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10 Ways to Be a Better Parent

In honor of Child Abuse Prevention month, SEARHC is sharing different parenting tips that can strengthen your relationship with your children. Being a parent can be complicated, and every child has different needs, but following these ten tips might help make the most important job in the world just a tiny bit easier.

Father with a goatee holding the hands of his two young children, a toddler-aged boy and elementary school-aged girl, while running though a hilly field in the morning.

1. Be the person you want your child to be

First of all, even at a really young age, your children will watch and learn from everything you do. You are their number one link to the world and how you react and respond to different situations can influence how your children react to their own situations. Try to lead by example and show your children the same positive behavior and attitude you want to see in them.

2. Praise your child, not just the action

When your child does something that makes you proud, don’t just celebrate the action, celebrate your child. For example, if you see your child help someone, say “Great job! You are a good helper,” rather than “Great job helping!” This slight change in praise will teach your child that the good deed is part of his or her identity. When you are not around and they have to make a similar decision, they can recall who they are rather than what they did and make the correct choice.

3. Let your child make mistakes

No child is perfect and part of growing up is making mistakes. Letting your child make mistakes is a great way to teach them that actions have consequences and the event gives a great point of reference for future lessons. For example, when you let your child spill a cup of juice, you can help them understand the mess it makes and how the juice is no longer there to enjoy. In other circumstances, you can reference the lesson to warn them about future challenges. “Be careful when moving this bowl of cereal, we don’t want to want to clean it up like we had to with the juice, right?” Having concrete examples of previous mistakes helps avoid new accidents.  Also, while praise is best linked to who your child is, mistakes are best treated as temporary mishaps that give the opportunity to then shine.  So, your child isn’t labeled clumsy just because juice got spilled, but they can be labeled a responsible kid when they clean up their mess.

4. Teach values, not rules

It is important to set boundaries for our children, but when we focus on creating household rules rather than teaching our kids the meaning of right and wrong, they might start looking for ways around the rules rather than understanding why the rule is there in the first place. Think beyond the “This is my house, and these are my rules!” mentality and try to teach your kids the basic life principles you believe in. It is a whole lot easier to hold children accountable when they understand why the rule you set must be followed.

5. Don’t just discipline bad behavior, explain why it’s bad

As parents, we will encounter behavior that requires some form of punishment. Just remember, when giving a time-out, make sure your child knows how their bad behavior directly impacted the people around them. Having empathy for others is one of the strongest ways to teach morals in children. When they know that one of their actions caused pain or harm to someone they care about, the less likely they’ll do the same action again.

6. Encourage creativity

Let your child’s imagination run wild through singing, dancing, painting, drawing, coloring, or writing. It is a great way for children to express and share their emotions and it gives you a glimpse into how they see the world around them. Don’t be judgmental of the end result, just encourage the creative act, whatever they choose. Instead of, “great painting!,” try, “tell me about this painting.”  Your genuine interest versus just automatic praise will build confidence in their abilities and set a solid foundation for good communication skills when they are older.

7. Don’t be ashamed to ask for and accept help

Sometimes being a parent can be a frustrating, thankless job, and we can all feel like we need a break. Don’t be afraid to ask your parents or friends for help or advice. Another perspective on a tough situation can be a lifesaver, and when others offer a moment of rest or relaxation from the day-to-day grind of parenting, don’t feel bad in accepting their help. A well-timed afternoon or evening off can do wonders for recharging your parenting energy for the days ahead.

8. Forgive yourself when you make mistakes

All parents are human which means a few mistakes are going to happen along the way. The best way to overcome the most difficult challenges is to remind ourselves that we are doing the best we can with what we got. Sometimes mistakes happen. Don’t be too hard on yourself when they do.  Just like with your children, mistakes are temporary but your identity is that you are a good parent.

9. Trust your instincts

Remember to do what’s best for your own family and try to avoid living up to anyone’s expectations. You will hear plenty of parenting advice from so many different sources, just be sure you trust yourself to make the right decision when the time comes. Remember, parents have been raising children for thousands of years before you and most of us just turned out fine. Have confidence in who you are and your parenting abilities.

10. Show your love every chance you get

The greatest gift we can give to our children is the constant warmth of someone who loves them. Spend time with your children and show them how much you love them in as many ways as possible. Whether it is through a well-timed hug, reading a good story, or a delicious home-cooked meal, your child will have the confidence to face any challenge in life if they know someone out there in the world unconditionally loves them and cares about their well-being.

Stay tuned this month for more tips and resources for parents!

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The SEARHC Crisis Help Line, 1.877.294.0074, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to residents of Southeast Alaska.