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Forget the ‘perfect parent’ – be the best you can

Mother and young son playing outside giving each other the thumbs upIn the day of modern parenting, we are constantly inundated with pressure of being the perfect parent, raising perfect children.

This is about as achievable as finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is not that our parenting skills are on a downward spiral, but we are placing too much pressure on this premise that is completely fictitious.

There is no perfect person. No perfect parent. No perfect child. And, definitely no perfect family. Each family unit is unique in its own way.

The focus should be that as parents, we are doing our best for our children, situation and family. When we take the focus off perfection and look at things realistically, as our children grow and the family dynamic changes from time to time, we can always better ourselves and our parenting techniques in accordance with what is best for our children.

Being a parent is not a constant. Our duties and responsibilities will always first and foremost be centred on our children. But, the roles required of us will change according to the situation we are facing. Sometimes, we find ourselves re-evaluating our parenting styles and our children’s needs.

Below are some tips on how to be the best parent you can be:

Take the time out to connect with your children

Whether you’re working or a stay at home parent, there should always be special time allocated to spend with your children. Take the time to spend quality time together. It can be as simple as reading a book, playing a game, kicking a ball around, doing a craft activity or even having a chat. Taking the time to connect and getting to ‘know’ each other lets your child know that you are available and willing to work on the parent/child relationship. Like any relationship, being a parent requires work and effort from both sides of the equation. As the adult, make the first step and show your children that you are a trustworthy, understanding, caring and loving parent.

Stop making comparisons

Of course it is given that every child is different and unique in their own way. Be mindful of this. Avoid negative and unnecessary comparisons between your children and others. Do not focus on the timing of when certain milestones are met. Instead, focus that your child is happy, healthy and well-adjusted – they will eventually meet those milestones when they are good and ready. Children need support, love and encouragement from parental figures. Embrace them for who they are and accept their ‘uniqueness’.

Discipline as opposed to punishment

Discipline is actually defined as methods to show and teach children the difference between right and wrong, as well as acceptable forms of behaviour. Punishment is but one of the many disciplinary techniques available to parents, its negative focus has often come under scrutiny among parenting groups. Due to the unique nature of each child, parents sometimes need to find the right balance to discover what works best for their child. It has long been documented that positive forms of discipline are way more effective than harsh techniques such as smacking.

Focus on the positive

Moving on from the last point, there are times when we need to inject more positivity into our parenting. Of course, this does not mean to let bad behaviour slide, it needs to be addressed and dealt with accordingly. As opposed to constantly focusing on your child’s bad behaviour, focus on the positives. When your children are playing nicely and sharing, for instance, commend and reward them for their good behaviour. Positive reinforcement is more likely to instil future good behaviour from them, hopefully to the point where it becomes second nature. The whole point is instead of telling children what they are doing wrong (which can have a negative impact on them), you are showing and encouraging appropriate behaviour. Children are more likely to repeat this behaviour. Constant punishment may lead to a vicious cycle of intentional bad behaviour when children think that this is the best way of getting their parents’ attention.

Consistency is key

Ensure that your house rules are consistent, and equally applicable to everyone in the household. Children learn best by example, so make sure that the parental figures also abide by these rules. It is quite contradictory when you address something like swearing as unacceptable, and yet you let the f bomb drop more times than a drunken sailor would. Consistency ensures stability within the family unit and there is certainty that everyone will abide by the same set of rules.

It is OK to make mistakes

There are a lot of parents who put their children on a pedestal and treat them as if they could never do wrong. Children need to be allowed to make mistakes and get a grip of reality. They need to be able to develop emotionally to deal with both success and failure. The cotton wool ball effect is of no use to them and their development. As parents, we need to let children know that it is perfectly OK and normal to make mistakes – once the issue has been addressed, it is the best way to learn.

Trust your instincts

Being a parent, we are constantly learning about the ups and downs of such a huge responsibility and privilege. There will be days when we question our methods and effectiveness of being a good parent, especially when negative criticism ensues. The important thing to note is that we should trust our parenting instincts and that at the end of the day, we are doing what is in the best interests of our children.

You can never spoil a child with too much love

This is one of the most fundamental basics of parenting – children need and want love from their parents. They need this above all else. Because when you love someone the way that a parent loves a child, then you would move heaven and earth to ensure that they happy, healthy and safe from harm’s way. It is the small things you do each and every day, even the late night feeds and cleaning vomit off yourself for the billionth time, as testament to that love you have for that child. There is nothing wrong in showing them that love and affection – enjoy the cuddle time while you can, because those times will eventually become scarce once they grow up.

 

So, next time you start to doubt yourself or your parenting abilities, have a look at the simple tips above as a guide to being the best parent that you can be. Because, if the perfect parent really did exist, we’d be seeing rainbow coloured unicorns flying around.

Further, do not forget that to the tiny little person looking up at you and who thinks the absolute world of you, you will always be ‘perfect’ in their eyes. For me, that is the opinion that matters the most, as opposed to the ones of harsh critics out there, half of which have never experienced the joy of parenthood for themselves.

 

“… you know your child better than anybody. You know what works; you know what they can handle; you create an environment in which they can be successful. Doing what’s best for your child, without worrying about what others might think – isn’t that just what any good parent would do?” – unknown

Image credit: jannabantan/123RF Stock Photo

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