7 Simple Secrets Every Great Parent Should Know
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A better or great parent.
That’s what you want to be, but how do you know you’re doing it right?
Because most of us are just making this stuff up as, we go along. Doing the best we can, with the time and energy we have available.
We’re so busy getting through each day – doing all those things that need to be done, that we sometimes don’t realize what’s going on around us.
Before we know it, our babies become children. And then we realize there’s a problem that we don’t quite understand.
We can’t understand how it is that we’ve managed to raise two perfectly normal children, and yet our youngest child is just impossible.
Or we wake up one day and wonder why our eldest daughter hates us so much and tells us so regularly.
This is exactly what happened to me. Despite reading all the parenting books and listening to the experts, I’d created a monster.
Quite literally. A little person who regularly told me her father was wonderful, but that she didn’t love me.
I knew this wasn’t really true, but it made me wonder where I’d gone wrong. How I’d inadvertently managed to create this uncaring child.
She was seven years old, and I worried about how things would develop as she grew older.
If she was already shouting that she hated me, what would the teenage version of my daughter look like?
Most of all, I wondered how I could turn our relationship around. How I could create a strong bond between the two of us before it was too late?
And I figured it out. I found several simple things that every parent can do to improve the relationship with their children.
Secrets that turned my little monster back into the charming, loving child, I knew she really was.
Our relationship is vastly different now. I know she loves me because she tells me so all the time.
It’s clear from her words and actions that she values me, and treasures our relationship.
Your relationship with your kids is everything.
It’s the difference between kids who feel loved and valued and those that feel worthless and alone.
It’s the difference between kids who are responsible and independent and those who follow their peers into trouble because they’re desperate for approval.
7 Simple Better Parenting Secrets
No matter how great your relationship is with your kids, here are seven simple ways you can make it even stronger.
1. Compliment Them
The most powerful compliment you can pay your kids is, “I love you just the way you are.” Those last five words make all the difference. Really.
Your kids know you love them, but they also know they’re growing and learning. They know they’re not perfect.
So, they feel a lot of pressure to do better, to know better, and to behave better. And we spend a lot of time and energy encouraging them to better themselves.
Unfortunately, that sometimes comes off as criticism.
Telling your kids that you love them, just the way they are, is a powerful statement. It tells your kids that your love is not conditional.
They don’t have to make you proud, or do something outstanding – they just need to be themselves.
I remember the first time I said this to my older daughter. Her eyes went huge, and then she melted. She looked so relieved.
It was clearly a very important message for her to receive.
2. Control Yourself
As parents, we often think that we should be in control of our kids.
But we’re not. And here’s the thing that no one will tell you.
You can’t control your kids. In fact, the only person that you can control is yourself.
The trick is to work within those confines.
So, instead of nagging the kids about all the clothes on the floor try saying, “I will wash clothes that are in the laundry hamper.”
Or, if your kids are tired and cranky, and they start yelling, try, “I listen to people who talk to me calmly.”
If your kids demand you get them something to eat or drink you can say, “I get things for people who ask politely.”
You can use this technique in lots of situations. You just need to stop and think about what you can control.
The golden rule is to stick to it. If you say you’ll wash what’s in the laundry hamper, don’t undermine your own authority by washing the clothes on the floor.
3. Stop Thinking
All too often, the decisions parents have to make are riddled with gut-wrenching anxiety.
We spend a lot of time wondering what the right thing to do is, and thinking about exactly how we should handle the situation.
It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, or what the decision is, it’s still big and emotionally draining.
We can end up analyzing a situation to death. And, because we’re parents, we can end up getting stuck in a cycle of frustration-anger-guilt.
It’s fine to think about situations and establish what you can learn from them.
But sometimes our mind gets a little obsessed and repeatedly churns things over, on an endless, self-flagellating loop.
When this happens, try thinking, “Thanks, Mind”, and move on to other things. It’s a little like a reset button that allows you to acknowledge the thought and move on.
This will help you become calmer, which will have a huge impact on your thoughts, behavior, and relationships.
4. Drop It
Sometimes we get so worked up about an issue that it becomes ingrained.
It’s easy to be concerned that your kids aren’t eating enough vegetables, for example, or that they’re wearing inappropriate clothes.
The problem is that we create a battlefield. Every meal becomes a combat zone, with you on one side and your child on the other.
Every day there’s a confrontation about what’s acceptable to wear out of the house. Both of you see it as a crusade to be fought and won.
But like most wars, there really aren’t any winners – only losers. And one of the most effective strategies I’ve found for these situations is to drop it.
That’s right, let it go. Not forever, but for a while.
