|A No Rule Day !|
The responsibilities of a parent are possibly the biggest anyone might face in their lives. Not only are you responsible for keeping another human being alive and safe for the first stage of their life, but also for teaching them how to be healthy, happy and decent.
What most parents do not know is that until the age of about seven, they are their child’s only role-model. Your children are watching you 24/7 to figure out how to survive in this crazy world, and what behaviors and emotional responses they need to exhibit to meet their needs, such as attention, love, significance, comfort and affection.
In the case of parenting, actions speak louder than words. If you are telling your children to play fair at school and be nice, but at home you are constantly snapping at your partner, it is what you do rather than what you say that will have the bigger impact. They will either adopt the same behavior or rebel against it, neither of which are predictable.
This does not mean you have to be model parents all the time. That would be unrealistic. You are only human after all. However, being aware of your behavior in front of your children, and explaining your behavior to them in an emotionally intelligent way, are crucial. Making sure they recognize it is about you, not them, is key to bringing up emotionally healthy kids. What other habits do you need to adopt to raise happy and successful children?
1) Demonstrate independence
If you want to raise independent children, you need to teach them how to be independent. This includes leading by example. Needy parents often hold their children responsible for their emotions, creating environments of psychological control: “Behave this way or mummy / daddy will be very stressed / hurt / upset.”
Children do not get the chance to explore what they like or dislike, or who they are in this kind of environment, always trying to be someone that mum or dad wants them to be. They will continue this way into their teens, and will be more susceptible to peer pressure in later life, being someone they are not just to fit in.
2) Let go of your need to controlWe all want a level of certainty in our lives, but real happiness comes from being able to live in a world of uncertainty - knowing that no matter what happens ‘out there,’ we will be OK – because in reality, we have very little control over anything.
Children brought up by over-controlling parents have been shown to have higher rates of stress and depression in later life. Believing they are incompetent, and that nothing they ever do is good enough, leads to low self-confidence and poor self-image.
3) Communicate calmly and intelligently
Successful people generally have high emotional intelligence and excellent communication skills. To give your kids a head start in developing these, you need to learn how to communicate calmly and intelligently yourself. Shouting not only creates a harsh environment for your children, but also teaches them that in order to make themselves understood, they have to shout. This will not help them in their relationships later in life.
Intelligent communication is communicating how you feel without blaming the other person. “When I see or hear ‘this,’ I interpret it as ‘x’ and that makes me feel ‘y’,” is a good format to start with.
4) Be present
Kids are more likely to be secure and self-assured when raised by parents who are present. Parents who spend more time on their phone, working, answering emails etc. are giving the impression their kids come second. While this might not be the case, children internalize and personalize everything. All your behavior will always be about them. Help your kids feel important by being present in their presence.
5) Be your own cheerleader
If you want your kids to have healthy self-esteem, you need to show them how to be their own internal cheerleader, to recognize their own value without relying on external sources. Start by praising their accomplishments, then migrate toward showing them how to recognize their own achievements, so when they are an adult they will not still be seeking your approval or that of others.
This must be done by leading by example. How good are you at recognizing your own self-worth and accomplishments? If the answer is “not very,” look at ways you can start to develop this so you can show your children how to do it for themselves.
6) Be open and warm
Successful, happy adults are generally great at forming friendships and relationships, most likely because they are open and approachable. Creating a warm, open environment for your children is crucial to their emotional wellbeing and success in later life.
Demonstrate affection and openness with your kids and partner, giving them the freedom to communicate how they feel and be who they are. This will positively impact your family, and bode well for your children’s future happiness.
7) Enjoy your children
Being a parent is a lot of work, a full time job alongside a full time job. Our work is never ending and at times this is daunting for most of us. I sometimes have no rules days, where I give myself the freedom to escape routine, throw caution to the wind, dump housework go for long walk on the beach and get a bag of chips afterwards. My daughter and I enjoy these seldom special days where we can just be, and enjoy the freedom.