- 1) SET LIMITS
- 2) ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT YOUR CHILDREN CAN DO
- 3) “AND I’LL TRY TO FIX YOU!”…NOT
- 4) DON’T BE MRS. RIGHT ALL THE TIME
- 5) SPEAKING OF MRS. RIGHT, IT’S RIGHT TO BE WRONG
- 6) BETTER A HARSH TRUTH THAN A POSTPONED ONE
- 7) ASK THEM THE “YOU” QUESTIONS EVERY DAY
- 8) DON’T BE SHY!
- 9) “GOOD JOB!” IS HURTFUL
- 10) BE SILLY
Parenting is probably the only thing you will never quite master, no matter how much you practice it. There aren’t firm rules in place, there aren’t strict guidelines to follow always and while it’s a learning process (mostly on-the-go), parenting will often be unpredictable, especially since every child is different and most of the time, drawing inspiration from your friends with kids won’t take you anywhere.
But, in a way, this is also the beauty of it – you discover a new side to you that you never knew, while doing your best to ensure that your children will become people to be proud of. And while all this sounds frightening, in reality it’s all in your head. OK, not really ALL – especially when you wake up to find the walls decorated with nail polish. But as parents, we over-complicate ourselves more than we should, because we want so badly to get things right. The key is to keep it simple and enjoy this wonderful and occasionally bonkers full-time (and lifetime!) job called parenting. To make things easier, we compiled a list that will help you become a practical parent.
1) SET LIMITS
You might think: sure, why not – this is what practical parents do to stay in control! But, believe it or not, children also like to know their boundaries, especially when they are at an age where it’s too hard for them to use their judgment to distinguish between right or wrong. Simply put, they don’t have the mental capacity to know when they crossed the line. Cue to parent saving the day establishing house rules and ways of conduct. Setting limits also helps when it comes to creating a safe environment for them – and mind you, safe does not equal wrapping your child in a bubble wrap, to avoid injuries. Give them enough space to discover, but don’t let them reach the limit. Think of a day at the beach – building sand castles is a lot of fun and so is swimming in the sea. But if they swim too far, it can be potentially dangerous.
2) ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT YOUR CHILDREN CAN DO
How many times does it happen that you are running against the clock, because you are trying to be less than two hours late for once, but your children are not helping you? At all. As a matter of fact, for children “time is relative” manifests itself in a very extreme version. You ask them to put their clothes on and pick something nice from their closets, but after two hours of trying, they go downstairs looking like unicorns. So, in your mind, you think you know how to be a practical parent, because you take matters into your own hands and dress them yourself. WRONG! Actually, every time you do that, you are pushing your children one step back from the goal of independence. These things might not seem harmful at first, but the more you take responsibilities and the decision factor away from them, the more you risk for them to become co-dependent. OK so they don’t know how to match colors? Guide them and tell them what to look for, without picking them themselves. They wash dishes using buckets of water? Show them how it’s done, explain to them what they are doing wrong and let them continue. Doing things yourself to buy time, even though your children are perfectly capable of doing them, is a huge no-go which will give you headaches later on. Remember that the sequence Try-Fail-Learn is way better than “Let mommy do it!”- Succeed by proxy – Not do anything.
3) “AND I’LL TRY TO FIX YOU!”…NOT
Similar to the point mentioned above, don’t try to be a problem-solver for your kids ALL THE TIME. Sure, it feels good when they say “Mommy, you are so smart!”, but the priority is for THEM to be praised first and foremost for their problem-solving skills. Let your kids develop them and find their own answers and solutions. There is no rush and frustrations are OK, because as long as that feeling is there, it means that they haven’t given up. Let them try and try – trial and error is the way. Let them feel frustrated and channel that feeling towards finding a solution. After all, no one said it’s a sin not to nail it on the first attempt. They have issues with that Math problem? Give them a small nudge, push them towards the answer, but don’t blatantly say that 7*8 equals 56. By doing it the right way, you will teach them resilience and self-reliance.
4) DON’T BE MRS. RIGHT ALL THE TIME
It’s expected that you might not always be on the same page with your partner in terms of educating your children, but practical parents know when to let it go. Your partner wants to take you all out for a pizza one day? Come on, once in a while it’s fun – don’t be the ‘uncool’ parent who spoils all the fun. Pick your battles wisely. Pizza is ok. What’s not OK though is taking them to a basketball match without having done their homework for the next day. You have to keep a balance between things and avoid any of you taking the ‘Cool Parent’ crown. Remember that you are not competing against each other – you are working together for a common goal, which is to educate your children well.
5) SPEAKING OF MRS. RIGHT, IT’S RIGHT TO BE WRONG
You are not perfect. No one is. Embrace it. Be a practical parent who is human and not one who reeks of fake perfection and pretentiousness. Don’t believe that admitting your mistakes in front of your children will take anything away from your authority – it’s quite the opposite. They will have a new appreciation for you, noting that you are just like them, which means that you become someone they can relate to. How can you expect your children to own their mistakes, if you don’t practice what you preach?
6) BETTER A HARSH TRUTH THAN A POSTPONED ONE
Trust me, you’ll thank me for this. I remember when I was around 13 years old and I had to travel abroad for two months. I left my Guinea Pig in the care of my grandmother, but my pet friend sadly passed away right on the day I left. Of course, I found out about it two months later when I came back, but I was so pissed and angry for the delayed truth, that it hurt me more not to know it when it happened. Delaying a truth is so inconvenient, because in the long run, you will double the pain for the kids – they will suffer both for finding out the harsh truth, but also for having been lied to all that time. The moment you say your first lie, even if it’s to protect them, the snowball effect starts. The best thing is to say what you have to say as a parent, right as it happens, because you will never find that “perfect moment”. There will always be something. Bad weather. Bad grades. A fight with the best friend. Whenever you postpone a truth, you inadvertently start to create a chain of lies.
7) ASK THEM THE “YOU” QUESTIONS EVERY DAY
Set a personal goal of always asking your kids 3 questions daily in regards to their own persona. “Did you learn anything exciting at school today?” “Did you make any new friends?” “Did you find any difficulties throughout the day?” You have to foster social skills and engage in conversations with them as often as you can. Practical parenting is not about having a “shut up and drive” mentality, but about taking advantage of any moment, no matter if it’s during a carpool or at dinner, to make your children open up.
8) DON’T BE SHY!
You know that little girl who cried when she found out that Adam Levine was married, just to be shy and reluctant to greet him on the Ellen DeGeneres show weeks later? Introverts are introverts and sometimes, not even a nutcracker could open their mouths, because this is who they are. However, here’s a trick for those who want to be practical parents: tell your kids to always let you know what’s the eye color of the people they are speaking to. By challenging them to look at their eyes, you are establishing a contact that shy kids usually avoid.
9) “GOOD JOB!” IS HURTFUL
And not just because JK Simmons says it in “Whiplash”. The reason why good job doesn’t work as a praise is because it’s not specific. Good job for what? What did I do, exactly? What didn’t I do? It’s a praise which is way too broad. Give appropriate praise the moment it happens and don’t be cheap with words – tell them you are proud of them for doing X, X and X.
10) BE SILLY
Man or woman, you don’t refuse your child when s/he is asking you to join the Barbie tea party. It might sound ridiculous, but if the parent does it, it’s not. Plus it might even help the child develop skills. You’ve heard now Adele’s “Hello” probably about a thousand times? So what, join the karaoke and sing your lungs out. Trust me, no child wants a ‘stiff’ parent who doesn’t know how to have fun. And having kids is the perfect excuse to sometimes let your inner kid loose too.
What are the things that make you a practical parent?
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