By: Cristina Trette
What does effective parenting look like? Many would say that effective parents are those whom offer positive guidance, structure, and high expectations along with love, affection, and warmth. If this concept is explored more deeply, many would also argue that effective parents are parenting in a way that will lead their children to becoming self-actualized, well-adjusted, and contributing adults. Although opinions on what parents want for their kids will differ, hopefully we can all agree that, the way we parent matters.
The challenge is that many parents are too overwhelmed with life to get themselves in a place where they feel as if they can be effective. It could be that you are insanely busy between work and other obligations. Maybe you are single or divorced. Perhaps your own upbringing was abusive. Whatever the reason, if you are a perpetually overwhelmed parent, something is getting in the way. I know what the overwhelmed parent feels like. I have been there. Although I still get overwhelmed at times, for the most part, I have overcome it, and you can too.
1. Raise your self-acceptance and develop self-compassion
When intentions and expectations for behavior are high, but self-acceptance is low, you will be conflicted. You will beat yourself up if you make a mistake which makes it more likely that you will repeat the behavior that you want to avoid. If you are harboring self-criticism and judgment, resolve today to release it. Accept that making mistakes is part of the parenting journey! Keep in mind as you read this blog that you may have moments of awareness as you reflect on your parenting. But if possible, refrain from self-criticism. Begin now by committing to self-compassion as you continue reading. It is never too late to begin raising your children the way you really want to. Great learning comes from our mistakes as long as we view our mistakes as opportunities for growth and change.
2. Examine what your parents taught you about raising kids
Some adults today were raised with authoritative parenting that included healthy and balanced guidelines, structure, nurturing, love, and respect. Others grew up with autocratic parenting as their model in which coldness, strictness, and force was the norm. Whatever you were raised with will likely be the pattern you tend to follow. Or you may swing to the other end of the spectrum. There will be some things that you will want to repeat because your parents likely engaged in some fantastic parenting. There may also be some things that you will want to discard. Writing in a journal is a wonderful tool to assist you in parenting. In your journal, write down the things that you do really well already. Then focus on your areas of challenge and write down what you want your parenting to look like.
3. Forgive your parents
It will be very healing to forgive your parents for the mistakes they made. Many adults today were spanked when they were children and grew up with the message that they were to be seen and not heard. Yet, holding on to the pain of your past, no matter how deep it goes, will not lead you to effective parenting today. In fact, keeping your pain will make it more likely that you will repeat the behaviors that terrified you when you were a child. If you feel that your wounds from childhood are too deep to be forgiven, seek out the support of a therapist. Forgiveness is possible but you may need support to move into this state of being.
4. Find support using technology
When I first set out to parent in a gentle and mindful way, I had a baby and toddler at home with me 24/7 and my older child was in preschool. At that time in my life, I was not interested in attending classes. My initial introduction to compassionate parenting came from an online yahoo group called Positive Parenting Discipline. I cannot tell you how much support this groups offered me in the early years. As time went on, I found guidance in online parenting classes and videos such as those found at www.peaceinyourhome.com. With online groups and classes, podcasts and videos, there are endless ways to find support.
5. Reach out to an individual
If you are having a very difficult time parenting, I encourage you to reach out. Sometimes just talking about things and sharing the difficulties you are experiencing is enough to create change. Meet a friend for coffee and open up to her about how hard parenting can be. There is so much value in being heard and knowing that you are not alone! Set up weekly phone dates that are rooted in understanding and support with another parent. Or seek out the guidance of a coach or therapist.
6. Allow yourself to feel
It took me a very long time to understand that there is nothing wrong with feeling sad, angry, hurt, or afraid. If you want to parent more effectively it is important that you allow yourself to feel. There will be many parenting moments that put you to the test. The goal is not to avoid anger. Anger is a part of you and this is OK. The goal is to move yourself into a space where you can feel anger without expressing it in a way that will hurt yourself or another person. Regulating yourself is the greatest tool you have in offering your children guidance in being able to understand, and handle, feeling their feelings. It is also very helpful to name the feeling out loud. Not only will this help you return to a place of calmness, but it also teaches your children that feelings are a natural and healthy part of being alive.
7. Consider how you want your grandchildren to be raised
Every single day you are teaching your children what raising kids looks like. We cannot avoid or get around the impact of modelling. Know that when you choose to take on a philosophy of love, kindness, and respect you will be teaching all of these qualities to your children who will then teach these qualities to their own children. By instilling peace into your home now, you have the potential to impact the well-being of future generations to come.
Have you been able to move from a space of overwhelm to effectiveness as a parent? If so, I would love to hear what you did to create change in your family. Leave a comment in the box below!
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