Entries in parenting (12)
In honor of “National Child Abuse Prevention” month I wanted to discuss some important
principles of being a nurturing parent. First off, I wanted to acknowledge the fact that parenting
is one of the most important and stressful roles a person will have in his life. That is why it is
necessary for a parent to have some firm principles in place when raising children. There are
seven principles in particular that I want to focus on: (1) Feelings of Attachment, (2) Empathy,
(3) Nurturing Oneself, (4) Discipline, (5) Expressing Feelings, (6) Expectations and Self-Worth,
(7) Gentle Touch.
1) Feelings of attachment: It is essential to create healthy bonds with your children usually
through communication and quality time. Express your love and appreciation for them on a
2) Empathy: Practicing empathy with children teaches them that their pain is important, as well
as, teaches them to have compassion for other people.
3) Nurturing Oneself: There is a false belief that a parent cannot take any time for himself or else
he is not a “good” parent. That is not true. Even though being a parent is a full-time job, it is
important for the parent to practice self-care. Just as a parent schedules football practices and
ballet lessons for his child, he benefits from scheduling time for himself.
4) Discipline: Creating boundaries, rules, and a family moral code of conduct instills a sense
of direction and belonging in a family. When discussing these rules, share with the children
the consequence that will occur if the rule is not followed. Be sure to follow through on the
consequence or else the process is futile. A key note to remember is that it is not the severity of
the consequence that makes an impact it is the certainty of the consequence.
5) Expressing Feelings: Support children in their need to express their feelings; even if the
feeling is different than your own. A good rule-of-thumb to follow is while expressing
themselves the children are not permitted to cause harm to themselves, others (such as siblings)
nor can they cause damage to property. In training your children in properly expressing
themselves, educate them on emotional competence (i.e., give them words to express
6) Expectations and Self-Worth: Setting expectations for your children sends the message that
you believe in them and have faith that they are capable of accomplishing goals. It increases
their self-worth and builds their self-esteem.
7) Gentle Touch: The physical connection between a parent and child is essential to emotional
growth and bonding experience. Giving frequent hugs and gentle squeezes is an outwardly
expression or love that provides safety and comfort to the children.
It takes time and patience when raising children. Cut yourself some slack, but remember to do
the same for your children.
As parents, we spend great time and effort trying to come up the right gift for our child during times of special celebration. Finding one that will provide both immediate and long-term enjoyment is so difficult that we will often settle for just getting that thing they really, really want. We do this with the awareness that before next year is half over, the gift will probably be forgotten.
But there is one gift, more than any other, that will have tremendous long-lasting value to your children. The best gift a child can receive is a healthy relationship between the parents. Is this on your gift list? Some parents have resigned themselves to a relationship of disappointment or disconnection, but change is possible. It is a gift you may still be able to give.
I would never suggest that a healthy marriage can be realized by following a few easy steps. As a counselor, I know better than that. But I also know that change often begins with a few specific goals. So if you want to give this gift for your child, here are a three changes to consider.
- Switch Your Focus.
Spend less time looking back on this hurts and disappointments of your marriage and look more toward the possibilities of your future. Determine to settle unresolved issues that compromise your connection to each other. This will likely require some apologies and forgiveness, but be willing to do whatever it takes to turn your thoughts and conversations to the hope that is ahead rather than hurts that are behind you.
- Soothe Your Friction.
If stress or conflict causes you to either move away from each other or against each other, commit yourselves to learning how to move toward each other instead. Your child should be aware of disagreements without being exposed to battles. Set aside a weekly time when the two of you will privately check in with each other and work through any necessary issues. If you don't know how to resolve conflict, ask for help.
- Secure Your Friendship.
Commit to making daily investments into your relationship. Give affirmation and affection to each other without waiting for it to "feel natural." Be intentional with your intimacy, even if that means you start by making a daily checklist of the things you will do or say for their benefit.
I recently counseled a young woman whose father had been killed in a car accident. Out of her profound grief, she was still able to express gratitude for those good things her father had given her. "What do you remember most about him?" I asked. She smile through her tears, "I watched him love my mother."
She had been given the best gift.
It is a constant struggle to muster up the energy to parent. Boundaries need to be stated, reinforced, restated, re-reinforced, and on and on it goes until you think you may keel over or have a stroke. Like I said, parenting is not for the faint of heart. It may be possible that some preemptive planning and work could make all of the difference for some children. We all have heard of time-outs and restrictions, but there is some work we could do to anticipate some behavior.
There seems to me to be a missing piece to disciplining and parenting that I have realized from sheer necessity. Both of my daughters are highly sensitive to their surroundings (Confession: Even a loud TV can send me over the edge, so I can’t blame their father on this one).
Maybe you have experienced the same thing. Children pick up stress, anxiety, tension, over-scheduling, a dirty house, noise, etc., and they are more prone to ACT OUT. For instance, when my husband and I are overly busy, they are more inclined to be grumpy and impatient. When the house is messy, they seem more easily distracted and lazy. I know these things are true for me, but as we mature, we find ways to cope with imperfect surroundings. But our children need our help to do their best!
