Have you ever noticed how many parenting philosophies are out there? This can be overwhelming, especially for new parents. Here are seven key elements to look for when you’re pursuing any parent education or support material:
■ It does not promise a one-size-fits-all approach. Programs that promise to get your child to do exactly what you want in 30 days, for example, will leave you disappointed and frustrated. Children — and parents — have different temperaments and varying cultural norms. One method will not work for every family.
However, there are some universal guidelines that will work: provide unconditional love, set boundaries and expectations, validate your child’s emotions by reflecting back what you heard them say, avoid critical and contemptuous comments and show and tell your child you noticed they worked hard to learn something new or persevered when times were tough.
■ It provides examples of how to set and communicate expectations and limits. It’s often difficult to know what to say. Phrases that can come in handy include “I expect (fill in the blank),” and “Let’s think of a couple ways you can (fill in blank).”
■ It discusses parenting in the context of a relationship between you and your child. Parenting includes more than setting rules and consequences. Building a safe and comfortable relationship with your child is crucial. Kids need their parents when they have a problem. Conveying mutual respect and listening to what your child has to say (sometimes through crying, whining and anger) will set the stage for your relationship to be one with trust, love and safety during easy and difficult times.
■ It gives you tips on how to solve problems. This looks like: 1) identifying the problem, 2) stating the goal, 3) brainstorming solutions, 4) picking a solution and 5) seeing how the solution worked. There always will be problems to solve. This tool will be in your child’s toolbox for a lifetime.
■ It does not promote physical discipline. There is unequivocal agreement that this has the potential to be physically and emotionally harmful. There are many alternatives to this kind of parenting method. Reach out to a child care or primary care provider or a trusted friend for resources.
■ It encourages you to notice your thoughts, feelings and actions. Parenting can be stressful, joyous, intimidating, worrisome, irritating and exhausting. Our state of mind affects how we parent. Paying attention, being aware of your experience and not judging yourself for perceived shortcomings will soften the edges of a hard day and allow you to notice the beautiful moments.
■ It promotes a sense of wonder about your child. Your child is unique and special as his or her own person. Observing, getting to know, accepting and supporting who your child is will become one of the greatest gifts you can give your child and yourself.
Barbara Gueldner, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist specializing in children and families. She is a member of First Impressions Early Childhood Council of Routt County. Follow her blog at http://successfulkidstoday.wordpress.com.