Amber Hall shares 10 new and healthier ideas for raising your children.
There's a monumental amount of parenting books, websites, and coffee groups out there, all sharing sometimes fantastic, but often conflicting ideas on the "best" way to raise kids. Nobody intentionally uses strategies that don't meet their child's or family's emotional and developmental needs, but parenting in the age of information overload can be disconcerting. However, increasing numbers of parents are successfully finding new and healthy techniques for raising their kids. Here are 10 ways they're doing that.
1. Have an awareness of their developmental stages
It’s not unusual for parents to wonder where their calm, chilled-out little dude went, when they’re red-faced and wailing during kindy drop off. Behold: Separation anxiety! It’s just one of the very healthy and very normal transitions for kids to go through – of which there are many. Hundreds, even. Having an awareness of these stages gives their bewildering behaviours context and means you’re more likely to react to them in a positive and supportive way.
2. Tune into your child's personality and temperament
When you understand the characteristics and quirks that make your child unique, you are more in tune with when they need support and in what environments and conditions they will thrive. Once you’re familiar with how their mind works, lots of things become easier to navigate, like figuring out the best spot for them to do homework or being supportive when your son wants to come back from school camp early.
3. Use respect rather than criticism to set limits
Kids learn almost everything they’ll need to survive in the world from you, and that means you’ll need to set clear boundaries and limits for them. Without clear limits, kids can start to behave out of control because they feel anxious. When you’re implementing the rules, try to avoid unfairly criticising or shaming them. Rather, think about how you like to receive feedback, lead by example, and communicate boundaries in a respectful and firm way.
4. Know when you need to talk and when you need to listen
Kids become deft problem-solvers... If we let them. You obviously want what’s best for your kids so they can succeed, but that makes it difficult to refrain from jumping in with a lecture or critique at times. “What’s best for them” is sometimes for you to pause and listen. When you do, you’ll be impressed how well your child can break down problems and successfully create their own solutions. Feeling like we’re being heard can be extremely therapeutic, and gives us an opportunity to think things through more clearly to find a solution. Your kids need to feel like they’re being heard and understood – exactly like everyone else does.
5. Let your kids have plenty of unstructured play time
Most parents don’t completely appreciate just how powerful play is. Basically, it’s where they learn all the things and how they develop all of their life skills. So set aside time every day for them to explore their world through unstructured, totally child-driven play.
6. Value creativity and fun as the best tools for learning positive behaviours and cooperative attitudes
Though fear and micro-management may seem effective in the moment, they are not useful long-term teachers for kids. To equip kids with good problem-solving skills and strong moral compasses, they need to feel valued. They learn this sense of self-worth through their interactions with us. When your child is valued as a person, they naturally learn how to value others and build the confidence they need to make good choices.
7. Be aware that your actions are speaking louder than your words
Kids are keenly observant and surprisingly intuitive because they learn through imitation. That makes you their most important teacher, and they’re always watching you. This can make it tricky for parents, because nobody can keep up perfect behaviour 24/7. Nor should you try. Keep in mind that they’re watching us to learn how to behave, and may even make us better adults.
8. Maintain an identity separate to your child's identity
Though it may feel like your children are the centre of your world, realistically, you do need more. Set aside time to keep
up hobbies, indulge in your passions, and nurture your friendships. Your protective anxieties may well try to convince you that you’re being careless or selfish because your kids can’t possibly be without you for a few hours and vice-versa (see, separation anxiety works both ways!). But you need to set a good example by not expecting your kids to meet all of your emotional needs. Maintaining your own identity and maintaining your own mental health means you’re more likely to be an emotionally stable parent, which is pretty selfless and caring, really.
9. Accept that kids will be kids
Grown-ups often forget that kids learn by screwing up and making mistakes. The real magic happens when you step in to coach and guide them. It’s a biological reality that immature brains will cause immature humans to act immaturely. Kids are biologically programmed to back talk, test boundaries, and whinge – or, to put it more accurately, they’re not programmed to not act immaturely yet. As parents, we need to exercise patience, view annoying behaviour as learning opportunities, and support kids when their immature brains get the better of them. The brain doesn’t completely develop until they’re in their early 20s, by which point you’ll have a suite of amusingly embarrassing stories to tell at their 21st.
10. Aim to shape your child's heart as well as their behaviour
It often seems like society’s goal for parenting is to produce well-behaved, compliant children, but they’re not the core characteristics that make up happy, healthy people. Showing our kids that their ideas and emotions are important, equips them with the tools they need to cope and build healthy relationships.