So, here are a few suggestions. If your child has difficulty being in certain situations (loud concerts, crowded places, jam-packed days going from one place to another, cluttered room, etc.), assess if there is anything you can do to reduce the problem. Plan ahead and do errands during your lunch hour when they are at school so that you can give them more of your attention in the evenings. Or, do an experiment! If your kitchen is usually dirty when they do their homework, try keeping it de-cluttered and clean for 1 week and see if they take less time to complete their work. Have a conversation about it at the end of the week. Seek and find your child or teenager’s unique needs.
In situations that cannot be avoided, it is important to plan ahead. Just having conversations about stressors can relieve some anxiety for children. In the process, you are teaching them to be more aware internally and more proactive and assertive for things they need.
Childhood sexual abuse ranks right up there for the top fears of parents. There are many ways that we can love our children. Protecting them from harm should be one of our expressions of love. Sexual abuse is a violation of boundaries and a ripping away of innocence. Here are several ways that you can reduce the risk of someone sexually violating the children in your life.
1. Minimize and monitor who your child is with at ALL TIMES. They should never be alone with those you do not know well. Schools and sports teams take measures to prevent authority figures from being alone with children, but this cannot be counted on completely.
2. Be VERY wary of sleepovers! Many adults state that they were sexually abused during a sleepover. I reserve this occasion for families that I completely trust. I explain to the parents what I am comfortable with and offer to pick my children up late.
3. Perpetrators are known to target children in unhappy and disconnected families. Be involved in your children’s relationships, activities, and interests. Being an involved parent has many rewards!
4. Have periodic discussions about boundaries with our bodies, sex, and appropriate touching. Talk naturally and without embarrassment or shame. Let them know that they can ask you any question or tell you anything.
5. My personal opinion is that we need to be even more diligent with children that have vulnerable, trusting, and compassionate personalities. This also applies to children with disabilities.
6. Do not assume that strangers or acquaintances are the only people you need to shelter your children from. Close friends and family are most likely to be the perpetrators.
7. Single parents need to be “on guard” with the people around your children. If you are single and dating, be very careful who you date and expose your children to. Without any objective data in front of me, I have many clients that have been abused by a step-parent. Do not ignore ANY questionable feelings and situations that occur. Take your time in dating and making marriage decisions!
8. Sexual abuse happens to boys as well as girls. Protect your sons, too!
9. ALWAYS go with your gut! Teach your children how to discern healthy people and those that they “feel a little funny around.” I have regular conversations with my children about those we come into contact with. This goes for both those I consider trustworthy and those that I feel may be dangerous or unhealthy. This teaches them in the moment and builds their “gut skills”. If you are not naturally discerning, have someone that you know well come in and teach your child those skills.
10. Pray. I pray often for God to protect each member of my family.
I pray that for you, also!
Nobody understands the divide-and-conquer strategy better than the children in your home. They have an instinct for it. When one parent stands in opposition to a desired outcome, a child will attempt an alliance with the other. If successful, the strategy is reinforced and is likely to become a repeated pattern of family interaction, often leading parents into states of confusion or even conflict between themselves.
Your child needs parents who know how to stand firm together. A healthy alliance between father and mother creates a secure environment in which children are more likely to attain appropriate emotional and behavioral balances as they grow. So, how strong is your parental alliance? Do the two of you cooperate well, or do you often work against each other?
If you want to become a stronger team, give attention to these four important components:
1. Consistent Communication
As parents, you need to have regular conversations about your children. At least once a week, you should spend time talking about what they need, how you are experiencing them, their challenges and achievements, and the roles each of you are playing in their lives. It is important to maintain a common pool of knowledge about your children and a shared perspective regarding their future.
2. United Responses
Work hard at coming to agreement on you both respond to the needs and requests of your children. When they ask for a decision, they should hear the same choice coming from both of you. If you're not sure of the other parent's opinion, be sure to insist on discussing it with them before giving a response. Don't get caught in the "but I need an answer now" trap; if you do, your children will learn to always wait until the last minute to ask, leaving no time for parental collaboration.
3. Secret Diplomacy
As parents, you won't agree about everything. Work out these differences privately, not in front of your children. Take whatever time you need to reach a joint conclusion. If you cannot decide between yourselves, get input from someone else. In most cases, it would be better to agree on the flip of a coin than to bring your children into the debate.
4. Prioritized Alliance
Your alliance with each other needs to be stronger than your alliance with your child. This is sometimes a challenge, especially in blended families, but it is an important priority to maintain. There is little your child will come to value more than a secure, healthy relationship between parents. They may not be able to acknowledge it now, but trusting in the strength of that bond is more important to them than getting their own way.
If you haven't been doing these things, you can expect some resistance to change. That's okay. Stay united as parents and face the challenges together. It's a battle worth fighting.