We all want the best for our kids; happy childhood memories, healthy development so they can be the best they can be. Achieving all of this can be a challenge for any parent. With so much to juggle with our children and our own lives it can seem impossible support healthy child development to get the best outcomes for our child.
Here are 9 ways you can support your child and make parenting easier and more enjoyable at the same time.
1. Keep Calm
The best childhood outcomes happen when children are raised in emotionally safe and supportive environments.
No-one likes to be yelled at and yelling doesn’t ensure our child listens anyway. How many times have we all yelled at our kids just to be heard and our kids still don’t listen to us? Frustrating isn’t it!
When we remain calmer by taking a step back and doing some deep breathing before talking to our kids we can guide and redirect them to do what they need to be doing, or behaving in a different way with greater ease.
Our kids learn more quickly when they hear our message in a calmer manner. Them learning quicker mean less repeating of ourselves which makes parenting easier and us a lot happier!
2. Listen To Our Child
Our children want to be heard. Whether is a young baby learning to talk by babbling and copying sounds, through to toddlers with a million questions and onto pre-teens and teenagers developing life skills and coping with their problems.
When we listen to our children we are demonstrate love, even if we disagree with their position or are ready to help correct them.
When we listen to them, we teach them how to listen by modelling listening behaviour. This sets them up for positive interpersonal relationships as they grow older and into adulthood.
When our children feel listened to they feel loved and safe and which supports positives and healthy physical and emotional development.
3. Be Clear and Consistent
Being consistent as a parent lays a foundational base of stability from which our children can explore the world knowing they have a safe base to return to when things get too much. Consistency comes from being clear with our children about the family rules as well as limits and boundaries expected from all members (parents included!).
This requires that there is open communication between parents and child which is easily achieved through regular family meetings and the creation of a mutually agreed upon parenting plan. It may seem formal and a bit stuff but it allows for everyone to understand what is expected of them and work together.
Creating a cooperative environment as well as teaching children communication and negotiating skills teaches our children life long skills that set them up for school, further education, the workplace and interpersonal relationships.
In co-parenting families, it is important to have all parents (including step-parents) on the same page. When children get mixed messages from one parent saying one thing, and the other saying another, it is it confusing for the child. They don’t learn what they need to learn and their development is delayed. Parenting plans are very useful for co-parenting relationships and help facilitate communication between the two households and support the mental and emotional security and development of children in a situation that could possibly be disruptive to their development.
4. Express Empathy
ll behaviour problems are emotional problems, regardless of the age of our child. Our children express anger, frustration, sadness, shame, guilt and more through their behaviour.
The key to solving behaviour problems with our children is to look at the emotion that is behind the behaviour first.
When we put on our parenting detective hat and ask “What is my child feeling here?”, we can get to the root cause quicker.
Everyone, our children included, want to be understood. When we look at our child’s emotions we can help them develop the skills of emotional regularity (healthy expression of emotions) and support their development. Being present with our child and telling them , “I know / understand you are feeling xyz and I’m here with you” will demonstrate to them that you are on their side and provide that sense of safety and security they need to develop in the best way possible.
5. Pick Your Battles
There are sometimes that we just have to pick our battles. Decreasing our stress levels by choosing when we want to put our foot down and when we’re ready to let something slide helps everyone in the family get along better.
When kids are exposed to calmer and happier family environments where there is less arguing and demanding of their behaviour their mental and emotional health is protected.
Picking our battles means that we are flexible as parents which can also help our children develop the skills of working with someone else.
If it is important that a child does something particular, using the technique of a double bind can be useful. This is where you present two options for your child that both ultimately result in the same outcome. As a parent you say to your child, “you can do/have x or you can do/have y”. Your child gets to choose and feels empowered and respected by their decision and you as the parent get what you need as well. It’s a win-win situation!
6. Heal Our Own Past
We don’t come into this parenting gig completely devoid of experience. After all we were all parented ourselves and we will often adopt the attitudes and behaviours of our own parents.
However, sometimes they aren’t helpful, or in line with the type of parent we want to be.
When we take steps to heal and move on from trauma or conflict we may have experienced as a child then we provide a blank slate for our parenting experience. This means that we can design exactly the type of parent we want to be and design a unique and individualised way of parenting our kids that works to support their unique needs.
7. Practice Self-Care
Looking after yourself means that you’re looking after your kids. When you ensure you have enough in reserves to give to your kids without feeling resentful you can support your child’s develop while supporting your own mental health.
Stress management, physical and emotional self-care not only helps look after our kids but parenting becomes easier. When we feel looked after and have our cup full then we have the energy within ourselves to be calm, be clear with how we speak and pick our battles. If we are exhausted and haven’t spent any time looking after ourselves then this is almost impossible.
It can be hard to find the time in a busy mum’s life to fit self-care in. We need to shift our perception so we believe and act as our self-care is an equal priority to that we give to our children.
8. Set A Positive Example
One of the best things we can do for our child’s development is be the type of person that we want them to be. The majority of us, particularly children, learn better by doing than being told. When our children see us act and speak in a particular way then they are primed to to act and speak in the same way. Setting a positive example means our child will learn the positive behaviour that is expected of them.
When we set a positive example our children develop trust in us. When we set a limit or a behaviour boundary and hold ourselves to the same standards as we hold our children, then can trust that we say what we mean and that there isn’t a double standard. This helps them develop a sense of security which is essential for their well-being and development.
9. Focus On Positive Behaviour
In the day to day routine of motherhood it can be easy to slip into a pattern of focusing on our child’s negative behaviour. We notice the tantrums, screaming, fighting and the arguments more than the positive behaviour that happens in between.
As part of their development, children want and need our attention. When we focus on the negative behaviour and give our kids our attention for it in our attempt to stop it, then they just continue to act that way in order to get more.
Focusing on positive behaviour and giving our child a greater amount of attention for this, then not only will they do it more to fulfil their needs, enhance their develop but we will also enjoy our child and being a parent more.
Being a parent is one of the hardest and most rewarding things we can ever do. The above nine strategies can help us make parenting easier as well as get the best outcomes for our child’s physical and emotional development. After all isn’t that what we all want?
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