When a person decides to have a kid, they often wish they had a how-to guide to figure out what to do. What's more, since kids grow up quickly, the things you thought you once knew soon become obsolete and you are forced to come up with new solutions to a whole new arena of problems. Almost all of us do our best and it is well-known that perfect parents do not exist (that’s why we’re humans, not characters out of a fairytale!).
If we as parents change, the relationship with our children changes as well
But with a task this large, what can parents do to improve their parenting skills now and in the future? The best way is to work on our attitude, according to Elisabeth Fodor and Montserrat Morán, who are recognized in Spain as pioneers in children’s education. Even if our environment remains unchanged, if we as parents change, the relationship with our children changes as well. This is their advice on how we can train ourselves to be helpful parents during our children’s developing stages and enjoy these times in our own lives.
1. We need to know ourselves better. How are we going to teach our children how to develop emotional intelligence if we do not know how to talk about the things that happen in our own lives, if we reproach ourselves, either privately or let our emotions get the better of us in front of them? The first step to managing anything is understanding it. This is why we must dedicate some time to self-reflection. Ask yourself what is really going on in your life, call on people you trust to talk and get fresh perspectives on your issues.
2. Indulge in affection. It’s the very first way of communicating with our children and one that should be kept up throughout their lives. Displaying affection shows that we care about the person, that we want to protect them despite our own vulnerability, without putting up any shields. To do this we need to treat ourselves well. If we constantly fall into self-doubt and self-criticism, the affection we show them quickly disappears. This is why when our minds get clouded by negative and harmful thoughts, we must break these down and find a way to show ourselves the love we need.
3. Forget judgments. Our children will be who they want to be, not what we project onto them. We aren’t doing them any favors if we constantly compare them to what we want them to be. By accepting them without judgment, we are giving them the freedom to be who they are. In other words, let go of “what could have been” and show them that you value what is.
Displaying affection shows that we care about the person
4. Remember the value of taking things slow. This is possibly the hardest thing to do. Phones with their efficiency and speed are a tempting distraction for anyone. But it is difficult to raise someone via WhatsApp. Human emotions take time to grow and building a healthy relationship requires patience. We need to look for ways to learn patience and avoid letting our buttons get pushed.
5. Listen attentively. When our children are small, we often find it hard to show interest in the things they say. Their topics of conversation aren’t always the most attention-grabbing, but if we do not practice this, it will be harder to hear their problems when they get older. So, we need to genuinely ask them about their lives and give our children quality time to talk.
6. Play and maintain a positive attitude. We need to get in touch with our inner child and be part of their fun and games. And of course, we must teach them a positive way of thinking and acting. We all get flustered with negative thoughts at times. If it's just for a moment there is no problem, but it we are constantly letting ourselves get caught up in this, we pass the burden of our negativity onto our children and this becomes a drain on their own strength and vitality. Let’s start to look at the glass as half full and learn to laugh at life and ourselves a little more.
7. Look for life lessons. Like Fodor and Morán say, “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” This happens when we learn things from situations we don’t like being in, and use this to reinvent ourselves despite the obstacles we face. In this way, we can help our children train their own resilience. Ask yourself: what is this situation teaching me now?
By accepting children without judgment, we are giving them the freedom to be who they are
In the end, the best gifts we can give our children come down to two things: roots to grow and wings to fly, and we can only achieve this with a warm attitude and affection, without judgments and always on the lookout for the bigger life lessons. Even if we do all of this, we will inevitably make thousands of mistakes, because after all we are human; but if we consider our children as masters of their own lives or mirrors into our own selves, we can use this relationship to become better people.
English version by Laura Rodríguez.