Parenting is not an easy job, and yes it is a job. It often comes with struggles to relate to your children without being caught in the ‘parent’ trap… and no, not the 1961 Hayley Mills classic or the 1998 Lindsay Lohan remake, which to be honest wasn’t bad, but give me the classic anyday.
The trap of always being the bad guy or the trap of being the friend instead of a parent. It is a difficult thing to balance and sometimes it can feel overwhelming. No one wants to fail their children.
You want your children to look to you for guidance and for understanding. You want your children to know whatever happens you have their best interest at heart. You are their safe place… their constant.
But you also want your children to grow into strong independent adults, who make the world a better place.
So how do you balance this? Giving your child enough independence and trust while still giving them the structure children need to thrive… Listen if I had the answers to this, I would be writing a book and not just this editorial.
But as a mom, who raised her son by herself and helped raise other people’s children as well, I can give you some advice.
1. Every child is different and some need more structure than others. You know your child better than anyone, and if you don’t already take time to get to know them. Trust me having a true understanding of who they are will help you guide them when they need it.
2. Set boundaries and expectations for your children. When boundaries are broken, discuss and implement consequences. When expectations aren’t met, be understanding and talk about why.
3. Give your child the ability to make decisions, even at an early age. I am not talking about the big things, but if they want to wear the tacky shirt or mismatched socks allow it. They will feel empowered and it will help them to gain confidence.
4. Find something to bond over with. Do you know how many dinosaur names I learned when Dakota was little or how many times I played Yu-Gi-Oh with him… a lot! Find something that interests them, encourage it and share in it.
5. Read to them and with them. I know this one seems more like a teaching thing but trust me, when you and your child read together a bond is formed. Form a mommy and me or daddy and me book club. I read the same books as my kids even into high school. We would discuss them and it really helped me know who they were becoming by the books they chose to read.
And remember if you try and do your best, it is enough. Show your children how to be a good person by being a good person.
One of my favorite scenes from any television show was from the season finale of Boy Meets World, where Mr. Feeny addresses his students; Corey, Shawn, Topanga and Eric. The students ask their teacher if he has anything else he wants to teach them.
“Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good.”
Topanga questions him and asks if he meant, do well.
“No, I mean do good.”
As a parent, I followed Mr. Feeny’s advice. I believed in my ability to be a good parent. I had a dream my son would become a person I would be proud of… which I am happy to say came true. I always tried my best to be the constant and safe place for my son and tried to allow him to become who he wanted to be. But most importantly, I taught him to do good in this world.