Do you wish you were a better parent? Have you made mistakes you wish you could undo? Do you struggle with impatience, sometimes yell at your kids, and wish they would just listen to you?
It’s no light thing to raise a child, and the irony of it all is that you begin without knowing how and by the time your kids are grown, you’ve finally learnt how to parent, but by then it’s too late because they’re grown up!
But wait! There’s good news! No matter what your track record looks like, you can learn how to be a better parent.
You can overcome bad parenting and improve your parenting skills.
Becoming a better parent requires
So let’s look at how you can improve your parenting skills.
As parents we often make the mistake of only looking at our kids’ behaviour instead of seeing what’s going on below the surface.
The most important question you can ask yourself as a parent is, “What’s going on in my child’s heart right now?”
Your child’s behaviour is coming from somewhere, it is not just random. Your two year old’s tantrum may be caused by frustration or over-tiredness. Your ten-year-old’s failure to tidy their room may be because they just don’t know where to start. Your teenager’s backchat may be because they’re worried about a test.
Looking at the heart doesn’t excuse bad behaviour, but it does help you to deal with the underlying issue rather than just the behaviour.
One of the most damaging things for a child is to be compared to a sibling or friend. We often do it because we see weaknesses in our child and want them to change. But comparison doesn’t ever motivate true change in your child. Instead it breaks down self-worth.
Every child is unique, with their own strengths and weaknesses. Instead of comparing your child with others, affirm who they are, encourage their strengths, help them with their weak areas.
Be what you wish your children to be. Kids see right through hypocrisy and they don’t like it.
Remember, more is caught than taught. Those little eyes are watching you and learning from what you are doing more than what you are saying.
Rules are important and should be enforced. Schedule is important and should be stuck to. Plans are good and should be well thought out.
However, life isn’t only about rules, schedules and plans. Allow yourself to be a little bit flexible (within reason).
Change things up once in a while. Do something fun. Sleep on the living room floor. Stay up a little later, just once.
You know the saying, ‘Kids spell love: T-I-M-E’. Make sure you include family time in your schedule. Play games, read stories, go camping, hike, or plant a garden together.
How you spend your time reveals your priorities. Saying ‘I love you’ is great, but spending time with your kids sends a powerful message: You are important to me.
Do what you say you will do. This applies to giving consequences or making promises.
If you say you’ll take away a privilege if chores are not done, then you must take away the privilege.
If you say you’ll take your kids swimming after they’ve completed their chores, then you must take them swimming (unless it’s raining or you have an emergency – if so, do it another time).
When your kids know that you will keep your word, either way, they will feel more secure. And secure children are easier to manage.
The words, ‘I’m sorry’, are some of the easiest words to say. All it takes is humility. It is not demeaning for you to apologise to your children when you are wrong. It won’t make them lose respect for you.
To the contrary, apologising will make your children respect you more. They will see you are human, make mistakes, and own them. By apologising you present a powerful example for your kids on what to do when they mess up.
Acknowledge your child’s feelings as real. Don’t downplay them, ignore them, or tell them they are wrong to feel that way.
Help them process their feelings instead of squashing them. When your child feels understood, he will feel safe and loved, and able to process his emotions.
Without this validation a child has nowhere safe to talk about what they are feeling, and will learn to bottle up emotions instead of expressing them.
As parents we sometimes have high standards for our kids. We hold them to those standards, forgetting they are human and in the process of learning, growing, and becoming responsible adults.
Your child is not a machine to be programmed, but a living, thinking, reasoning being. Give your child some slack and room to make mistakes.
Kids are attracted to cheerfulness.
Say yes as often as possible. Praise your kids for doing well. Play with them.
Smile. Laugh. Sing.
Scolding and frowning are not good motivations for children. When they know that they please you, that you enjoy being with them, that you delight in them, they will be motivated to please you more.
Plan a regular “parent’s meeting” with your spouse and talk about how your parenting is going.
Doing a regular review – once a week or once a month – will keep you accountable and help you stay focused.
As part of your audit, read 5 Parenting Mistakes to Stop Doing Today and see if you are making any of these mistakes.
Your parenting skills are directly related to the example you had in your own home. Examine how your past has affected your parenting and make the necessary adjustments.
You may need to go for counseling, and that’s ok. Do whatever it takes to become a better parent.
Parenting does one thing with certainty – it highlights your own weaknesses as a parent. I believe God designed this as a blessing to help us grow.
Instead of making excuses for your weaknesses, do the work on your own character and empower your children to grow too. The reality is you can’t help your child grow in an area you have not grown in yourself.
One of the most important things you can do to become a better parent is educate yourself. You can do that through reading, watching videos, or listening to podcasts or sermons.
As you listen or read, take notes and be intentional about making the changes you need to make. Discuss what you learn with your spouse, and work together to make changes.
Related: How to get unity as parents
Here are some books I recommend (I’m only recommending books I have read and believe in myself):
Have a New Kid by Friday – Kevin Leman
Why I Didn’t Rebel – Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach
Sacred Parenting – Gary Thomas
Boundaries with Kids – Cloud & Townsend
Home Built Discipline – Raymond & Dorothy Moore
Parenting by the Spirit – Sally Hohnberger
Being a good parent is one of the most rewarding tasks in the world. However, it’s not effortless! It takes a lot of work.
Following these tips won’t guarantee perfection, but it will create a solid base upon which to build.
You can become a better parent.
Which of these tips do you need to implement right away? Which ones do you already do?