Smart parenting is about finding that fine line between authoritarian and permissive parenting styles. Below are a few tips that will help your children grow into happy and balanced adults.
We’re constantly exposed to parenting advice, whether it’s in books, magazines, online websites or through family and friends. At the end of the day, we know our children best, and we have to find out what works for us as parents. There is no such thing as a perfect parent and smart parenting is not “one-size-fits-all.”
Smart parenting is about finding that fine line between being too strict with your children and ‘mollycoddling’ them. You don’t want your children to fear you, but you do want them to respect you.
You don’t want to control them and measure them against other children but recognize their differences and respect them. And of course, you want to be aware of what they can handle alone, what they can handle with some support, and what they cannot yet handle.
Here are some smart parenting tips on how to help your children thrive.
1. Consider the message you’re sending
What are you telling your children? What message are you sending them through your actions? Do the two match up? The parenting challenges may vary, strategies may be different, but the message you send should remain the same.
You are their first role model, and they will pick up your values, habits, and language. This can be positive or negative. If you want to foster kindness and respect for others, you have to practice this yourself.
You can teach them almost anything by doing it yourself. They learn from seeing how you live your life and how you interact with others.
The messages you want to send your children are:
- I will always love you no matter what you do or say.
- I may not always agree with your choices, but I am always on your side.
- The challenges you’re facing are difficult, but I believe you can handle them.
- There is always hope, and you’re never stuck where you are.
Constantly sending these messages creates a nurturing environment where your children feel loved and supported and are able to grow and develop without fear.
2. Don’t Micromanage
Certain rules and boundaries are necessary when children are growing up. Many of these are for their own safety. If they disobey the rules, they should be enforced, even if the child gets upset.
But as children mature, parents shouldn’t try to micromanage their lives. This results in children who lack motivation. If they constantly feel stifled and restricted, they don’t have the opportunity to explore their world and they are more than likely to rebel at some point.
A child’s belief in his or her ability to succeed is not encouraged in a household where parents overprotect or help too much. Self-efficacy is built when a child’s own actions lead to outcomes, not the parent’s actions on his or her behalf.
Smart parenting is about being more concerned about children having the mindset, skills, and habits they need to navigate life than trying to enforce petty rules. Children need to be able to think, plan, decide, do, struggle, make mistakes and experience life for themselves.
Smart parenting is not about making your kids become what you want them to become. It’s about giving them the guidance and support for them to become themselves.
3. Have Bonding Time
Time is precious, especially if you’re both working parents. There is no better way to show your children your love than to spend time with them. Be conscious of spending time bonding and having fun, rather than fighting or nagging.
Don’t just wait for a bonding opportunity to come along but make it happen. Plan out activities you and your children can enjoy together.
For example, schedule Sunday afternoons as family time. It’s during these bonding times that your children are most receptive to you. There’s nothing that promotes the development and learning more than spending time with a parent.
One activity that can create a strong bond between parent and child is reading together. A love of books will last a lifetime and reading helps to stimulate healthy brain development.
4. Establish Routines
Children thrive on routine because it makes them feel safe. A consistent routine means they know what to expect. This predictability allows them to explore their world without worry.
For example, establish a reassuring bedtime routine of going to the toilet, brushing teeth and jumping into bed for a story with a goodnight kiss afterward and your child will go happily off to bed.
5. Assign Chores
When children are used to doing chores from a young age, it fosters a sense of responsibility and helps them to grow up to be capable adults.
Even children younger than five are able to do certain tasks, and it makes a little one feel part of the family. When everyone in the family has chores to do, it creates the mindset that every member needs to contribute towards the good of the whole family unit.
6. Discipline without anger
Misbehavior should be dealt with by consequences based on rules, rather than by lashing out in anger. When you find yourself growing angry, try to take a beat and cool down.
Shouting at your children and using harsh words is not constructive. If you can control your own emotions and discipline without anger, you’re showing your child how to manage emotions, not that you can ‘win.’
7. Allow Children to Struggle
When we constantly interfere and solve all our children’s problems, they don’t have the opportunity to find their own solutions. Watching them struggle is incredibly difficult, but when they can solve their own problems, they develop more self-confidence and learn skills that help them to cope in later life.
It’s good for our children to know that it’s fine to make mistakes, own up to them and learn from them. They will develop more resilience and determination by having to struggle and try to find answers themselves than always expecting someone else to sort out problems for them.
8. Show Affection and Praise them
A child who is hugged and praised usually has a positive self-concept. Praise your children when you know they have made a real effort and give them plenty of hugs.
Show your children unconditional love, and they will love themselves, enabling them to love others. A child who knows he or she is loved is more receptive to what you have to impart.
9. Don’t compare them to others
It’s natural to want to compare our children with others, and we’re proud of them when we see them excel. However, if we constantly keep comparing them to others and worry when they don’t measure up, it’s unhealthy.
Children all develop differently, and if you keep comparing them to others, you will subject yourself to unnecessary worry and them to unnecessary pressure.
10. Accept that Children have Different Temperaments
You need to understand how to manage a child with a certain temperament, rather than trying to change it. For example, you may have to introduce your introverted child more gently to new experiences and people than his or her extrovert brother or sister.
Accept that your child may have a different temperament to you and that what comes naturally to you may be a struggle for him or her.
11. Understand the Development Age
Children develop different skills at different stages and ages. Smart parenting is about seeing each stage of development as critical to equip and encourage your child towards independence.
When a child is clinging to you, you won’t be upset because you will understand he or she is going through separation anxiety. When a child begins testing you, you will know it’s because he or she is learning boundaries.
12. Discuss Emotions
Your children probably don’t even know the names of the emotions they’re experiencing. They are not born with this knowledge, and you can help them by drawing their attention to what they’re feeling at a specific time and putting a name to it.
“When you hit your brother, you were feeling angry because he took your toy.” Children who aren’t taught how to understand and manage their emotions often battle in later life. Helping them to develop emotional intelligence will serve them, no matter what path they choose in life.
13. Expand your Child’s Circle
Perhaps a new child has joined your child’s class and is a little withdrawn and hasn’t made any friends yet. Encourage your child to reach out and make friends with him or her. You could even include an extra snack in your child’s lunchbox to share.
This creates an awareness of the needs of others, beyond just family members. Your child will begin to understand that other people may be difficult to get to know at first or be unfamiliar but being caring and kind is a good way to start.
14. Practice Self-Care
When parents ignore their own needs, it invariably results in depression, burnout or chronic stress. You need to pay attention to your own well-being if you want to be a smart parent. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have the energy to take the best care of your child.
Those parents who take advantage of smart parenting tips raise children who are respectful of others, emotionally healthy, responsible for their actions and able to live productive lives.
They instill values, skills, and character in their children by providing a nurturing loving atmosphere and being role models with actions and words that match up. They help their children to develop independence, self-reliance, empathy and a sense of responsibility.