Parenting is no walk in the park – you have to deal with pint-size little lunatics all day, are constantly sleep-deprived and are likely to get nothing but a temper tantrum or food thrown in your face as thanks.
What’s worse, many of us are wracked with parenting guilt – the idea that we’re terrible parents and we’re scarring our children for life. Well, that probably isn’t true. If you’re reading this article then the chances are that you’re doing a great job. But we could all use a little help and inspiration to do better. If you’re feeling like your parenting skills could do with some fine tuning, check out these 20 tips for becoming a better parent:
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20. Get down to your child’s level
When you talk to your child, crouch or sit down so you’re at their eye-level. When you stand over a child, they have to look up at you and they’re more likely to get distracted or simply ignore you than when you’re looking them right in the face.
Standing over a child and talking down to them can also be very intimidating, especially if you are disciplining them. Make the effort to communicate on their level tells your child “you are important, I want you to hear what I’m saying and I’ll listen to you”.
19. Set limits
A house full of strict rules and regulations is no fun for anyone, but letting your kids run wild is likely to backfire. Children need guidelines and limitations so they know how to behave and what to expect from you. Limits are particularly important once your children reach the rebellious teenage years and start pushing boundaries – those who have had limits set from an early age are less likely to run into problems than their free-running peers.
Don’t go overboard – setting unneccessary limits will only lead to frustration and conflict but it’s completely reasonable for you to say “you may watch one hour of tv a day” or “you can play with your friend after you’ve tidied your room”.
18. Have a regular routine
Children thrive on routine and knowing what to expect each day can help them to feel more secure and happy in their home life. Some parents shy away from routines, not wanting to adhere to a strict schedule, but there’s no need to go over the top.
Mornings and bedtimes are the areas where a routine will really benefit you – let your kids know that when they get up they’ll wash, have breakfast, brush their teeth and get dressed for school, for example. This prevents a last minute rush as everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing. Bedtime routines can make for calmer evenings and less tantrums over bedtimes.
17. Give reasons
When you’re setting limits and disciplining your child, it’s important to explain your actions in order to prevent resentment and frustration from your child. If you tell your child to get down from a high wall for example, you should explain that you don’t want them to get hurt and it’s your job as a parent to keep them safe, not just say “because I said so”/
16. Create individual quality time with each child
Once you have more than one child, it can be difficult to carve out real quality time with each child individually, however this is vitally important, even if it’s just 10 mintues a day. Giving your child your full attention lets them know how important they are and strengthens the bond between you.
As your children grow older, this time becomes even more important and gives them a chance to express their worries and feelings in a safe environment.
15. Make a game of it
Children naturally love to play and making everyday chores into games will not only make your life less stressful but your kids will have fun at the same time.
Instead of ordering your children to tidy up, instead suggest a game to see who can tidy away the most toys in 5 minutes. Set a timer and make a big deal of who’s winning – your kids will be fighting over each other to tidy up the fastest.
14. Leave the dishes
Parenting is a full-time job but unfortunately there are always other things that need to be done. While washing the dishes and other household cleaning tasks can’t be put off indefinitely, there’s no point in killing yourself trying to maintain an immaculately clean home and care for your children at the same time.
Your life will become less stressful and you’ll gain more quality time to spend with your kids if you forget about the mess and concentrate on having fun with your children – the dishes aren’t going anywhere but your children will be grown up before you realise it.
13. Read together every day
Reading is one of the most important things a parent can do with his or her child. Reading not only improves literacy and communication skills but is also a way to ensure some excellent bonding time with your child and works beautifully for calming kids down before bed.
Aim to spend at least 10 minutes a day, every day, reading with your children. Even babies and small toddlers enjoy looking at picture books and hearing your words. As your kids get older you can ask them to read to you, or take turns and read together.
12. Make memories
Your children won’t remember all the toys you bought for various birthdays and holidays and they don’t care what they wear or what sort of house they live in – the things your kids will remember you for are the special moments you spent time together. Think back to what you remember from your own childhood and aim to make memories and experiences, not just provide “things”.
Take photos, make movies and encourage older children to start a scrapbook or journal – you can all look back on your recordings of your days in the future and you’ll be glad you took the time to preserve the memories.
11 Give more hugs
You can’t give a child too much love and children thrive on physical contact. No child has ever complained about being hugged too much. Hugs make children feel safe and secure and release dopamine – the happy hormone , into their bloodstream.
