Dear Dr. Buckingham,
My wife and I have one young child and a teen, and we are concerned about our parenting skills. We both grew up in single-parent households and did not have the best upbringings. We want to give our children the best, but we are worried that we cannot give what we never had. What tips do you have for two well-intended parents?
Thanks in advance,
Parents in Training
Dear Parents in Training,
The ability to succeed in the parental role does not occur without some form of training or education. Even the most nurturing, self-driven and well-intended parents require guidance and seek advice from time to time. Based on the fact that parenting is an essential part of parenthood, it is important to learn how to become an effective parent.
Over the course of my professional career as a psychotherapist, I have had the privilege of providing therapy to thousands of good-hearted, dedicated and loving parents. After listening to so many parental “nightmares” over the years, I have come to realize that parenting is not a natural or common sense skill. Those who succeed in parenting do not solely rely on their upbringing as the gold template, but they equip themselves with tools as they endeavor to assist their children in becoming healthy and productive citizens.
Successful parenting is one of the most important interpersonal components of building a healthy home environment. It is important to note that successful parenting is a process and skill set that is learned through a combination of personal experience and education. As you strive to become a successful parent, you should consider and apply the following eight tips:
- Discuss and establish expectations early
Successful parents are good communicators and planners. They understand the importance of establishing expectations in the early phase of the parent/child relationship. It is important to make sure that the parent and child are on the same page in regards to what is required of each other. Minimizing confusion and clarifying expectations is critical to establishing a healthy parent/child relationship.
- Lead by example
Always be willing to demonstrate respect for your child. Respect is vital in parent/child relationships and is often earned by leading and guiding. The old adage “Do as I say, not as I do” is definitely outdated. Leading by example builds respect and trust in the parent/child relationship.
- Be flexible in your thinking
Flexibility is the key to growth for all humans. Remember that the parent/child relationship is an interactive process and that information should flow in both directions. Successful parents lead and instruct, but they also listen. Look for opportunities to learn from your child and encourage him or her to respectfully ask questions if he or she does not understand something. Successful parents take pride in learning and welcome opportunities to grow.
- Take care of yourself
The parent/child relationship is primarily lead by the parent. Therefore, it is imperative that parents take care of themselves. Successful parents acknowledge and recognize that they can’t give what they do not have. Teaching children the importance of engaging in healthy behavior and self-care is an important element of the parent/child relationship. Successful parents understand that personal development and happiness can come to a standstill if emotional, physical or spiritual health is comprised on a regular basis.
- Maintain a positive attitude
Any relationship is only as good as the people involved in it. Successful parents understand that they have the ability to set the tempo and standard for their less-experienced child. In some parent/child relationships, there will be some level of tension, conflict or disagreement. However, successful parents realize that their attitude will influence how the conflict is resolved. Successful parents strive to maintain a positive attitude when faced with adversity.
- Take pride in being a parent and demonstrate compassion
Successful parents are proud parents and strive to demonstrate compassion when interacting with their children. Developing a genuine interest in your child’s life (good and bad). Demonstrating compassion can lead to honest and sincere interactions. Successful parents strive to bond with their children out of genuine concern for their personal growth and not out of obligation. Children are more likely to gravitate toward and connect with parents who are genuine and compassionate.
- Be knowledgeable about developmental, societal and peer challenges
A key responsibility of any parent is to assist children in their personal and social development. This requires parents to be familiar with developmental, societal and peer challenges that are relevant to their children. Successful parents do not attempt to lead by being in the dark. They equip themselves with proper knowledge in order to provide helpful and accurate information to steer their children in the right direction.
- Stay focused on God’s mission
God’s mission for all parents according to Proverbs chapter 22, verse 6 is to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” With this in mind, successful parents provide a firm spiritual foundation for their children because they understand the importance of planting healthy seeds. They do not get distracted by “temporary” chaos. Successful parents keep their eyes on the prize during chaos and assist their children in doing the same.
Raising children can be very challenging but also rewarding. Do you remember a time when you longed for support, encouragement and guidance? As you move forward in your parental goal to develop and maintain healthy parent/child relationships, please consider the tips outlined above –our future is in your hands.
If you have questions for Dr. Dwayne Buckingham regarding relationships (married, single, etc), parenting, or personal growth and development, please send an email to [email protected]
Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.