Start serving food that will be eaten without a fuss. Let your kids choose what they’ll wear.
If they ask what’s going on, you can say something like, “I don’t want to argue about it anymore.”
Give it a week or so for the barriers to come down. Use this time to repair the damage, and consider alternate strategies – preferably ones that empower your kids.
You can often create an agreement by giving choices like, “Would you like peas or beans?” or, “Will you wear your jumper or carry it?”
5. Hug Them
Sometimes your kids seem to be against you – and everyone else. When you ask them to do something, they pout, or say, “Why should I?”
They pick fights with their siblings, their parents, and pretty much anyone else. They’re just downright… difficult.
You love them, and you know they love you. But it doesn’t make them easier to live with.
When children behave horribly, they’re giving you a clue as to how they feel. They feel awful about themselves, so they provoke other people to behave horribly towards them.
It’s like they’re saying “I don’t deserve you to be nice to me”. But if you go against your instincts and treat them nicely, they let their defenses down.
Often when my daughter behaves badly to everyone, I take her aside. I give her a big hug and gently ask what’s wrong, and she melts.
She has a cry, looks relieved, and tells me the problem. Then life gets back to normal.
6. Praise Well
Praising kids is a fraught subject. Many experts say not to praise your kids, or give you complicated guidelines to do it ‘properly.’
It’s really not that hard. Just be specific.
This is a life skill that many managers don’t get right. Imagine the person who pats a colleague on the back and says, “Good job today, Jody!”
That’s as good as useless. Jody has no information on what she did well, so she can’t repeat her performance.
Whereas, if that manager has said something like, “You did a great job handling that difficult customer today. I really like the way you ….”
That’s information Jody can use, and the same is true for our kids.
When you’re specific in your praise, they understand what they did well and can repeat it.
For example, “You concentrated on keeping that cup really steady, and you didn’t spill a drop!” or “You trained really hard for that race, and pushed yourself to do your best on the day.”
If you’re really stuck for words, try, “You must be proud of yourself”. This teaches kids to do things to make themselves proud, rather than to try to satisfy other people.
7. Make Time
You know that your kids want your attention, and you probably think you give them plenty of it, and you do, in many ways.
But you’re clever, and you also know that your kids want more. They thrive on quality time.
Try spending individual time with each child every day and you’ll notice a big change. It can take as little as a few minutes a day.
The key to this is to be sure you are really focused on your child during this time. Chatting while you’re unpacking groceries, or cooking dinner doesn’t count.
Ideally, you’re aiming for 10 minutes twice a day, with each child, but if you can’t reach this ideal, don’t give up. Any time you can put into this will reap rewards.
Give them a sense of power, an importance by letting them choose the activity during this time.
I started doing this with my older daughter, and our relationship changed dramatically.
She literally stopped telling me she hated me and started telling me she loved me. Both of us felt a special bond and behaved more compassionately to each other.
It’s Never Too Late
Let’s imagine that someone could come along and wave a magic wand, and make you the great parent you always hoped you’d be.
That you and your family could be happy and relaxed. That you could enjoy each other’s company.
Well, guess what? That person can come along and change your life.
That person is much closer than you think.
You see, the person with the ability to make these changes is you.
You can make time for your kids, starting now. You have the power to hug and praise your children, and create strong family bonds.
You can turn around relationships that aren’t working well, and raise kids that thrive.
You can give your kids the home life they deserve and create happiness for yourself too.
You alone have the ability to create strong relationships with your kids.
The choice is yours.
I can’t wait to see what you choose.
Over To You –
What are your experiences with parenting? Do you think the relationship with your kids could be better? Let me know in the comments below.
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Hi Cate, you really hit the nail on the head. Watching my son interact with the people in his life that have given him true present attention when interacting versus just a cursory just-in-the-same-room type of attention is dramatic. He is so much more exited about and affectionate to the adults that really give him quality time on his toddler-terms.
Thanks for the super valuable insights!
Amazing isn’t it, how the little things can make such a big difference! I’m glad you liked the post, and thanks for commenting. 🙂
Great article Cate. Thanks for sharing your experience and insights in raising your little daughter. Based on my observation, I’d also like to add that your children would also imitate your behavior patterns. For example, if parents do not give respect to their parents or parents in law, hate them, yell at them or mistreat them in other ways, children will also do similar things as they grow. Sadly, such behavior patterns are common in materialistic societies.
You are so right! I remember wondering why my older daughter would get angry and stamp her foot … until I caught myself doing it one day (I soon stopped doing it). So many parents experience this, but not everyone is insightful enough to recognise that they may have demonstrated the behaviour they don’t like. Thanks for pointing it out.
