Another year comes to an end and a new one begins, but where parenting is concerned, every day is new. Every day we not only teach our kids something new, we learn, or relearn, them as part of bringing up our children to become better people.
Before writing this article I reflected on my four years of coaching children and parents and the strategies that we (the parents and I) created to help them tide over their challenges. Half way through, though, I started to reflect on my personal pitfalls and moments of parenting glory as the mother of two — a pre-teen and teenager. What I ended up was with a list of tips, more for myself. Hopefully, these would be beneficial to you as a parent too.
1 Be present. Heard any of these fancy terms before — “living in the “, “mindfulness”, “conscious”, “awareness”? They only refer to giving attention to yourself first as a person and then as a parent to your child. Being physically present does not do the trick. As a parent you need to be fully involved — in mind, body and soul with the child. And, believe me, they know it when you are.
2 Listen and see. One of the prime reasons teens become distant is that they feel they are not being seen and heard by their parents. It is also one of the reasons why a misguided teen could commit a crime to get attention. Yes, “I” matters. A child craves to feel significant and you can help build his confidence by making him feel seen and heard.
3 Take time to relax. Work, home and kids can be a tough routine for parents. But it’s so important for you to take breaks in the day and week to relax and unwind, because when you are relaxed then you can be more attentive to the kids and listen to them calmly and patiently.
4 Switch off-switch on time. When we step out of our homes we find it easy to disconnect from things that need to be done at home. We don’t constantly check the goings on at home or with our kids. So why do we think we need to check our office work after-hours? Just as you switch off when stepping out of the house, switch off from work when you reach home. Remember — family is the reason you go to work and not the other way round.
5 Drop your high standards. We want to achieve all-round excellence in every sphere of our lives — from high performance at work, to socialising in the “right” circles, to keeping a sparkling house, and running that marathon. We miss out on the most important part of our lives that needs our energy and guidance: our children. Learn to compromise in some areas of your life so you have more of “you” to give to your children. Maintain the high standards with your children.
6 It’s not your “time”. Wake up to the fact that your time as a child stopped more than three decades ago. It’s really not about you studying under the streetlight and earning your college degree. Take into account changes and challenges that your child faces today. It is about how your child is feeling pressured by the demands of social networking or behaving against the values he has been taught. Different generations, different parenting issues.
7 Be the role model. Husbands and wives like to joke about who the child takes after when the child does something unacceptable. But seriously where is he/she picking up the habits you are not so proud of? Look closer home. Maybe in the mirror.
8 Don’t shout. Be firm, yes. Children need boundaries and clear guidelines that can be done without shouting. Raising your voice teaches them that to get people to listen to you the only way is to shout, especially when you are the leader of the pack.
9 Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh at yourself and model for your child to do the same. A family that laughs together builds bonds on fun and happy times. Routine and discipline has its own place, but laughter is the foundation on which a family is built. When you laugh at yourself, letting go of your own mistakes, it makes it easier for your children to learn from their follies and not dwell on them.
10 Joy of giving. As parents in the modern world we lay a lot of importance on the value of money. Teach your children the priceless things that money can never buy. The fulfilment of giving to the less fortunate, spending time with an old neighbour and receiving their blessings, giving a cool drink to a labourer toiling in the sun and reading the gratitude in their eyes — teach your children this true art of giving and witness them develop compassion and empathy effortlessly.
— Sunaina Vohra is a certified youth & family life coach at Athena Life Coaching in Dubai. For more information log on to athenalifecoaching.com