Are You Doing This Parenting Thing Right?
(What we can learn from studies of successful children and their parents)
by Guest Blogger Lisa Natcharian, M.Ed., Parenting Coach at Raising Wizards
Just as there are all kinds of children with all kinds of personalities, strengths and challenges, there are all kinds of ways to parent. What works for one family may not work for another, so comparing ourselves to the family down the street isn’t particularly productive.
However, recent studies show that there are definite common themes among the parents who have raised successful and happy children. We all have our moments of doubt when we wonder if we’re doing this parenting thing right. When yours strikes, take a quick look at this list. You’re sure to find a few points where your parenting instincts have been spot-on … and a few suggestions to help you push through those inevitable rough patches.
- Provide both support and challenge. Without pushing so hard that the child feels constantly under pressure, offer opportunities to learn more and learn faster, while still helping your child through difficult patches.
- Coach using positive expectations. Communicate to your children that you expect high achievement, a solid work ethic, and a good attitude. Then model how to spend time constructively and do your best work.
- Stay organized, consistent and predictable. In this context, predictable doesn’t mean boring. It refers to your expectations of your children and your own responses to their behavior. When your children know what’s coming next, they can focus their energy on learning and growing, rather than worrying about what they should do, how they should act, or whether they might get in trouble.
- Prioritize education first. In direct opposition to the popular frenzy of early childhood athletics, the families of academically successful children put education first. Sure, there are benefits to participating in a team sport, or a fun club. However, there is no need to be a member of three different teams every season.
- Recognize the need for reasonable amounts of recreation and fun. That said, no child should focus solely on academics. Sports and clubs offer an opportunity for mental release, physical exercise, and social engagement. Non-sport recreation also offers a safe way to have fun without the pressure of competition or achievement.
- Respect individuality. Avoid the trap of pushing your child into something YOU want rather than something THEY enjoy. Each child is born with his own skills and interests, and our job as parents is to foster these, not implant new ones. On a related note, the best way to avoid sibling rivalry is to allow each child to pursue his own interests.
- Consider both parents intelligent. Whether mom works outside the home or within it, when dad communicates to the family that he views mom as smart, the children are more likely to value intelligence, and consider themselves smart as well.
- Avoid labeling. Viewing someone as smart and calling him “the Brainiac” are two different things. “Let’s ask Chris, he’ll know the answer,” is a much better way to communicate your regard for someone’s intelligence. Likewise, assigning each child a label, such as “The Smart One” and “The Athletic One” is asking for trouble.
- Avoid denying or magnifying intelligence. Some families worry that their children will be socially ostracized if they are known as “brainy”, and downplay their abilities. This makes those children feel uncomfortable in their own skin. Other parents feel that having a smart child reflects well on their own intelligence, and seek to increase their child’s status among his peers by artificially inflating his abilities. This makes those children constantly in fear of blowing their cover. Neither situation is in the best interest of the child.
- Avoid over-empowering your children. Children who appear wise beyond their years will sometimes be given the opportunity to make decisions about their own goals and direction much earlier than is practical. While they may be advanced verbally, their emotional maturity has not yet developed, and they lack the experience to make decisions as well as a parent might (and should).
- Look for signs of stress. Under very low stress, people perform inefficiently. Performance and efficiency peak at a mid-level of stress, but things go back downhill when stress levels rise too high. That mid-level is different for each person, so keep an eye on your children for signs that they’ve gone beyond the optimal level — irritability, loss of appetite, headaches, stomachaches, nightmares, nail biting, etc. Try to identify the sources of stress (school, teacher, peers, packed schedule??) and help the child keep everything in perspective (“what’s the worst that could happen?”).
- Keep and teach a sense of humor. Without it, everything is stressful. With it, we can appreciate the joy in life.
~Lisa Natcharian, M.Ed., is a Parenting Coach at Raising Wizards [www.RaisingWizards.com]