These simple parenting habits can really help you raise happy, resilient and confident kids.
Ok, so I’ll admit it, there are many variables to being a great parent – being a fantastic parent is a very subjective and therefore a rather difficult concept to define.
Each child and parent has their own unique story and experiences, combined with their own culture, expectations and beliefs. This makes us who we are, and should be celebrated – both the positive and the negative aspects of us.
But regardless of the uniquely individual elements which influence each of us, I believe there are some parenting habits which are universally helpful to being a wonderful parent – read on to find out more.
Do I need to be a perfect parent to raise happy kids?
Let me just start by saying there is no such thing as a perfect parent – we all bring our own issues to the table from our own childhoods. Nobody is perfect, and therefore the perfect parent is an impossible concept.
Some of you may have heard me mention being a ‘good enough’ parent before, and this is something I can’t recommend enough. Children NEED to experience small doses of having to wait, being disappointed, not getting their own way, etc – it’s actually helpful for their development. In my opinion, providing your child with small challenges like this does make you an awesome parent!
I tend to work on a 80:20 ratio when it comes to parenting. I want to be a really effective and supportive parent, doing all the ‘right’ things for my children, but that isn’t realistic 100% of the time. With that in mind, I aim for 80% – if I’m a great parent 80% of the time, my children will be more than able to accept the 20% where I’m not parenting at my full potential (and actually, they will benefit from that time!).
To me, being a GOOD parent means that you are being the BEST parent to your child – you are giving them the perfect mix of meeting their needs with just a sprinkle of challenge, which will provide them with the perfect, safe opportunities to grow in confidence and resilience.
(For more on promoting resilience, please click here).
How can I be a great parent (80% of the time!)?
If you want to embed some good parenting habits into your usual routines to make your 80% parenting really effective, here are my top tips. These are things that I have had the pleasure to observe over my many years of working with children and families – they are positive parenting habits which lead to happy and confident children, and I believe they really work!
Remember though, you are a good enough parent, and you are capable of raising amazing and happy children – though every one of us benefits from a little bit of support to realise our full potential sometimes.
Listen to your child. Honestly, this cannot be understated. Really listening means focussing on your child without distraction: turn off your tv, and stop scrolling on your phone – you will notice the difference, I promise, and so will your child. Dedicate a small amount of time in each day where you are free from distraction together (such as meal times, after homework or just before bed). Make sure this is a time which works for you and your family, and you can commit to regularly – I believe that the more natural this comes as part of your daily routine, the more everyone will stick to it. Remember, really listening as a parent means your child feels really heard! (For advice on what your child might be trying to communicate through whinging and negative behaviour, click here)
Spend quality time with your child. As with listening, this needs to be distraction free time, ideally every day to maintain a strong sense of connection with your child. Again however, this needs to be something that works for your family. For example, you could have a regular shared hobby time at a set time each day (for ideas on family hobbies, click here), you could have a ‘no work from home’ day each week where you dedicate time to each other, or you could have a movie night once a week where you share your thoughts after. Essentially, the how isn’t important – as long as you are regularly spending quality time together.
Have meaningful conversations. Sometimes, it is easy for the parent – child dynamic to become a little bit imbalanced. Stop and reflect honestly here for a second – how many times a day do you ask your child closed questions, such as ‘have you got your shoes on?’, or give them commands, such as ‘go and brush your teeth’? Now, consider times where you ask them genuine open questions, such as ‘what’s the best thing that’s happened to you today?’ – do you use more closed or open conversations with your child? I think you may be quite shocked at the prevalence of closed questions in your relationship. Aim for a good dose of open questions every single day to build your relationship, as this will give your child the opportunity to share their thoughts, feelings and opinions, rather than simply answering yes or no, and will contribute to a feeling of strong bonds and contentment. (For conversation starters which promote bonding, click here)
Give them positive feedback. People need positive feedback, and children are no different. I am a great fan of really specific feedback, so children know exactly what it is you are pleased about. For example, instead of simply saying ‘well done!’, try something like ‘I really liked when you… good job!’. This will help your child to reflect and build on their strengths, and will instil a sense of satisfaction and pride which will contribute to overall happiness and confidence.
Show them affection. As well as time and attention, children need lots of physical affection to make them feel safe, secure and loved. I’m sure this comes naturally to many of you, however there are some among us who don’t find this quite as easy. If you are one of these people, try to build physical contact into your routine, such as a hug and kiss before bed, or a cuddle with a story each morning, and it will soon become second nature. I find that it helps to remember that children (like adults!) release chemicals when they receive a hug, which help them to feel happy and loved, and supports relationship building and bonding between you both.
Give your children space and freedom. Children need to feel as if they are able to make their own choices and to be independent – after all, would you like it if somebody told you what to do all day, every day? By offering your child the chance to be self reliant and responsible, you are empowering them to learn in their own way and preparing them to cope with the choices they will encounter as they grow and develop. (You can find more advice on encouraging independence here).
Set clear boundaries. When children have clear boundaries and understand rules and consequences, they feel safe and content. Your children will not hate you for having rules (although I will admit that there will be times when it feels like they do!), rather they will build respect for you for offering them security and routine. You will also be teaching your child a clear message about having self respect and self confidence, and they will see that you mean what you say and you take action when it is necessary. (For more tips on setting positive behaviour boundaries, click here).
Encourage a positive outlook. There is a lot to be said for ‘seeing the glass half full’ in life – a child with this attitude will truly experience life in full colour. Try not to sweat the small things as a parent (easier said than done sometimes, I know!), and be positive wherever and whenever you can. Encourage your child to be positive about people, situations, and experiences – even negative experiences usually have a positive lesson to learn from them, so be intentional with your positivity. Try to encourage your child to look on the bright side of situations, to be grateful for what they have, and to be thankful for who they know. (Click here to read more on encouraging positive traits such as patience, sharing, creativity and a thirst for learning)
Do you have any tips of things that have really supported your child to grow into a happy and confident person? Please share them in your reply box below!
Love, Heather x