What parent hasn’t had moments, days, even years of feeling like they could have parented better? The reality is, they could have parented differently. Most of us have a fantasy bubble that gives us a bird’s eye view of a perfect life, encompassing everything we think we’re not but should be.

Let’s face it. Parenting is a full time endeavor, and no one dreams of the complexities of healthy parenting when the idea of pregnancy and having a baby is in the forefront of one’s mind. That precious little baby grows up, gains autonomy, and wants a sense of independence that can at times be more trying than climbing Mount Everest.

One thing I know. There is nothing gained from an easy ride, but much to learn when situations and relationships are challenging. Therapeutically, there are “gifted” feelings for all feelings. Anger can lead to wisdom, loneliness to reaching out, fear to strength, guilt and shame to a healthier character, values, and spiritual connection. So much is learned through struggle. Discovering that we can come out the other side more emotionally healthy is empowering.

Here are a few tips for more genuine parenting practices:

  • No one is the perfect parent, but rather a ‘perfectly imperfect’ parent with foibles and personality traits that could be valuable to share with your child/children.
  • Stop all the explaining: justifying, rationalizing, minimizing, “overgeneralizing,” “awfulizing,” victimizing, and “catastrophyzing.” Constant explaining is a practice that is used when a parent can’t bear not to be liked or loved. You might explain so much and so often that your child knows exactly when to tune you out. The child needs to learn that actions have consequences.
  • We train our kids not to listen. “John, turn off the television and come to the table. Dinner is ready.” No reaction from the child. A little louder now. Parents can repeat the scenario until the child gets the intention. The child might listen because they know that on the third time around, Mom or Dad means business. The answer is to say it once. If the request goes unnoticed, the consequence is consistent and firm, based on the child’s age and stage of development.
  • If a child is acting out, remove the child from the situation immediately. Consistency is key and can work wonders.
  • Time outs can be utilized. If the child is three, the time out would be three minutes. The parent explains once the behavior that brought the child to the time out chair, they hug it out and it’s a done deal.
  • Parents can do much good by supporting and LISTENING, not judging or dismissing. Corporal punishment, in any form, just teaches kids to react impulsively and punitively; it is a temporary frustration release for the parent and is never appropriate.

Effective parenting with the awareness that no one is perfect and that it’s okay to make amends to your child can lead that child and all of us to a life of purpose and authenticity that embraces us like a warm blanket, comforting when appropriate, and challenging when necessary during this roller coaster called life.

Dr. Amy Austin is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFC # 41252) and doctor of clinical psychology in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Amy can be reached at (760) 774.0047.

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