The requirements for effective parenting are changing rapidly, just as the profile of parents is changing. If you add to this mix that children are growing up at the speed of light, information technology can make parents seem redundant, and increasingly parents claim lack of time is their biggest impediment to effective parenting. So what is a parent to do?
Here are 5 golden rules to guide you along your parenting journey in 2019:
1. Build confidence
With so many parents reporting that they have a child experiencing anxiety it would seem that we are currently experiencing a crisis in children’s confidence. It would also seem that we have somehow forgotten how to absorb children’s fears, insecurities and anxieties, and instill a sense of confidence that these can be overcome. Using a mixture of coaxing, coaching and cajoling parents need to find a way to impart in children a sense of courage to put themselves in new or potentially awkward social situations; to have a go at activities where failure is a real option; and to contribute to the wellbeing of others, which reduces anxiousness and fear.
2. Build developmental knowledge
Many challenges parents experience with their children are due to a developmental mismatch. That is, parents raising their ten year old as if they are eight. The nuances of parenting are age-related, yet due to inexperience we so often don’t read the cues. Recently, I witnessed a mum and dad tearing their hair out trying to communicate with their nine-year-old son. For the first time he was saying no to them. They thought him stubborn and disobedient. I thought him normal, as nine can be a problematic age, where usually malleable children suddenly start changing. Puberty is stirring. When this couple’s second child turns nine she will experience the benefits of her elder brother paving the way and breaking her parents in for her.
3. Swim against the tide
Listen to talkback radio, read the headlines of a newspaper or watch a current affairs TV program and you’ll realise that, right now, we live in an incredibly judgemental society. Parents are harshly judged as well. Allow your kids to walk to school and you risk being judged as negligent. Drive your kids to school and you risk being told that you are spoiling them and neglecting their physical wellbeing. It takes a strong parent to swim against the tide of popular opinion. It also takes a strong parent to deny her child say a mobile phone when every other child has one. It helps to say “This is the way we do it in our family.”
4. Be brave
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing parents, and their children, is the ability to let go of their parental reigns and give kids the freedom they need to develop autonomy. It’s relatively easy to develop children’s independence at home as the stakes aren’t as high. If they can’t cook a meal then you just have to do it for them. However, developing children’s independence outside the home is a different story. Granting kids freedom has an element of risk; that’s why parents need to be brave. Having the courage to let go is a basic requirement of parenting. It won’t stop you worrying, but that’s part of the game.
5. Add emotional intelligence to your parenting mix
With kids experiencing mental health challenges at a depressingly high rate it’s time to add some emotional intelligence to the parenting mix. While many schools are now introducing emotional and social programs on the curriculum, it’s important that parents develop a deep understanding of how emotions work: how emotions can be recognised; how they can work for us and against us; how we can regulate our emotions so they don’t overwhelm us; and how to recognise and respond to the emotions of others. These sound like life-changing skills that if learned, are capable of impacting significantly and positively on future generations.