“If you want better children and a better society then you need better parents.” Maurice Balson.
“Parenting is probably the most important public health issue facing our society.” Professor Graham Vimpani
Thinking about those two quotes helped orientate me and reinvigorate for the coming year. So in this spirit I have listed 21 ideas to guide, inspire and reinvigorate you to become a better parent. Read the list and choose a couple of ideas to focus on in the coming months. Often only a small change is needed to make a big impact on your kids.
1. Build traditions in your family.
There is no better way to build memories and bind your family together than to establish your own traditions and rituals. Traditions anchor kids to their families as well as to their childhoods. Tradition can be translated as “this is the way we do things in our family.”
2. Build self-belief in kids.
It is self-belief rather than ability that holds many kids back from really achieving their best. Put effort into ‘developing the courage to be imperfect’ so that kids aren’t afraid of messing up. It is through mistakes that kids learn and grow. Learn more in bringing out your child’s self-confidence.
3. Build self-knowledge in kids.
Self-knowledge is the best knowledge that kids can have. The best way to do this is to develop the habit of describing kids being good. When they do something special (or not so-special) tell them what they have done. ‘I love the way you greeted your Nana with a smile. You’re really good with people.” This becomes part of their internal self-reference system as it was told to them by a significant adult in their life.
4. Encourage kids to be self-occupiers.
Kids’ ability to keep themselves occupied cannot be underestimated. Avoid rushing in when they seem bored. Suggest ideas rather than provide entertainment. Self-occupiers readily get into the state of flow and get lost in play which is great for achievement and mental health.
5. Balance boredom with busyness.
Leave some spaces in kids’ schedules for some hang-time and muck-around time. These are good for building family relationships and promoting mental health.
6. Encourage a sense of generosity.
Moving kids from ‘me’ to ‘we’ takes work these days. Encourage kids to volunteer, give some pocket money to charity and give away unused toys to develop their sense of ‘other’.
7. Parent differently for each child.
You can bet your bottom dollar what worked with one child won’t work with another so be flexible with your behaviour management, communication and relationship-building skills. Read Why first borns rule the world and last borns want to change it.
8. Consciously model the behaviours you want.
Kids will sometimes do as you say but will always do what you do. If you want them to be generous and kind-spirited then you have no choice but to be generous and kind-spirited yourself.
9. Have at least five family mealtimes a week.
Sitting down and breaking bread together as family or group builds strong families and gives you the chance to talk. If you want to influence your kids and their thinking then you need to talk with them more. Mealtimes provide these opportunities.
10. Build redundancy into your parenting.
You don’t want you kids living with you when they are forty so you had better start making yourself redundant right now. Some people wait for a certain age before they let kids do for themselves. Build scaffolds to independence from the earliest possible age. Teach them, then give them opportunities to be self-sufficient. Even three year olds can make their bed – just not as well as when they are ten.
11. Give kids a map and a compass.
Just as explorers need a map and a compass to guide them when they enter unknown territory, kids need a map and a compass to guide them when they meet with difficult and different situations. The map they have is made up of what they know of you and your life story. This helps them work out smart from less than smart behaviour. The compass is the made up of the values that you live so they know right from wrong.
12. Make it easy for kids to behave well.
Kids usually want to behave well but many find behaving well hard. Make it easy for them not by lowering your standards but by giving gentle reminders, setting up simple routines and giving simple verbal cues. Read One Step Ahead or learn more in Bringing out Your Children’s Best Behaviour.
13. Teach kids to be financially smart.
Financial smarts begins at home. Give them pocket-money on a regular basis and allow them to take some control over their spending. Avoid being their own personal ATM and don’t give them money whenever they want it.
14. Help kids appreciate what they have.
Some children have a default mechanism that is both negative and self-centred. Encourage them to look on the bright side and be thankful for what they have rather than always wanting more or focusing on what they don’t have.
15. Focus on feelings not just behaviour.
Next time a child asks for an extension to bedtime because they doing a fun activity resist going into behaviour management mode and move into emotional intelligence mode. “It’s great to see you happy and really enjoying that game. What’s it like having so much fun?” Then move them to bed while you are listening.
16. Understand child development.
Some stages are harder than others and different stages require different things of kids. Early childhood is about bonding and then breaking away. Middle childhood is about developing competencies and self-esteem and adolescence is about identity formation and breaking away. Each stage has its own joys and challenges for parents. Appreciate each stage and don’t wish them away.
17. Build mental health skills.
The World Health Organisation predicts that mental health will be the biggest health issue in the developed world over the next few decades. Teach kids good mental health skills at home by helping them relax and unwind, deal with anxiety and talk about their every day challenges without fear of being judged.
18. Be the hope person in their life.
Life can sometimes suck when you are a kid. Offer kids hope that things will get better or that they will get used to difficult situations. Help them set goals or do something that will help alleviate a difficulty. Learn about Resilience in Bring out your Child’s resilience.
19. Focus on relationships, not rules.
It’s hard to fight when you get on with someone so make sure you have something in common with each of your kids. The love languages approach (Google Love languages) offers a framework that will help you connect with each of your kids.
20. Build layers of community around kids.
Family, friends, teachers, coaches, people in the broader community form a protective circle around kids, help keep them safe and prevent them from falling through the cracks. Encourage a sense of community. Let them bring friends home. Encourage them to take up community-based activities and value relationships they have with coaches, teachers and people in their neighbourhood.
21. Attend a Happy Kids Parenting Seminar this year.
Get your blueprints for developing confidence and character in kids at my Bringing out your child’s CONFIDENCE seminars in all mainland capitals in February/March and the Raising WELL-BEHAVED kids seminars in August/September. Both have FREE bonus workshops beforehand where I can answer your pressing questions. Find out how and where, by visiting my website.
Michael Grose is Australia’s NO. 1 parenting expert. He is the director of Parenting Ideas, the author of seven books for parents and a popular presenter who speaks to audiences in Australia, Singapore and the USA. Get your FREE Chores and Responsibilities for Kids Guide when you visit parentingideas.com.au