Parenting today is seen as a highly stressful vocation due to demands of careers, academic pressure and other roles to juggle – cook, chauffeur, teacher and more. We all want to be good parents, but how can we get better at parenting? It is a lifelong practice, it seems. I must say I am far from attaining parenting accolades, especially those of patience and long-suffering.
7 Tips on How to Get Better at Parenting
Here are 7 parenting tips from seasoned parents to get us to improve at our calling.
1. Parenting has its seasons
When I was a mother with a toddler and a screaming infant, I was told by a wise mother that parenting has its seasons. We may be in seasons of endless diaper changing, severe sleep debt or pre-schoolers testing their boundaries, throwing tantrums or tweens glued to their screens and unwilling to connect. These are season which will pass. While each season has its challenges, parents learn to adapt and grow along with their children to support them in the endless changes and constant adapting.
To me, it is heartening to know that we would see the end (even if temporary) to certain behaviours or inclinations. This also means that we should continue to be patient, continue our duties and dole out loving discipline when necessary and know that this season will be over. The saying that “the days are long, the years are short” is so accurate.
2. Don’t take it personally
Unruly behaviour is unfortunately human nature, especially for children whose prefrontal cortex is still developing. The human brain does not mature until 25 years! Hence, don’t take it personally when you encounter resistance or defiance or an emotional breakdown. Keep calm by taking deep, long breaths. Then remember that your children are mere little ones unable to do everything right.
Support them by acknowledging their struggles and guide them so they can work towards the right attitude or behaviour.
3. Choose your battles
Not every battle needs to be won, so pick your battles. It is ok to let go of the smallest details. Kids, being kids, just like us, will not be able to perform all tasks perfectly. I used to get triggered by accidental spills and dirtying of surfaces, but I have learnt to take the opportunity to encourage rather than frown. I must admit that I am still a work-in-progress. There are certain lines that children should not cross – each family will need to set their own rules regarding this. But if it was a mere foolish act or an accident, there is no need to add salt to injury. Sometimes a simple “it’s ok, I’d help you with it” is enough to win big on love.
4. Take a break when it gets rough
Don’t hesitate to take a break especially when things get rough. Ensure your child is not in any potential danger and supervised if you decide to take a break. Whether it is taking a walk, venting it using a punching bag, locking yourself in the bathroom for a nice warm uninterrupted shower – take some time to recollect yourself and process those emotions. Some may prefer to do journaling, paint, or head for a jog for a cathartic release. There are days when the emotions and pressure get overwhelming. It is ok to take a break with a dependable caregiver babysitting, or while the children are in school.
5. Read ONE good parenting book and internalise it
There are many resources on parenting you can find. But the problem is usually not which resource to read but what we have internalised. Pick just ONE book from your shelf or NLB’s digital library. Read it and then practise what you have read. A personal favourite of mine is Brene Brown’s Rising Strong. While it does not advocate to-do lists, the mindset change is what it seeks to address. Keep working on the points mentioned, soon it could become a habit.
6. Find your tribe
It is important to find your tribe. Whether it is a Facebook group, a circle of mums in a forum or your pals from school, have a supportive tribe you can lean on. I am thankful to have mum-friends whom I confide in, sharing struggles we can relate to and keeping each other in prayer whenever times are difficult. If it wasn’t for this tribe, I can imagine parenting being a rather lonely and intimidating experience. More importantly, the tribe should spur you to want to be a better parent. Of course, ensure most of your goals are aligned with your tribe’s so that all of you can flourish and grow together.
7. Have an Accountability Partner
Every plane has a pilot and a co-pilot, not just for safety but for accountability. Ask your spouse or parent, or a sibling to be an accountability partner. He or she would know your flaws, your biggest struggles, your triggers and help you to be a better parent. Heed their reminders which come needful when we react irrationally, hear their perspectives which may be helpful even though they differ from yours. Even if you may lack a village, your accountability partner will form that bit of support you will need.
Want to be a Better Parent? Keep Trying!
Unfortunately, there was no rehearsal at parenting. We were given the job without a manual nor hands-on practice. To be better, we need to keep trying. Apologise when mistakes are made, work on our weaknesses and keep at wanting to have our best selves raise our little ones. We are all in it together.