Thanks for joining me.
In this episode, I will be sharing some thoughts and ideas about being a successful parent. At the heart of it, Parenting, like other interpersonal responsibilities, starts with self-awareness. Yes, it is important to focus on our children but it is equally important to focus on us. How we relate, behave and interact with our children is the essence of parenting and how successful we are as parents.
I have asked a few of my associates to join me to share their perspectives on being parents and the role of self-awareness.
So, let’s get started by asking,
Why is self-awareness important for parents?
Self-awareness is important for parents because it helps them understand their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which in turn helps them better understand and respond to their children’s needs. When parents are self-aware, they are able to regulate their own emotions and behavior, creating a more positive and supportive environment for their children. Additionally, self-awareness allows parents to recognize and acknowledge their own weaknesses and limitations, which can help them seek out resources and support when needed. By being self-aware, parents model healthy coping skills and emotional regulation for their children, in turn promoting their children’s own emotional intelligence and resilience.
But what happens if parents are not self-aware?
If parents are not self-aware, it can have negative consequences for both themselves and their children.
For example, if a parent is not aware of their own emotional triggers or patterns of behavior, they may react in ways that are harmful or damaging to their child, such as yelling, hitting, or saying hurtful things. This can not only harm the child’s emotional well-being, but also damage the parent-child relationship over time.
Additionally, parents who lack self-awareness may struggle with understanding and meeting their child’s needs, leading to feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction for both the parent and the child. They may also struggle with setting appropriate boundaries or providing consistent discipline, which can lead to confusion and insecurity for their children.
Finally, if parents are not self-aware, they may not seek out support or resources when they need them, leading to feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. This can impact their ability to be present and engaged with their children, which can negatively impact their overall well-being and development.
Ok, I understand that self-awareness matters. But how does this play out within the family?
Your child is special, a unique individual, the only one of him (or her) there will ever be. If you do not embrace this simple truth with reverence and enthusiasm, your child will know and will never completely get over it.
He or she began life’s journey with boundless potential but also with limitations. With your help, your child can be extraordinarily successful. Still, there are mountains he can never climb, rivers he can never cross, races he can never run. He comes to you on an “as is” basis. He can only be who he is, can only become the best him there ever was or ever will be.
Hello world, it’s your child!
Your journey into your child’s future is exciting and challenging, rewarding and disappointing, filled with pleasure and pain for you and for him. At the same time, it is the most important adventure you will ever experience. Your successful excursion into your child’s tomorrow begins with your assurance he grows up in a loving home.
Leo Tolstoy said, “All happy families resemble one another; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Buddha said, “A family is a place where minds come in contact with one another. If these minds love one another, the home will be as beautiful as a flower garden. But if these minds get out of harmony with one another it’s like a storm that plays havoc with the garden.”
The loving home where your child flourishes includes the love and harmony of Buddha’s flower garden and much more.
It is Tolstoy’s happy family.
It is a place where encouragement, concern, attention, and affection abound.
It is a place where your child can fully realize his or her potentials physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and intellectually.
It is a place where your child does not merely succeed, he excels.
Your child is counting on you for unconditional love and encouragement, constructive opportunities and experiences, continuous care and concern. He’s also counting on you to teach him how to behave and to keep him on the right track. That track is wide and open but it does have boundaries. Along with constructive opportunities and experiences, your child needs age-appropriate rules and limits, expectations and responsibilities. Keeping him on the right track while being sure he receives the love and encouragement he must have is neither simple nor easy. Nonetheless, it is essential if your child is to excel in the ongoing, on-growing journey into his or her future.
Just as your child wants your unconditional love and encouragement, you want him or her to love you, to love himself, to love other people, and to love the world around him. You express your love through hugs, playing, and doing things together. You encourage him to share his feelings, fears, and frustrations. At the same time, you give him the freedom to grow and to experience the bigger world. You want him to have an exciting life of his own, knowing his relationship with you is secure and predictable.
In addition, you want your child to respect you, to respect himself, to respect other people, and to respect the world about him/her. You know much of his attitude toward himself and toward the world about him comes from your attitude about him.
Just as children learn to love by being loved, they learn respect for self and others by being respected. Your behavior, attitudes, and beliefs are reflected in your child. More than you may ever know, he or she “does as you do.”
Children also develop attitudes toward themselves and others as a response to the attitudes and beliefs others communicate to them. In part, your child becomes what you tell him/her that they will become. You convey this definition of self through your physical, emotional, spiritual, and social interactions with him as well as through the way you relate as his parent. Beyond these things, there is a whole world of influences over which you have little control. Your hope must be you have nourished and nurtured your child’s potentials so he can effectively deal with the multiple influences of the world. You hope your loving respect has been strong enough and clear enough to be integrated into his being as he moves out into a world that may not perceive him as unique. His sense of being special comes from you. You can only trust it is solid enough to last him a lifetime.
I see that self-awareness really is central. As parents, we do need to be aware of how we are behaving and interacting with our children. I also know that I cannot always get things just right. Sometimes I just get it wrong and sometimes I don’t have a clew what to do. I hang in there but know I am not perfect; and as hard as I try to be self-aware, now and then, I know I miss the mark. I suppose there are those super parents who always know and do what is best for their children, but that’s not me. Is there any hope for us regular folks?
