Anyone who’s had more than one child can attest that kids come with their own quirks. Different temperaments, personalities, and needs. It makes sense then, that there’s no ONE, RIGHT way to parent. It takes an array of tools and approaches to be responsive when you’re dealing with different kids — or simply the mood of the moment.
But I do believe that there are principles that remain consistent. They underpin our many different parenting approaches. Putting these principles into action takes on different forms in different families, but the concepts remain consistent.
Here are my top three:
Relationships Matter (Oh boy, do they matter!)
Parenting isn’t as simple as the stimulus-response theories of behaviorism. Some of that may apply, but we can’t ignore the weighty influence of the relationship between parents and children. The more time I spend studying child development, the more I agree with Dr. Jack P. Shonkoff, Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, when he said, “There is no development without relationships.”
This doesn’t mean we need to be our kids’ best friends (see principle #3), but it does mean we have to be aware of the way we connect with them, spend time with them, cultivate respectful interactions, validate emotions, and communicate effectively.
You can’t correct if you can’t connect.
Think about it from your own perspective. Imagine yourself standing in line at the grocery store with something less than healthy in your hands. A total stranger walks up to you with a look of disappointment and tells you that you’ve made a poor choice, and really should put it back.
And then they stare at you. Disapprovingly.
Now consider it’s your best friend who steps up and lets you know that she heard some information about your scandalous selection recently and wanted to make sure you had all the information. She loves you and is just looking out for you. She gives you a quick hug and says she can’t wait for your lunch date tomorrow.
Who do you want to listen to?
Repair is Part of the Design
A mythical world where your kids never fight with each other and you never lose your temper sounds fantastic, but in this place we call reality it happens anyway. The beautiful thing is that we know that relationships actually become stronger when we FIX mistakes than when we never make any at all. Likewise, we know that humans learn through appropriate amounts of conflict and the ensuing conflict resolution.
A heartfelt “I’m sorry” or a sincere “What should we do now?” is actually better for kids than the Kumbaya-filled childhoods we daydream about.
Lucky for us, we don’t have to actually try to make mistakes, we just will. (Aren’t we lucky?) We will make mistakes because we’re human and because our relationships need that act of repair. The energy we put into feeling guilty about those mistakes is better spent focusing on the repair our relationships are designed for.
Read more about why imperfect parenting is actually good for your kids.
Still don’t believe me? Read what a psychologist has to say about it.
Choices Require Boundaries
Kids need choices. That’s a message that the positive parenting movement has gotten out quite clearly. One small, critical detail that’s is often overlooked, however, is that those choices require boundaries. Children should be respected as the individuals they are and should have opportunities to voice opinions and make decisions. But parents still need to be the parents.
It’s a critical balance where kids need to feel some control, but need to know that you, the parent, are ultimately in control. But it’s in that sweet spot where kids thrive. When we understand how to give kids an appropriate amount of power and choice, while maintaining respectful boundaries and parental leadership, parenting gets a lot less frustrating — for parents and kids!
Need more? Here’s a fantastic resource that addresses 3 common reasons parents struggle with boundaries.
What are the basic principles that frame your parenting philosophy?
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