Most parents will recognize the moment when they looked down at their newborn baby and were suddenly struck with the daunting realization that you are responsible for the little life in front of you. Of course, it is your job to keep them safe and healthy, but you are also responsible for bringing them up and turning them into successful adults and members of society. It can all seem a little overwhelming, so it is no wonder that so many parents head out and buy books to get some advice (as well as a little reassurance).
The thing is, that feeling of responsibility never really wears off as your children grow, and sometimes it can feel a bit like you are simply faking it and flying by the seat of your pants as a parent. Don’t worry – there are times when every parent feels a bit like that!
Often, the simplest pieces of advice are the best, so here are a few tips that we picked up over the years:
1. Enjoy The Moment
It is easy to get caught up in what is coming next – learning to walk, going to nursery, starting ‘big’ school, etc – that you can forget to take time to enjoy the moment. Your kids will grow and transform through different stages in their lives, which means lots of little endings as they grow up. Remember to enjoy the moment.
2. One Step Ahead!
Being in the moment doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to stay (at least) one step ahead. Of course, it is easier to be ahead of the curve when your baby can’t walk or talk, but as they grow your kids will be full of surprises. Staying ahead of the curve with your kids will help them as they grow – and hopefully cut down on ‘embarrassing’ parent moments in their teens. Sometimes you may feel like you are struggling to stay ahead of the game – but one step is enough!
3. Prepare To Be Unpopular
You should be prepared to stamp your authority from time to time – so it might be worth practising your ‘because I said so” replies. You don’t have to negotiate everything with your children or even explain everything all the time. Some things they may not be old enough to understand, so you have to just stay firm and say ‘no.’ Sticking to your values and doing the best you can sometimes means you have to make unpopular decisions for the overall benefit of everyone.
While there will be times when you will need to just put your foot down, you should also try your best to listen to your children whenever possible. Make sure they feel understood and they know you have heard them and their concerns. This will build up trust between you which will help over the years. Knowing when to balance this with making the unpopular choices is important. However, don’t treat your kids as confidantes and load them down with your own issues and problems– they are your children, not your friends
5. Help Your Kids Find A Passion – Not A Career
Teach your kids to look for what they are passionate about. Help them to embrace the things they love and encourage them to chase their dreams. This is more important than trying to push them into a particular career. Let their loves inspire their lives and careers.
6. Decide What’s Important
Is it really worth battling with your four-year-old because they want to wear their superhero costume to the store? Pick your battles and let the little things slide so you can concentrate on the bigger issues. Training your kids to become adults doesn’t mean you should ruin their childhood, besides, it’s stressful!
7. Others May Not Love Your Kids As Much As You Do
You love your kids, but remember that other people don’t have the same connection to them. What you may see as ‘precocious’ or ‘charming’ others may see as irritating or badly behaved. Knowing when they can play and when they need to act more grown-up is a useful skill for them to learn.
8. Stick To Your Punishments
Make sure that you stick to the punishments you give out. If you tell your child to go and sit in their room for 10 minutes, make them stay there for ten full minutes. Giving in because you suddenly feel sorry for them will only undermine your authority and can create real problems in the future. They need to know who is the boss. This is important, for example, for making sure they listen to you and know to stop before stepping out into the road. However, once a punishment is over make sure they understand why they were in trouble, make sure they apologise and then move on. Don’t bear grudges – what’s done is done.
9. In A Relationship? Don’t Undermine Each Other
You want the best for your kids and probably have an idea of how you want to bring them up. However, there may be times when your ideas don’t match with those of your partner. These things should be discussed in private between the two of you. Try not to undermine your partner’s authority by going over their head. So, if your partner says they can’t have any more orange juice, don’t say that it’s fine and pour another glass. Instead, put on a united front and discuss it later. This will teach your kids that they can’t play you off against each other.
10. Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Sometimes staying one step ahead is not enough, and sometimes you may even fall behind. There may also be times when you have to face things you’d rather not – from a particularly potent diaper to a ‘birds-and-the-bees’ talk! There will be times when you just have to grit your teeth and get the job done. A good tip to help with this is to think about the sort of parent you’d like to be and simply act as if you are them!
Ultimately, there may be times when things don’t go according to plan, but there is no failsafe guidebook for parenting.
However, we were all kids once, so try to recall your own experiences – what you liked, what you didn’t, and what you’d have wished for. Take your cues from your own parents – and try to do better than they did.
Finally, don’t be afraid of advice – take it all in and then decide if it is any use to you.