“Nothing in excess – everything in moderation.”
This old saying certainly applies to being a parent. The challenge usually has more to do with “How much?” than it does with being correct or incorrect. This dilemma of child rearing is more easily understood than explained.
For example, whether your child should be praised is usually not an issue. The real issue is how much praise is just right. Too little praise and he receives insufficient encouragement or recognition. Too much praise gives him a false sense of accomplishment and achievement.
The same holds for discipline. Too much abuses and mistreats your child. Too little does not teach him to internalize the consequences of his actions. If there is too much emphasis on work and responsibility, your child does not learn how to relax and have fun. If there is too little emphasis in this area, he does not learn how to work and be responsible.
What is the right amount of encouragement and rules, freedom and restrictions? There is no final way of deciding this. Still, your goal is to come close, minimizing overdoing it and under-doing it.
The right amount for any child in any specific situation is to be neither excessive nor insufficient. Seldom can parents, with full understanding and awareness, respond just right. Very often, they find themselves in the awkward position of being off the mark, even if ever so slightly.
What is the effect on your children if you frequently overdo it or under-do it? As your child grows, instances of excess and inadequacy add or subtract like wins and losses. The excesses of normal parents score as plus and inadequacies as minus. Those rare occasions when you respond exactly right score zero. This process continues throughout childhood. When your child reaches adulthood, all of the pluses, minuses, and zeros add together to give a final score. If you have been successful, the pluses and minuses cancel each other out. A perfect score is zero.
Good parents do not always do the right thing, do not always do things right. They love, care, and try to understand. Sometimes they do too much, sometimes too little. Sometimes they overreact, sometimes under-react. Sometimes they interfere too much, sometimes not enough. Sometimes they set too many limits, sometimes too few. Influencing and containing the potentials of your children is not prescriptive. It is finding the balance between overdoing it and under-doing it.
That’s a relief. I surely am glad that perfection is not a necessary goal. I would never make it. But how can I tell how I’m doing along the way?
How are you and your child getting along with each other?
For the following questions, is the answer almost always yes, usually yes, sometimes yes, seldom yes, or almost never yes?
(If your child is too young for the question to apply to your relationship, just skip that question.)
Are you responsible and fair when disciplining your child?
Do you know what your child needs and what is important to him or her?
Can you get your child to cooperate with you without your getting frustrated or upset?
Do you spend time every day talking or playing with your child?
Does your child like to spend time with you?
Are you pleased with and proud of your child?
Do you know about and are you interested in your child’s activities?
Do you know about and are you helping with your child’s problems?
Do you set a good example for your child?
Do you give your child space to grow and learn on his own?
Are you interested in what your child thinks and feels about things?
Do you do all you can to support your child’s interests, activities, and goals?
If you have rated all twelve questions at the almost always yes or usually yes levels, you and your child likely enjoy a healthy, productive relationship. There are occasional problems and issues but you and your child are working them through. If instead, you have rated some questions at the sometimes yes level or lower, there are problems and issues within your relationship needing your careful and caring attention. Without specific work, those problems and issues will tend to intensify and become harder to cope with as your child gets older. Now is the best time to resolve the problems and work through the issues.
Ok, I get that. The twelve questions help me know how well I am doing as a parent. But how can I know if my child is also doing fine or not?
How is your child getting along?
Does he seem to be getting along well or do you see behavior or other problems that concern you? Trust your good judgement and experience. Think about your child and answer “Yes,” or “No,” to these questions. The questions that you answer “No,” focus your attention on the problems and issues needing your attention. (If your child is too young for the question to apply, simply skip that question.)
Is your child;
In good health and not often ill?
Usually energetic and interested in what is going on in his world?
Normally relaxed and comfortable with himself?
Self-confident in most situations?
Eating regularly in normal amounts?
Staying away from alcohol or other drugs?
Happy and in a good mood most of the time?
Well-behaved most of the time?
Managing his anger and temper responsibly?
Feeling successful most of the time?
Responsible and dependable most of the time?
Dealing well with most day-to-day stresses and pressures?
Making and keeping friends his age?
Involved with friends who you know and of whom you approve?
Going to school regularly?
Doing well in school?
Finishing homework and other assignments on time?
Cooperating with teachers and others at school?
Involved in school and other outside activities and projects?
Talking with you and other adults about his activities, friends, and problems?
Now that you have answered the questions, how do you decide if your child has problems or issues needing special attention? If you answered “Yes,” to each question, your child is likely doing just fine. If not, your child’s problems need extra thought and attention.
That is helpful. It lets me zero in on any area that may need a little more attention. I think the place to start would be to talk with my child aboutt the specific area and see what he or she thinks about it. From there I can check around to find someone to talk with about the concern to get some outside suggestions and guidance. I also need to focus on how I might be part of the problem or issue. There’s that self-awareness coming into play again.
Thanks to my associates for helping and to you for sharing your time with us.
I hope your investment has been of value.
For now, Be well, do well and do something nice for someone. They will appreciate it and you will have a better day.