10 simple strategies to start parenting like a champion
Today’s parents are doing it hard. Stranger danger, cyber-bullying, childhood obesity, choosing the right school and guaranteeing academic success add to a litany of fears and worries about parenting.
As they say, the past is a different country. Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s children were free range, seen and not heard and parents had a life of their own.
While parents took their duties seriously, as long as we were fed, washed and healthy they left us alone and got on with their lives. How things have changed. Instead of running free, today’s children live in a virtual world surrounded by computer games, videos, the internet and e-readers.
Helicopter parents smother their children in cotton wool, always take their child’s side of the argument in any confrontation at school, place them at the centre of the universe and rarely ever say ‘no’ to what they want.
The rise of single parent families, the pressure when both parents have to work and the increasing stress and worry associated with modern living all conspire to make parenting onerous and difficult.
When it comes to school, fears about falling standards, debates about the best way to teach reading and the stress caused by national literacy and numeracy tests (NAPLAN) and league tables outing underperforming schools add to the problem of deciding what is the best.
What’s to be done? While there is no silver bullet, there are some strategies and ideas that will help, including:
1. Say ‘no’ to children and teach them respect and self-control.
It’s no secret that young children are ego-centred and that instant gratification is what they want; saying ‘no’ and teaching self-discipline are crucial if children are to learn self-control.
2. Always have dinner at the table and make sure TVs, computers, game boys, electronic readers and mobile phones are turned off (and no computers in the bedroom).
Computers and the new technologies can be beneficial and useful but, they can also take valuable time away from face-to-face human interaction and the need for families to share time and to learn and grow together.
3.Surround children with myths, fables, legends, music, creative and practical arts.
Stories like the Odyssey, the Iliad, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Viking tales teach children about resilience, how to overcome obstacles and much about human nature. Listening to music, painting and being practical stimulates the imagination and provide time for children to be creative.
4. Let children take risks and give them the space to make mistakes.
When first learning to ride a bike, children have trainer wheels but, eventually they are removed. Being physically and mentally pushed helps children overcome fear and realise, with effort, concentration and by being brave that much can be achieved.
5. Give children a moral compass that will help them decide right from wrong.
A crucial aspect of growing up is learning the difference between right and wrong; it does not happen intuitively or by accident. Contemporary society fails to provide a clear and strong sense of ethical and moral values and, as a result, parents have primary responsibility.
6. Respect teachers and support schools in educating your child.
While parents are crucial for the success of their child’s education, schools and teachers are equally as important. It’s a partnership and parents can help by making their children ready and willing to learn (reading and talking to them from when they are born and teaching them self-discipline and respect for others). Parents should also respect teachers and not always take their child’s side when disputes arise.
7. Understand that every child is different.
Children are born with different physical, emotional and intellectual characteristics and as every parent knows, each child is unique. Respect the differences, especially when choosing a school, and understand that children don’t always follow the path you have set out.
8. Understand that you cannot live your child’s life.
Apart from marriage, having children is the most significant and life changing event that most will experience. Helicopter parents act as if they can live their child’s life for them and fail to appreciate that children, if they are to become adults, need to stand on their own two feet.
9. Realise that you are your child’s first teacher.
The early years are the foundation for success at school and in later life; research proves that reading and talking to children are crucial for intellectual development, as are memorisation, mental arithmetic and reciting poems, songs and nursery rhymes. Parents are also their children’s most important role models and mentors.
10. Enjoy and love being a parent, there’s nothing that will ever equal the experience.
There’s no doubt that the world is ever changing and the challenges facing parents have grown and become more complex and difficult to deal with. At the same time, parenting provides an experience unparalleled in what it offers in terms of fulfilment, happiness and satisfaction.
Dr Kevin Donnelly is author of recently released Educating Your Child: It’s Not Rocket Science, available from Connor Court Publishing
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