10. Remember that the days are long but the years are short
Parenting can be a tough gig, especially if you’re home alone all day with the kids. In times like these, it helps to remember that “the days are long but the years are short”. It may seem like a struggle to get through each day when you fall exhausted into bed each evening, but children are children for such a very short space of time. Once it’s over, it’s gone for good so try to appreciate every single moment with your child as this period of your life is so fleeting.
9. Break the rules, sometimes
Setting rules is important, but so is being a fun parent. Every now and then it pays to throw the rulebook in the corner and suprise your kids – let them jump on the bed or eat ice cream for breakfast – it won’t hurt to break the rules for just one day.
If you feel like you’re constantly saying “no” to your kids, try having a “yes” day – say “yes” to their every request – you might just suprise yourself with how much fun you have.
8. Set a good example
Your children look up to you as an example of what they should strive to be in life and they learn by copying you. Your children are always watching and they will imitate your behavior, whether it’s good or bad.
Try to be aware of what you’re doing in front of your kids and not just the obvious things. Everyone knows it’s a bad idea to swear in front of kids but if you’re sitting all evening staring at your phone, don’t be surprised if they want to do the same.
7. Be adaptable
When you have small children, your day will rarely go to plan. The best thing you can do in this situation is let go of your expectations. If you’d planned a fun trip to the park but the kids are whining and complaining of being tired, do it another day and let them play at home. If the adorable craft activity you found on Pinterest doesn’t appeal to your kids, let them draw or play with play-doh. Being adaptable is one of the most important skills you can master as a parent.
6. Give yourself a time-out
It’s not only kids that have tantrums. Shouting is something that most parents resort to at various points during the day, some more than others, but it’s not a very effective form of communication. If you can feel yourself starting to lose it, stop and remove yourself from the situation for a couple of minutes to calm down. Make sure your kids are in a safe place and leave them – even if they’re screaming, a mintue or two won’t do them any harm. Once you’ve taken some deep breaths, you’ll feel much more equipped to deal with the situation. This is especially important if you feel like you want to hit your child.
5. Make time for yourself and your partner
Children are not isolated little beings – they’re part of a family unit. Pouring yourself into providing for your children is a waste of time if you neglect your own mental and physical health and your relationship with your partner.
Just as it’s important to spend one-on-one time with your kids, you must make sure to carve out some time for yourself and some time with your partner. This can be quite challenging but it could be something as simple as a 20-minute bubble bath while your partner watches the kids or a date night spent in watching DVDs and cuddling on the sofa.
4. Listen to your instincts
We get bombarded with parenting advice from all corners these days – books, websites, TV programs, all telling us what we should and shouldn’t do as parents. Not to mention the “well-meaning” advice we get from our friends and family.
This is all very well and good until we get conflicting advice or we get advice we don’t agree with. In this case, the best thing to do is to trust your instincts. You are the parent and you have full say over the care of your child. Obviously your partner has an equal say but if your mother, the parenting “expert” on TV, or even your doctor is telling you to do something you know is wrong, feel free to ignore them without guilt.
3. Don’t overschedule
These days it’s easy to feel like a terrible parent if your baby isn’t accompanying you to mommy and baby yoga three times a week and your pre-schooler isn’t enrolled in music class. The fact is, many people over schedule their kids.
This is not only stressful for children but puts a huge pressure on the rest of the family – all that time getting ready and driving to and from places. There’s no need for this – children don’t need regular structured activities and in fact research shows that those who have plenty of unstructured play to do what they wish early in life do better academically later on.
Of course classes and clubs can be great for socializing and if your child is showing an interest in, say, pottery, signing them up for a weekly class could be a great thing. But most kids don’t need more than one extra-curricular activity per week.
2. Be consistent
Your children look to you for boundaries, guidance and positive influence and if you’re not consistent in your own actions, it will only confuse them and make them feel insecure. Don’t tell them they can’t have a lollipop and then give in when they start screaming and don’t react to a dropped bowl of cereal with a smile and a helping hand one day and screaming anger the next.
It’s equally important to present a united front with your partner and don’t allow your children to play you off against each other – discuss how to deal with various situations beforehand and stick to your plan.
1. Be present
Parenting isn’t easy but it’s pretty simple – it really all boils down to being there for your child. In today’s modern world we’re bombarded with distractions from every angle and it’s all the more difficult to be really present with your child than it was 20 years ago.
We can’t spend every moment with our children (nor should we) but in the time you do spend together – try to give your child 100% of your attention. This means forgetting about work, putting down your iPhone and leaving cleaning the kitchen until later. If you can master this one thing, you can’t fail to be a good parent.