Back to School is a good time to reevaluate how purposeful our parenting is. The one thing all parents have in common is that we are human. While we may steadfastly embrace a particular philosophy when it comes to our children, we are not robots. We can’t program ourselves to be perfect or even perfectly consistent. Chances are we are going to slip up. At some point, we will overreact, underreact, contradict ourselves, or simply lose it because in the heat of the moment we are incapable of identifying or executing what we – in hindsight – will determine is the right thing to do. We can, however, make a conscious effort to minimize the times we act in ways that are unproductive or unhelpful by maximizing the opportunities to act purposefully.
Living with purpose – being proactive rather than reactive – is important for a happy, successful life, so it makes sense that a purposeful approach to parenting is a good strategy for raising happy, successful kids. Here are three tips to get you started.
1. Learn to pause
Erika Krull, a licensed mental health counselor, suggests that when you are tempted to react, simply stop instead. Take a few minutes to identify what is causing your temper to flare. If it is an actual frustration with something your child is doing, Krull suggests that, rather than shouting out random consequences, it is better to take the time to come up with reasonable consequences that you can enforce for a specific period of time. Further, she recommends helping your child “see how each little problem adds up to a big problem.” (Krull, 2009) Show your child how his/her actions effect the rest of the family.
For maximum impact, find times when you and your child are able to have a calm, respectful conversation, away from distractions. Identify what still needs improvement and acknowledge any successes. Enforce the previously stated consequences, or reinstate privileges accordingly.
2. Hone your listening skills
Like parents, kids are human and will sometimes act badly despite everyone’s best efforts. When you respond with intention rather than reacting out of frustration, you are more likely to diffuse a situation rather than escalate it, and more quickly get to a place where calmer heads prevail. For starters, listen. The best way to get your kids to listen to you is to listen to them (Mann, 2007). While it is ultimately up to the parent to set boundaries and make many of the decisions, a willingness to listen to your children’s concerns and ideas will go a long way toward improving your overall communication, motivating them to make good decisions, and teaching them to act with purpose.
3. Think big
Rose Watson, author of Purposeful Parenting: Strategies for Raising Children Who Achieve – A Mother’s Memoir, came from a family of seven children, all of whom attended college. She and her siblings had a total of 19 children, all of whom attended college and are “actively pursuing careers and family goals.” She says the parenting style she brought to her own family was “proactive, it was intentional, and it was planned.”
Watson, aka Dr. Mom, advises having a vision for success for each child and to think big. Then, support that vision with resources. Involve the whole family so that each person has a stake in everyone’s success. (Watson, 2014)
Remember, the goal here is not perfection. It is simply to be the best parent you can be. Most people raise their kids with a mixture of conviction and doubt that what they are doing is the right thing. When something doesn’t go well, apologize, forgive and try again.