Parenting in a social media, 24/7 instant access to criticism world isn’t easy. It seems like every day someone is coming up with some other way we are damaging our kids by doing this or not doing that.
I’ve been a parent for 24 years and in that time, I’ve had roaring success and made a few mistakes.
Here are a few things parenting dos and donts that have helped me on my parenting journey.
1. I don’t smack my kids.
I think I have smacked each of my kids a total of once in their lives, and that was a fear response because they were doing something risky, and I was too young to have the skills to react differently. I felt so guilty after those three times in total that I vowed to myself never to do it again. I know a lot of people say they were smacked and they’re fine. I was also smacked as a kid. And I’m not fine.
2. I don’t make my kids eat food they hate.
When I was a kid, my ‘stepfather’ would make me eat foods I hated at the time. As a result, I have so many negative feelings towards these foods, I can’t try them now even if they smell amazing. Also, I don’t eat food I don’t like, and I don’t think it’s fair to expect the same from my kids. I do ask they at least try it first before deciding they don’t like it, but I never force them to.
3. I do respect their body autonomy.
This meant I gave them freedom to wear what they want to wear and if you’ve ever seen my youngest’s fashion choices, you’d know I mean that literally. They chose their own hairstyles (they’re teens and young adults now, but you get what I mean). They weren’t forced to hug or kiss family and friends in greeting. This didn’t always go down with relatives, especially on my youngest’s dad’s side, but it didn’t matter. I stayed firm on this and made sure they understood consent isn’t just for relationships.
4. I do let the small stuff go.
If we’ve had an argument and they storm off and slam their door, part of me wants to follow and berate them for doing that. But I don’t because they are allowed to have a safe space to vent their frustrations and as long as they don’t knock the door off its hinges, or repeatedly slam it, I ignore it. I had the same philosophy when they used to scream “I hate you!” before running off and slamming their door, (most of us have done it at least once when we were young and not getting what we wanted). I follow it with “that’s a shame, but I still love you”.
Repeated disrespect is not tolerated, but things they say in the heat of the moment are the things I try to let go. Chances are, they didn’t mean it as much as they thought they meant it in the moment.
5. I do give them privacy and confidentiality.
In my house, I have a sanctuary rule where my kids can talk to me about anything, and I won’t judge them or hold it against them. We talk about the issue and if they need to be held accountable for something, we work that out too. If they tell me something they don’t want anyone else to know, no one else knows. I do let them know if I think they are going to hurt themselves or someone else, I can’t keep that a secret, but everything else is in a steel trap.
6. I do follow my instincts.
There’s no one guidebook to parenting. In fact, there are dozens of guidebooks, often with conflicting messages. The one thing I’ve always tried to do is to follow my gut when it comes to my kids.
We do the best with the information we have and with every generation, this changes. When we learn more about how our actions as parents affect our kids for their entire lives, it’s super important we remember they are their own people and it’s our job to guide them into adulthood.
No matter your parenting style, remember they are kids. They will make mistakes and they will definitely surprise you. It’s how you react that sets the benchmark for you as a parent. Happy, healthy parent/child relationships are a compromise of expectation, safety and comfort. Work with your kids to create a home you all enjoy living in.
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