By Jennifer Gray, Federal Way therapist
I understand that being a parent is one of the most difficult jobs you will ever undertake.
Parenting requires a commitment to another human being that is not duplicated in any another relationship. Along with unconditional love and the ability to laugh at ourselves, I would like to suggest three other key ingredients for achieving parenting success.
• Demonstrate and verbalize your love daily. It sounds simple. We know that we love our children; therefore, why wouldn’t our children know that we love them? Yet, children require constant reassurance that we love and care about them.
Younger children need to know that we still love them even when they make poor choices that result in consequences or when we are angry with them for something they did. Teenagers need to know more than ever that we still love and care about them even when they rebuff our verbal declarations or public displays of affection. Teens need to be able to demonstrate their independence and still feel that their parents are there for them, even when they mess up and need parental assistance. Children of all ages require love and parental support.
• Consistency, consistency, consistency: We have all heard the need for parental consistency, but do we really practice that in our families? Despite what children say, they desperately want and need to understand the rules and parameters that have been established for their safety. Without clear consistent guidelines, children are riding in a speeding race car without brakes or a safety harness. Therefore, if you threaten, promise or discipline, you must follow through consistently.
• Think like your child, but do not act like a child. It is beneficial as an adult to remember what it was like to be a kid and some of the challenges you experienced growing up. Throwing angry tantrums or not demonstrating responsibility where your children are concerned is unacceptable.
• You are the parent. It is very important that you act as such. Remember you are the role model for your child. The person they look up to, and ultimately the person they will strive to emulate in their own actions and words. Set the example that you would want your children to follow when they have their own families.
• In conclusion, being a parent is a very precious gift. Teaching, loving and nurturing our children in preparation for the future is a responsibility and privilege. Take time to assess your role as a parent and be willing to make improvements as needed. Then, rejoice in the accomplishment of a job well done.
If you make a commitment to follow through in any area of your life, choose to make that commitment to parenting. The unfulfilled diet plan, exercise equipment used as a clothing rack or unestablished 401K can all wait. You have only one opportunity to parent and parent well. Make consistent parenting the goal, verbalize your love daily, and be a positive role model.
Jennifer L. Gray, Ph.D., is a Federal Way therapist who works with children and their families. Contact: (253) 653-0168 or visit www.psychotherapyassociates.biz.