Its tough isn’t it? We have this image in our minds of what a great parent is like. We would hope that being a great parent means that you never have fights with your children, or you never have to say, “no”. Maybe we envision our children listening to us and respecting our wishes. Or maybe we think that great parenting means our children are always happy and we are always happy.
To me, being a great parent is all about staying humble, sharing your feelings in an honest, non-blaming way, being able to say you are sorry and admit when you are wrong, and most importantly treating your children like they are individual human beings with rights and self-ownership. Nurturing their autonomy is also crucial for raising free and happy kids.
Being aware of your children’s age and what is normal for them is helpful. A 2 year old is not capable of fully articulating what they need and want. This can lead to frustration. Could you imagine being in a foreign country and trying to communicate something very important to your well-being to someone who can’t understand you? That would cause some intense emotions. Our 2 year old’s feel the same way. They can get easily frustrated if they are misunderstood. It is important to tune into them, to stop and really try to listen to what they are trying to say. This can be tough when they are screaming at you!
We cannot expect kids to be capable of things that they are not yet capable of. We can’t let this stop us from challenging them to grow and to tackle new experiences. We can always encourage, but if it leads to coercion, we know they aren’t ready. Every child is different, some want to try new things and challenge themselves, some need more time to familiarize them self with something before diving in.
We are good parents when we are kind to ourselves, when we have self empathy. If you get angry, think to yourself, “What am I needing right now?” Maybe you are needing some rest. You can now say, “I am feeling angry because my need for rest is unfulfilled, I will try to take time for some rest today”. Then let the anger go. If you identify what is really behind the feeling, you can be more proactive in filling the unmet need, and you can give yourself some self-love. “My need for rest isn’t being met, I am feeling overwhelmed and angry, It is ok to feel this way, I just need to go to make more time for rest.”
We are good parents when we genuinely care for our children’s emotional state and when we listen and articulate what we are hearing. We are good parents when we avoid the lecture and instead just listen and connect. Look them in the eyes, acknowledge what they are feeling. “You are sad because you lost your favorite toy?” Their energy really begins to shift when they feel heard and are allowed to feel what they feel. Telling them, “oh it’s not a big deal”, or “there is no reason to be sad”, really just undermines their experience. To them it is important, to them there is a reason to be sad. Empathize with them.
We are good parents when we allow time for fun, when we laugh with them and play with them. When we put down our phones, when we let go of our stresses just for a few moments, and really just BE with them. We can let down our guard, we can be happy with them, who better to teach us to be joyful then our children?
You are a good parent when you focus on win-win solutions to problems in your family. When you find out the unmet needs behind everyone’s behaviors and try to meet the needs. Everyone can have their needs met, and with a little ingenuity and creativity you will find ways to do it. Ask for your children’s help, they have wonderful insights to offer.
I find a Non-violent communication to be an excellent approach to parenting. Print out a needs list for a wonderful tool to have around. When an argument erupts, or people are feeling frustrated, take out the needs list and find what you are needing. Everyone can take a turn to share what they are needing. When we have all had a chance to speak and we have taken time for some empathy we can work on solutions that are win-win. This makes for a happier family!
So remember; enjoy being a parent, it isn’t easy and you are doing a great job!