5 Parenting Habits To Break Right Now
In most cases, our parenting style is formed by how we were raised as a child. We tend to mirror habits applied to us by our own parents
Stop pretending to know everything
When your child asks you about anything, be honest when you are not sure of the answer. Showing our children vulnerability is a good thing, we need to model to them that when they grow up, they don’t need to know all the answers, just the right attitude in facing things that they are not comfortable or acquainted with. This teaches our children that all they need is to trust that with an attitude of patience and openness, they can figure things out for themselves.
Hearing the line “You know that’s a good question, but I’m not really sure what the answer is...” affirms them because it teaches them that:
• It’s okay to admit when you’re not sure or you have insufficient knowledge about something. In this manner, you will hear the same honesty and humility from them when they aren’t sure and may need your guidance in the future.
• Keep the open communication flowing between parents and children, that it’s not just a one way street—that a child is there to ask and parents are there to answer questions which is a very traditional, old-school manner of viewing how parent-children relationships work. Keeping that communication open when we admit that we are not sure of some things models to them the need for continuous learning and openness to new things.
• This statement teaches children that what they think matters, that whatever they have to say matters, that all their questions are important, even if you (as a parent) cannot provide the answer to the questions.
An affirmation of whatever your child is asking alone is validating of how important they are in this world. It’s not about always providing answers, but it’s more about providing a safe environment for them to be their unedited, raw versions of themselves, necessary ingredients for parents to know what they are working with in order to guide them accordingly in life.
Responding to concerns between children, even when you are too tired to even eat
It’s a figure of speech. If you’re too tired to even eat, that means you’re really exhausted. When and where would you possibly find the right energy to settle personal concerns and squabbles of your own children? Be honest when you feel you need to take a breather before you give your two cents’ worth. This models to your child that taking care of yourself is important and that as adults, we need to be able to gauge our own psychological, physical, and emotional energy level in managing daily situations that come our way.
It also provides the wisdom that challenges and concerns are normal in life and that they are able to manage even when things are not okay. Responding to them with such urgency even if you as the parent are totally wasted and have nothing to give, will give them the impression that you don’t believe they can manage through the conflict so much so that even if you’re exhausted, you have chosen to resolve their concern with such urgency. Having them wait gives them the impression that all shall be well and things will become better, for them not to worry and feel overwhelmed too easily.
Fighting in Front of the children
There is simply no reason for any parent (or parent figure) to have a live argument in front of a child. Children need to learn how to manage conflicts and misunderstandings in relationships; the adults around them need to be the best examples of how to deal with clashes of opinion and disagreements. Unhealthy ways of dealing with conflict include raising one’s voice, throwing tantrums, throwing things around, using profanity when speaking, storming off when in argument, slamming doors, etc., one of which would be acceptable behavior from a child, so why model it in front of them?
We don’t all need to be masters in dealing with conflict in our relationships, what’s important is that we keep the children away from the rawness of the emotional and behavioral outbursts while we try our best to figure out the healthiest ways to dealing with conflicts in relationships.
Some parents even make fun of other people in front of their children. It is very important that each parent shows genuine respect for others in order for their children to do the same. This habit is seed that is planted within a child that may lead to discrimination and alienation of others. Let’s admit it, many of us have an opinion of the life that other people are living—their choice of lifestyle, occupation, values, or principles that we may not always agree with. As parents we need to model to children that other people live different lives that are aligned with a different set
of values from what we are raising them, making neither we or them better than others.
Modeling inclusiveness is vital for our children to grow up to be adults who are accepting of different cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds. Model to them that people may not always agree with one another but respect for another persons’ belief and background is a non-negotiable. It all boils down to our cutting any habits that may imply that our belief system and choice of values and principles are better than others. I have to point out here that this assumes that the values and principles of others adhere to basic respect for humanity. Once others express their beliefs that clearly break the law of basic respect for the dignity of another human being (any choice or action that warrants it being called a crime), then you can draw the line and be explicit of your being against these beliefs.
Being over-critical of ourselves
Parents need to have this ingrained so deeply into their system. The habit of being over-critical of oneself is definitely a habit that needs to be broken. Children need to learn that making mistakes is part of life, that learning from mistakes is a necessary component to becoming the best version of ourselves, hence our need to make the mistakes. I have observed several parents “nag” their children with the “what ifs” of a certain decision their child is just about to make, attempting to shield them from making certain mistakes. It is one thing to share your thoughts and beliefs, it’s another thing altogether for a parent to shield their child (at all costs) from learning from their open personal mistakes.
To top all that, that same parent models being over-critical and unforgiving towards him/herself when he/she makes a mistake. Life is all about twists and turns, constant changes and unknowns. It is important for children to see that we are able to manage all these unknowns with self-love and acceptance. Children need to see that we are able to ride the waves of disappointment and frustration with ease and grace, instead of being angry, irritated, and bitter with ourselves when things don’t go as we planned.
This article was originally published in Working Mom December 2017-January 2018 issue.