Do you have a 'parental mission', a code by which you hope to live as a parent?
1 expert and 2 parents have answered
For a 5 Year Old (this is our current "code")
We teach our child to say "please" and "thank you" by saying "please" and "thank you" to each other (parents) and to him.
When we make a mistake, including parenting mistakes (wrong assumptions often #1 culprit) we say "sorry" to him and explain where we erred, and what we'd do differently next time.
We empower our child by giving him choices within the rules/boundaries appropriate for his age.
If we don't know, we say "I don't know." If we do know, we will answer every one of his "why"'s until we hit the point of lack of knowledge.
When he falls, we let him get up by himself. Usually this means I am biting the inside of my cheeks stopping myself from flinching whenever I see him fall.
We expect him to try things that are hard; we allow him to struggle but give guidance or support when appropriate. We praise his effort and willingness to try.
He is allowed to express / process his emotions however he is at the time capable (often at the 5 year old range this comes out as frequent protests and "whining"), we will acknowledge that we have heard his dislike and we still expect him to follow-through.
Mum and dad follow the same rules as the child. We don't ask him to do anything we ourselves don't do or won't do.
Mum and dad can't be played against each other. Sometimes this means mum has to leave the room while dad and child sort things out.
Our big picture "code" is to instill in our child a sense of discernment of his way of thinking, thus becoming conscious of the influences driving each of his decisions.
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If I have any code at all, it's one I'm still trying to decipher. I think it all comes back to how I act myself rather than how I bring up my kids. Parent is a noun to me, not a verb. You have to be the best person you can, and then you're doing it right. I try to be patient and forgiving. I often fail at the former, sometimes at the latter. I try not to be a pedant, while teaching them that fine lines are still lines. I'd agree about getting to know them as people, and encourage them to be individuals with different strengths and weaknesses. It sounds like hippy rubbish, and it would be if it weren't such damned hard work.
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I live by a few golden rules, all of which I've broken at some time, but I've always apologised and explained when I have. So it's a work in progress!
- Don't say no as a knee jerk reaction. 'Mummy, can we make some cakes today?' 'No, because...' because what? I can't be bothered to get all the stuff out and get covered in flour? I don't want to be the bad guy who says they can't eat all the cakes in a single sitting? No is too easy, and I try not to slip into it for no reason.
- Explain stuff. My parents didn't. No fault on their part, they were no different to any other parents of my generation that I knew. But 'because I said so' doesn't really teach anything. Now our kids roll their eyes at our instance to explain everything in minute detail and check they understand there's thought behind it. You can't win 'em all, but I hope they'll look back at some point and realise this was a good thing!
- Don't take my tension, stress, worry, tiredness, hangover (I joke) out on them. We are (I think) getting better as a bunch of people at recognising marriages and relationships need work and take mutual respect. I try very hard not to snap at my husband just because I'm tired and he's nearby, but the same is absolutely crucial for the kids. I don't always win at this one. I apologise a lot!
- Live by example. I'm just so not a fan of 'do as I say not as I do'. Everything about that is wrong to me, and surely makes parenting extra hard - all that undoing of things they're copying!
- Have fun with them. It's easy to forget when you're chasing your tail with work and household chores and things that need organising and clubs and planning meals and just everything else that sucks up the day. But everyone is happier when we remember this. We don't do it enough, we don't set everything else aside and just fool around nearly as much as we should. But I hope my kids will look back and remember a lot of belly laughs.
And lastly, I would say 'get to know them as people'. It's easy I think, especially when there are a few of them (we have three kids) not to just group them as 'the kids' or just treat them as cute/challenging (delete as appropriate at any given time) small people but every time I have a really good conversation with one of my kids about something they've noticed, something they're interested in, even something that's concerning them, I've learnt a buttload about them and realised more and more what complex, unique, awesome people they are.