Every generation of parents has a decision to make: we can continue with the methods that instilled fear and doubt, or we can break them by choosing to constructively build on them. When we choose to use more “gentle” methods, we are healing ourselves as well as allowing our children — and later their children — to heal from the wounds that our forefathers (and mothers) have ingrained in us.
And before I share ways that I am breaking certain cycles of parenting that were used with me as a child, I want to give my parents their due acknowledgement: I would not be who I am or where I am without them.
I like to believe that I am deconstructing the parenting methods that were used with me and constructing them to fit the way I want to lead my children.
5 Ways That I Parent Differently From My Parents
1. Breaking the use of “good/bad” language. Instead of telling my children that things are “good” or “bad,” I explain to them the pros and cons of their decisions. I am cutting out the “good/bad” language because I do not want my children to think they are bad people for doing something. An example would be my kids having too much candy. (I still overindulge sometimes.) It’s easier for children to make the connection that they shouldn’t eat too much candy because their stomachs may hurt instead of them worrying about why they may be a bad person for eating too much candy. (Children are concrete thinkers.)
2. Not giving my children unnecessary things to worry about. My 5-year-old does not need to worry about how much exercise or how many servings of vegetables he gets a day. As his mother, I should be the one responsible in monitoring this. I do not want my children having unnecessary worries — there will be plenty of time for that as an adult. I want to instill a mindful attitude so that my children are comfortable with simply being in the moment. I would like for them to focus on playing instead of exercising, or enjoying their food instead of wondering whether that food makes up a balanced meal.
3. Not making it about the grades but about the principle. If my child did not get an “A” on his spelling test, that will be all right. I want to practice acknowledging his attempt and work with my child to find ways that will help him study more efficiently, or understand better. Is he a visual, audible, or tactile learner? I want to be the one to figure this out with him. I want him to understand that grades do not define a person’s worth. I want him to be comfortable in asking for help when he needs it, and know that he is never alone.
4. Not shooing my children away from doing things with me. I am working on teaching my children how to do things around the house with me. It takes patience and time, but it’s worth the investment. For example, my 2-year-old loves to be in the kitchen with me. At first this was frustrating because I saw her as a nuisance, but my perspective changed when I remembered that I am one of her most influential teachers. My daughter is now a regular at helping me cut vegetables and stirring food on the stove. This may sound nerve-racking to some because there are knives and flames involved, but I am happy to report that including my daughter in the kitchen has taught her not to touch knives or get close to flames without an adult to keep her safe.
5. Engaging with my children before beginning house chores. I know I will not always have the time or patience to directly include my children in what I am doing. When there are time constraints, I allow my kids to see what it is that I am doing and explain that that moment is not right for me to teach them. I give them a task so that they feel included. Children love to feel like they are being helpful.
What is one parenting method that your parents used with you that you will build on for your children? —Jasmin