Hi Cate, Welcome to Harleena’s place! Great tips for better parenting. You’re right, if we can keep our calm while our kids lose theirs we will be in a much better parenting position, helping our kids and ourselves.
A friend of mine compared a child’s meltdown to a runaway train. Their emotions are out of control like a runaway train. They’re scared because they can’t control it so they want us on that train. But we as parents should stay at the station and wave as the train goes by. We can’t get on that train or we will be out of control too. The best thing our child can do is get off that train!
Thanks for sharing your insights with us here, Cate!
I’m glad you liked the post. I love the train analogy! That’s fantastic. Thanks for sharing it.
But loved the advice on precise praise. What a great one.
The individual time you talk about works wonders. Whenever I share time with kids we do what they want. They are the boss within reason and we play at their level. I follow the orders. They learn to delegate, direct and be leaders. The time flys.
I have seen parents give their kids time but it comes we lots of rules and before you know it there is yelling going on. Play is play. You are so right, kids lap up quality time.
Big smile at the drop it. What a weight to be lifted from a parents shoulders to not have the same regular argument where everyone is in their own corner waiting to the verbal boxing bell to sound off.
Thoroughly enjoyed the post Cate.
I’m glad you enjoyed the post and make the effort to spend quality time with kids. Parenting is hard, but building that bond can make it much easier!
Best wishes for a fabulous 2016!
Great article, Cate. Well worth the read, and full of practical tips. Of course, these suggestions can be used by grandparents and caregivers as well (although caregivers may need to be careful of the hugging).
You make a great point! Glad you liked the article.
I love these tips! I have 2 almost 3 year olds. Small things like listening, and controlling your own reactions make such a big difference!
Wow, you’ve got your hands full with twins! That’s hard work, but listening and controlling your reactions does make a difference. I’m gla you like the post – thanks for commenting!
I hope you have a safe and happy holiday season,
I find this very helpful since I have 2 young boys and people keep telling me that I should get ready for when they grow older.
These tips are so welcome. I especially loved the part about Controlling yourself. Most times we let their misdeeds throw us off balance and we get upset and scream our heads off. When they notice Mum is in control, they behave better.
Off to share this.
So glad you found this helpful. You’re right that kids behave better (and listen better too!) when you’re cool and in control. I’m sure your boys are going to grow up just fine, with a great Mum like you!
Best wishes for the festive season,
I like the last point and the concluding point of “it’s never too late”.For staring anything new or improving any existing thing it’s never ever too late and one has to take it then and there.
Apparently parenting is taken as a kind of automated activity where love is created naturally, care is done by default and child’s materialistic needs are served financially.
But patenting is beyond these mundane considerations and parents have to manufacture a finished product of a perfect human being.
Your every point is really a big secret and must becfollowed by those especially who mostly complains of their kids not doing well.
Many thanks for sharing and have a wonderful holiday seasons.
You’re so right. We take it for granted that we’ll know how to be a great parent, but then we’re faced with the reality. And the reality is that it’s frustrating, relentless and challenging.
We’re busy, stressed and riddled with guilt that we’re not the parents we thought we’d be. But we don’t know how to fix it. And then it ends up in the too hard basket.
Recognising that it’s never too late is a great first step. I’m so glad you liked the article.
I wish you and your family an enjoyable and safe holiday season. 🙂
Hi Cate, Love this article, as a Parent and nurse who deals with teens on a daily base. I have encounter teens with different personalities. They can be a lot to handle as far as attitudes but with these tips. Others can be on their way to great parenting. My favorite tip is #3 “STOP THINKING”from now on, I’m going to make a decision and make it my final decision. No more thinking about it.
So glad you liked the article and find it useful. I hope you can thank you mind and send it on it’s way – no more over analyzing!
I am so glad to meet you here and read those wonderful tips to better parenting.
Having raised two successful, independent individuals, with drastically different temperaments, I can relate to all that you shared.
As young parents, we hardly realize how challenging this work is…raising a loving and respectful kid is not all that easy as people imagine. I love that meaningful quote by Ron Taffel.
Hug them…the best of all! All differences melt, all arguments fall flat when we just choose to hug and say – I love you. Thanks for sharing such a brilliant perspective on parenting. Have a nice weekend.
Thanks to Harleena for introducing you to us, the readers of Aha-now.
Thanks for your comment – it’s lovely to be here. I’m looking forward to meeting the community.
I’m glad you liked the article. We’re all so busy it’s easy to get stuck in anger and frustration and forget that a little kindness can go a long way, particularly with family.
I hope you and your family have a safe and happy holiday season. 🙂