After coaching so many parents, and raising my own kids, I have accumulated many essential parenting tips that I want to share with you. I hope you find them useful.
- Take care of your happiness first. Just like they tell you on a plane, you should put the oxygen mask on your own face before helping your kids. If you want to raise happy kids, you must take care of your own happiness first. If you do not have oxygen, you are no good to your kids. Happy parents raise happy kids.
- Be positive. It is very easy to notice what your kids are doing wrong but harder to pay attention to the great things they are doing. Parents tend to take the good things for granted. In life, you get what you focus on and parenting is exactly the same. If you focus on good thing, you will have more of them. If you focus on problems, conflicts, difficulties, bad manners, you will have more of them. If you notice your child doing something good, say it! Praise kids for being kind, congratulate them for making an effort, acknowledge their kindness and you will see more of it.
- Watch your words. Kids believe everything you say. They are programmed that way and the closer you are to them, the more they believe you. If you tell them they are amazing, they believe you. If you tell them they are lazy, they believe that as well. Your words will become a recording they will play in their adult years. Make sure you leave recordings of love, caring, acceptance, happiness and kindness.
- Listen more and talk less. Use your listening skills. Listen more and talk less. Much like the flow of energy, parenting is an act of giving and taking. The more you give the more you get. When you speak, you take your kids attention. When you listen to your kids, you give them yours. There is much magic in parenting when you show acceptance, confidence, compassion and caring through your listening.
- Do everything you can to stay together. A good relationship between partners is essential in every family. If the two parents are there, it is the best for kids, because their environment is stable.
- Forget one-size-fit-all parenting tips. They never work. Read, listen, learn, and choose the tips that fit what you want to achieve and the kids you have. Your family is unique, so do not try to be someone else. Be yourself, design your own style of parenting and go for it.
- Be healthy. Your emotional and physical health are the foundation of your parenting. Take care of them at all times, because lack of health, emotional or physical, will make you angry, frustrated, unhappy, tired, sad, controlling, demanding, hostile, unfair and depressed – exactly the opposite of what every kid needs.
- Develop leadership skills. Parents who see their job as being a leader of the family, take responsibility for this job with all that it entails. Responsibility means keeping an eye on the target at all times, without being distracted. It means making the decisions even when it is tough. It means not blaming others for what is not work but asking, “What can I do to change it?”. It means working in a team and supporting the development of each member of the team. Parents are the leaders of their family and they need to live up to the challenge. At the same time, be careful not to be too hard on yourself. You will make mistakes, but it is all part of being a parent.
- Never hand captaincy over to your kids. Every parent is the captain of their family ship. Never give your captaincy to kids. They have no skills to run a family. When they have “tantrums”, they do not ask for the wheel. They look for safety in rules. They want to know you are there, strong and sober to run the ship. As any good captain, your job is to make sure there are enough food supplies, the ship is in good condition, everyone is healthy and the most important thing, you know where you are going!
- Set gentle boundaries. Children test boundaries to expand their world. Try not to think of it as a test to your parenting ability but rather as a way for them to learn, grow and evolve. It is a very healthy developmental process. It is even worrying if they do not do it! When they try to push boundaries, it is a sign they are ready for more responsibility. When you set rules, take into consideration that you may have to be adapted to age, gender, society, time pressure. You are the captain of the house, not the king. Set rules that give everyone a chance to be him/herself and remember they apply to you too.
- Give them the gift of your presence. Kids want you to be part of their lives. They would rather give up lots of material things to gain quality time with you. If you have any doubts about this, think back to your own childhood. What was most meaningful for you, “time” or “material”? Kids want your presence, not your presents. Learn about your kids’ lives. Remember that the time they spend with you under the same roof is not long but it will determine how much they will connect with you in the 40-60 years after they leave home.
- Let go of discipline. Discipline is a very misleading parenting idea. It is usually used in the presence of weakness. When you discipline your kids, you use force to make them do something you want. It is never something they want and force will not make them want it. What it does is make them obedient. Kids obey when they are afraid, and raising kids who are afraid of you will not be good for your relationship in the future. You are still the captain, but not the one who uses pain and fear to lead their ship.
- Get to know your kids’ friends. Kids form an identity based on the experiences they have in life and they are highly influenced by their relationships with friends. Encourage them to hang out with kids that have the same traits you want your kids to have. Make an effort to learn their friends’ names and to get to know their families. Friends influence can help you or be an obstacle to your parenting philosophy. You have to know them if you want to use that influence to your advantage.
- Be special, be yourself. I said before that one size does not fit all. Make sure you stay unique and true to your own beliefs and values. If you believe kids should play outside rather than sit in front of the TV, model it and tell your kids that this is what makes them unique and special. Make them understand that being like everyone else is not as important in life as being true to themselves. Examine your thoughts and beliefs, and remember that it is OK to design your family life the way you want it. Make sure you test the results from time to time. If your kids are happy, it is working! Keep doing it. If they are not, find a way to adjust while still being true to your values. Be careful not to confuse between “my way or the highway” and “values”.
- Music, art and sport are more important than literacy and numeracy. School is a great place to develop all the skills kids will need in life, however, numeracy and literacy are over rated. Kids who do well in music, art or sport have great experiences of success and are more likely to do well in their schooling adventure. Research on music discovered that playing a musical instrument contributes to learning way more than any other subject learned at school. Kids who express themselves in any form of art, do better at school, and their literacy and numeracy are a positive, successful side effect.
- Invest in all your relationships. Parenting is one of the most rewarding experiences but not the only one. Although we need to dedicate time to be parents, we need to also dedicate time and effort to being partners, to being friends or a sibling or a daughter/son to our own parents. It is important to invest in all of our relationships and set a good example for our own kids. The more healthy, positive relationships we have, the better our lives become and the better examples we become for our kids.
- Manage your finances wisely. We all want to raise wealthy kids and the best place to teach that is at home. If you are responsible with your money, your kids will tend to be responsible with money. Work and earn money, never spend money you do not own, save at least 10% of your money. If your kids are young, give them pocket money and teach them to use it wisely. If they can work, encourage them to have their own money. Money management is a learned skills but you cannot learn it at school.
- Meditate and teach your kids to mediate. Mediation allows your brain to take time off to re-charge and re-arrange itself. It is easy to do and any form of mediation will do the trick. The emotional, academic, social implications of mediation can be noticed within 3 weeks. If you meditate as a parent, that will make it much easier to raise mediating kids. Here is a really good one: Close your eyes and count each breath in, starting from 1 and going up to 25. If you lose the counting, don’t be alarmed, it is only a sign that you are in a meditative state. Just start again. Do this up to 15-20 minutes, as many times as you can manage, and see how your life changes straight away.