I was talking with a friend recently and agreeing that things have changed since we were parented. There’s a bigger focus on children’s progressive thoughts and feeling these days—a priceless evolution—much of which has come from a greater understanding of what they benefit from physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It doesn’t mean that our children rule the roost or that discipline isn’t as valuable as ever to ensure that we create a strong family foundation for their bright future. Here are my five top tips for boldly parenting your children towards success:
1. Resource Yourself
As single parents, it’s important to keep ourselves equipped to handle the challenging times along with the good times. Resourcing ourselves physically is about eating healthily and finding a bit of time to exercise (running for the bus doesn’t count!). Resourcing ourselves emotionally is about communicating clearly when you need space from your children or hugs from them. It’s also about taking time with grown ups to remind yourself how smart, capable, and resilient you are. When a parent is strong and calm, they’re in the best frame of mind to handle the range of requirements presented by their children as they grow.
2. Define Boundaries
Boundaries are good. Parents need them to contain their children’s limitless thinking and children need them to feel safe. Define them clearly, but be open to negotiating them periodically as children grow up and situations change.
3. Create Clear Consequences
Discipline is always a tough subject. From “time outs” to “naughty steps” to voice raising, confiscations, and “groundings”—we’ve all got our effective techniques. The general rule is this—that crossing a boundary will have a consequence. Children have to learn that politeness, contributing to family chores (even if it’s just hanging up their bath towel when they’re done), bed times, healthy eating, sharing, completing homework, and respecting friends and family are all rules that are there for their benefit.
4. Communicate Intelligently
All parents have their own take on Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the “stork” that brings the baby. These are interesting myths that most children have accepted, questioned, and then disbelieved. Historically, they have been relatively harmless. However, sometimes these myths are shortcuts or cop outs to explaining something more complicated. How do we explain, for example, that “Mummy and Daddy are going to live in separate houses from now on and we’re going to share time with you,” or “Martin and mummy are going to get married … but no, he won’t be your father,” or “It’s not ‘better’ that your friends live with both their parents—we’re all different.” We mustn’t shy away from intelligent conversations with our children. The more we can equip ourselves to explain all the details, inclusively and without judgment, the simpler it is for our children to understand complex situations and represent them confidently to their peers.
5. Love and Encourage Like There’s No Tomorrow
Our children will develop in whatever areas they’re encouraged. Henry Ford said this—“Whether you think you can or you can’t … You’re right.” The biggest limiting factor of our children’s future achievements will come from their heads. So encourage them with “Have a shot,” “Keep trying,” “Ask the question,” “You’ll figure it out,” “You did well,” “I’ll be here when you get back,” “You were amazing” … These gifts to your children are free yet priceless!