Tuesday, July 26, 2011

To be a good parent

I am a parent of five children. I am a therapist that has given people instruction on parenting both in therapy and in parenting classes. I would like to think that I was at least an OK parent, but you’d have to ask my kids. I know very few of the things I did well as a father but I could tell you every thing I did badly, largely because I wish I could do them over again in a more attentive and gentler way.

I have seen people yank at their kids. I have seen kids ignored. I have seen symphonies of tantrums followed by admonishment from an angry, tired, and frustrated parent. I have seen these parents, I have had these kids, and I know how both of them feel.

And with regard to parenting, I have learned two things over the years that all the strategies and seminars tend to bypass. In being an effective, loving parent there are really only two things that matter, the rest of which is window dressing in the form of theory and behavioral modification.

The two things are this: To be a good parent, you need to believe in your child and absolutely need to believe in yourself.

This isn’t such an easy thing. If you’re a parent with any kind of conscience at all, you worry about your child all the time. From the day they're born, you worry if they’ll talk, walk, run, and do all the things the other kids do. You worry if they’ll have friends, do well in school, and be happy with themselves. The best thing you can do for your child is believe in their ability to excel. Expect it from them, and reinforce this expectation with encouragement, kindness, consistency and love.

Secondly, believe in yourself. Believe that you can manage the basic tenets of being a good person. Believe that you can stay calm in the midst of difficulty, that you can keep your temper when everyone around you is losing theirs, and that no matter how often your child loses control you remind yourself that you just need to keep focused on their feelings, being the strength through which they can express themselves and grow. You are the example for how they should behave. Believe that you can be the person you want to be, and you’ll be the parent you want to be: Kind, patient, attentive and engaged. These four qualities are the basic foundation of any great parent and, for that matter, any great person.

One last thing. Good parents will let their children flourish. The day will come when they will begin to have lives of their own. That’s how it is supposed to be. But in their growth, give them the following quote. It’s from Winnie the Pooh. Let them take these words with them always and you will always hold them close to your heart.

“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together.. there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. but the most important thing is, even if we're apart.. I'll always be with you.”

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