “list”. Being specific with praise requires a parent to be “tuned in” to their kids. If a parent wants to be specific with praise it requires that parent to know a child’s interests, classes, friends, and hobbies. When a parent is tuned into a child, it becomes easy to recognize growth, change, and when a child excels at something. At that point, being specific with praise, comes easy.
Correct, then connect
As parents we’ve all made the occasional mistake of believing we are “bad parents” because we’ve corrected our children before we’ve connected with our children. Chances are though, as harsh as we sometimes need to be, we’ve been connecting and in-tuned with them their entire lives, so correction, even harsh or firm correction, is sometimes warranted. I’ve known parents to be afraid to correct their children. As a middle school teacher, I’ve watched 12 year olds take advice on pregnancy, drugs, relationship, morality, and ethics from other 12 year olds. We, as adults, as parents should search for opportunities to give correction, and take the time to educate them on their misconceptions, or plain-ole-off-the-wall beliefs. And, mark my words they have them. One of my students actually believed she couldn’t get pregnant if she only had sex with a guy once. Despite that we’re in the 21st century, amidst the myriad of public service announcements and sex education in school she still held onto that misconception.Another 12 year old student made a decision about her pregnancy based on her 13 year-old, “experienced” friend’s advisement. Parents should look for areas to correct, it’s our right, and duty.
Don’t be afraid to be tough
As a middle school teacher I’ve witnessed lots of parents with difficulty being tough. There is much to be said about being too strict, overly,overprotective, and hovering like helicopters, that can cause children to resent parents, but there’s more detriment when a parent wants to be their child’s friend, before being their parent. Children are great manipulators, and it’s easy for parents to be manipulated because of the worry and guilt that comes with parenting.
Expect More, but be okay with whatever you get
As a middle school teacher I know that children will live up to our standards, as high or low as we set them. The biggest mistake I made raising my son is being afraid to push him too much. He was always shy, and much like me, new experiences causes him anxiety, yet, my son’s natural abilities to do whatever he put his mind too, far surpassed mine. To protect him, I enabled, then crippled him. I pray everyday that he knows just how much greatness I’ve always seen in him, and that I’m excited about what he can accomplish in his life. I remind him often of the mistake I made as a parent, so he knows I’ve ALWAYS seen greatness. Expect the most from your children. Don’t be afraid when they don’t meet goals, but be afraid when the goals are too low. At that point, they get bored and that’s when they get into trouble.