On family: top ten parenting principles
I lead workshops for parents to build communication and relationship skills. I do this NOT because I’m a perfect parent (far from it), but because it helps me keep working toward getting better each day. I also believe discussing ideas in community helps everyone concerned. So, you might think I have my parenting principles boiled down to a succinct philosophy. Not so. For this post, I brainstormed off the top of my head my top ten parenting principles. Please, look it over, and tell me how it fits with yours.
- Empathy is everything. Understanding is the key to an intimate relationship. It’s our best hope to diminish, or at least survive, power struggles. If our children don’t think we understand them, or don’t even care to understand them, there’s no basis to build a respectful relationship. And family is all about relationships.
- Consistency counts. Kids will play the odds just like people feeding the slots in a casino. Even if there’s a small chance they’ll beat the odds, they’ll keep playing. If our routines and responses are predictable, they’ll adjust their behavior to meet those routines.
- Some limits are required. Our children look to us for direction and guidance. They test our limits to understand the world around them. We provide structure and security in their chaotic lives. Our limits can be moveable, flexible, and reasonable, but they must provide some guidance.
- Effective encouragement works wonders. It sounds obvious, but I’ve learned this the hard way. Most of us were raised that more praise = more confidence. Not necessarily so. Effective feedback builds confidence, and there are specific ways to do it wisely, through evidence and appreciation. I might have to do another post on this one–it’s proven very powerful for me and my kids!
- Grace is available to all. Mistakes must be allowed in a family. Children make mistakes. Parents make mistakes. It’s a far greater lesson to admit a mistake, forgive it, and learn from it than to hide or deny it. We need to model this for ourselves, our partners and our children.
- Accountability is learned through consequences. If we want our children to be responsible citizens of the world, they need to understand the consequences of their actions. As parents, we help make those consequences more clear to our children. Letting reasonable, related consequences teach—rather than laying on the lecture—is powerful. They don’t need to be severe or painful, but just teach a lesson. In fact, positive consequences teach too.
- Optimism breeds optimism (and happiness). Whether you call it optimism, the attraction principle, positive thinking, hope or faith, it’s essential. Bottom line, positive thinking and finding opportunities in every challenge make for a happier person. We need to teach our kids the skill of authentic, positive thinking. Who wouldn’t want to raise a happier child?
- Love ‘em no matter what. No matter what. It goes with grace. Some days are harder than others, and we set limits and implement consequences, but we love ‘em no matter what. And in order for that to happen. . .
- Every parent needs relief. Every one–single or married, paid or unpaid. Parenting is a joyful, rewarding, relentless, twenty-four hour, seven days a week job with out a vacation or sick days. Every parent needs a safety net and relief on a regular basis. No judgment. Just relief. And in order for that to happen. . .
- We need each other. To quote a cliche, it takes a village. No parent (or doctor, or therapist) has all the answers. We parent better in community. We need to stop judging one another and start supporting.