“Parenting is the toughest job.” “No one said it was gonna be easy.” “Parenting doesn’t come with an owner’s manual.”
We’ve all heard them before—the quotes that sum up the challenge of parenting. But they really don’t help much, only state the obvious. The responsibility of being a parent is one of the most rewarding, yet, frustrating, humbling, and challenging pursuits we will ever engage. As a father of four, I have had much practical experience. Being a father has helped me learn much about my children, but perhaps more importantly, it has helped me to understand the importance of taking care of myself and relationship with my wife. And I say, more importantly, because my number one piece of advice to you is,
to take good care of yourself first and foremost
Before you are in any position to take good care of your children. Self-care is paramount to good parenting. While a passenger on an airline, you will be instructed, in the event of loss of cabin pressure, to put an oxygen mask on your face first prior to placing it on a child’s. Why? Because you will be of no use to that child, even if they are full of oxygen, if you are starving for it. A drowning person cannot come to the aid of someone else who is drowning.
Once you have properly cared for yourself, you will not be as subject to the automatic inclinations of a short-temper. However, you will slip as we all do, and find yourself, at times, reacting with anger or even rage. Those aggressive instincts come directly from our primitive instinct to fight and flee danger, and a disrespectful or disruptive child sets that off in us. When you find yourself reacting in this fashion, instead of acting out toward the child, I suggest you
remove yourself from the situation—giving yourself a ‘time-out’
Before you actually leave, make sure your child is out of harm’s way). By doing this you are caring for yourself first. You have decided to gather your wits, breathe, and thereby removing the harm that this anger and rage is causing on your body, as well as removing the possibility that your anger will turn toward outward aggression.
Once you have done this, you cease reacting, begin responding, and then are in a better position to address the situation in the parenting style that is most effective.
That parenting style is assertive parenting. Being aggressive or passive is what happens when potential danger, threat, or vulnerability triggers our primitive brain (or what I call automatic brain). Those styles arise from the same fight or flight that our cave dwelling ancestors experienced when being chased by predators. And doesn’t it feel primitive when you feel that rage coming over you from a despondent child?
Being assertive is not allowing your child to rule the roost. It is giving your child a clear understanding of unacceptable behavior.
And, in addition, it is the thoughtful way in which you establish distinct boundaries, and dependable consequences of unacceptable behavior.
So to sum up, my top 6 effective parenting tips:
- Self-care comes first
- Respond, don’t react
- Be an assertive parent, not passive or aggressive
- Give a clear understanding of unacceptable behaviors
- Establish distinct boundaries
- Set dependable consequences of unacceptable behaviors
Employ these tips and I am confident you will begin to feel more in control and in a position to author an owner’s manual that works best for you and your family.