Your goal for your children is to raise strong, self-confident, resilient, independent humans who contribute to society, right? This doesn’t just happen somewhere in the teen years. It starts from setting family values that begin with love, acceptance, support, and security from which they launch into their adult lives. This is their foundation.
Your family values may need some intentional focus and repair to find the peace and cooperation you are looking for. Things don’t change by simply hoping they will. Raising a happy family takes intentional planning and work.
Look at the following elements of parenting to see where your focus needs to be now. Family values can change. Don’t take the whole job on at once.
A. The Foundation: You, the parent.
- Your modeling is the most important teacher for your child. It’s not what you say but what you do, who you are that teaches children how to be. You must behave in the way you hope your children to behave.
- Your self-control ultimately determines your child’s self-control. If you are a yeller, take your child’s behavior personally and get your buttons pushed, if you care more about what others think than what your child needs, the repair may be looking at your own past and healing old belief patterns.
- If you find it hard to empathize and feel compassion when your child acts out, you likely missed out on this in your childhood.
- How kind are you to family members? Do you live a double standard to look good to outsiders but let your respect go within your four walls?
- Unstable, angry, contentious relationships whether married or divorced, teach children how to be with others.
- Do your children see you living your values? Do you model acceptance of others? Are you kind and generous?
Our baggage is not what our parents did to us, it is how we perceived those experiences. What family values did you get about yourself from parents, teachers, siblings? Those family values translate into your buttons. Those buttons need examination to heal. Your self-awareness, your healing may be what you need to set the intentions you want.
B. The Foundation: A stable home environment
- If life is unpredictable, children can’t know what to expect from you or their daily lives, and they become anxious and insecure.
- Provide structure and routine to your days? Do you have at least a few meals together as a family? Do your children know what to expect from you if they make a mistake, do something wrong? Set expectations together for schoolwork, screentime, morning and bedtime routines.
- Your child’s school must support their feeling of belonging, agency and understanding themselves in relation to peers. Feeling isolated, misunderstood, or unheard is not conducive to learning. Make sure your children are in an environment that serves them rather than asking them to work for the environment.
- Do your children feel cherished at home? Do they trust you to share what they need to. What is your family atmosphere?
C. The Foundation: Your Parenting Methods
- The decision about how to maintain discipline with your children is yours. Is it what you want it to be? Or are you in daily reaction mode feeling out of control?
- There are three main methods of parenting. Research shows that authoritarian and permissive parenting styles are not healthy for children. A more middle ground of an authoritative approach is.
- Arbitrary consequences and punitive measures undermine your child’s sense of security and capability. Your child may feel unheard, misunderstood and alone. Giving up and giving in from exasperation undermines your authority. In any strong relationship, both parties must be heard and make compromises or negotiate to come to an agreement. Problem solving accomplishes this, but requires a letting go of control.
- Establishing fair and logical limits on behavior and having appropriate expectations of your child means understanding temperament and child development.
D. The Foundation: Creating strong boundaries and teaching responsibility
- Take responsibility for your feelings, thoughts, and behavior and do not blame them on your child.
- Allow your child to take responsibility for their feelings, thoughts, and behavior and do not fix your child’s problems. Instead, support your child, listen to their problems, and guide them in finding solutions as age allows. Allow them to make decisions and mistakes.
- To create strong boundaries, a basic trust in your child’s capability to solve problems with your support is essential. Constant teaching and direction keep them dependent on you—or holding you at arm’s length.
- Teaching responsibility means giving children agency in the family by #1 requiring their help by contributing to family operations, #2 holding them accountable for their actions, #3 holding yourself accountable for yours.
- Create balance. Ensure that no family member’s needs and wants are any more or less important than another’s.
E. The Foundation: Unconditional acceptance
- Accepting your child for who he is, not who you wish he was, is essential for reaching your goal.
- “Misbehavior” never defines a child. It is a mistake.
- Acceptance means understanding that this individual child given current conditions, is behaving unacceptably due to a problem he is having. When children don’t get their fundamental needs met their behavior shows it.
- Whether your child is easy or tough, it’s important to understand each one’s temperament and disposition to hold appropriate expectations of your child’s behavior. This requires understanding of child development to know what is realistic.
- Acceptance requires allowance for your child’s emotional expressions. A meltdown signals unexpressed tension needing release, never suppression.
Being intentional about your parenting and family values goes a long way toward your child’s developing mental health. If you slide through it, hoping this will end or there’s nothing I can do, you will end up with tough problems down the road. Most of us do not begin this parenting journey well-equipped. It takes awareness, knowledge, patience and practice, practice, practice. Do the work. There is nothing more important.