By Melissa Ford
Parents are my passion! They're tireless, big-hearted, patient (or at least they try to fake it); they almost never stop thinking about their kids; and they share one core conviction: they want the best for their children.
This strong parental desire isn't just expressed during good times. In fact, I hear it more often when parents are butting heads with their kids over homework, dealing with a strong-willed child or trying to keep the peace in their homes.
Wanting the best for our sons and daughters may be a universal desire, yet what tools do we possess to bring this dream into reality?
Over the years I've discovered it's the little things I know. . .
Little thing #1: Positive attitudes convey clear, strong messages
There's a misconception that if you feel calm, even comfortable, when facing a parenting challenge then your child won't take you seriously or even worse, feeling good might lead to condoning the very behavior you dislike. The opposite is true. Unhappiness doesn't send the message you mean business; it sends the message you're unhappy. Choosing to feel okay first then talking to your child conveys your point loud and clear; any message shrouded in unhappiness only communicates your judgments.
Little thing #2: Stay stuck or learn when you don't get what you want
Real learning happens when your parenting strategies don't work, i.e., your child doesn't do what you want. The truth is that forcing kids to comply never creates long, lasting change; change happens when we, as parents, begin to look within. If you battle with your child over homework, what lessons can you learn? What other approach can you take? (see little things #1) What changes might occur if you shift the responsibility to your daughter to complete her own assignments? Parents can venture into the unknown, continuing to learn, or keep doing what doesn't work; it's our choice.
Little thing #3: Why is your child a gift?
If you have one of those go-with-the-flow kids, life often looks rosy. But if your child knows how to push your buttons, you're lucky because you've been gifted an amazing child! At the end of a trying day, after you've gone through the litany of what's wrong with your kid, what's wrong with you and whether it's possible to get up tomorrow and do it all over again - try something new. Ask yourself: How has my child helped me grow? What have I learned (see little thing #2) that I wouldn't have discovered otherwise? What other ways have I benefited by being this child's parent? Begin to gather the evidence; you'll discover that your child is perfect for you!
Little thing #4: Cut yourself some slack
Doctors, lawyers, plumbers and even truck-drivers must acquire specialized training before they are granted licenses to practice their chosen professions. Even restaurants prefer to hire wait staff with experience. Then there is parenting, which requires zero training and no license (truly incredible when you consider it's the most important job you'll ever do). So as you navigate this foreign terrain, cut yourself some slack. In fact, cut yourself a lot of slack. In those times when you see that your efforts fall short or you said the heck with Little things 1, 2 and 3, be kind to yourself, which brings me to Little thing #5: perfection is overrated!