We’ve all done it – screamed at our child in a moment of frustration. Even if we weren’t yelling, we’ve said some damaging things, such as “Because I told you so, that’s why!”, and “Well, when you are the dad then you get to make the rules!”, or my personal favorite, “Stop crying or I will give you something to cry about!”
These statements are more harmful than good. They do nothing to help a child work through whatever was the issue in the first place, but instead, they give an ultimatum: I am right, you are wrong, end of story. They also undermine any discipline you will provide down the road.
It is almost painfully obvious that the best style of parenting is authoritative parenting.
But what if we are a long way from being an authoritative parent? What if our parenting style mimics permissive parenting? What if we relate to authoritarian parenting, and bark orders at our children like a drill-sergeant, rather than a loving momma?
It is not easy to parent. It is self-sacrificing. It is time-consuming. It is repetitive. It is exhausting.
So how do we move from where we are to where we should be?
I have 15 ways to make it happen! Each and every tip is, in and of itself, a lot of work. To accomplish all 15 would be a feat indeed! Start small – pick one, and when you master it, move on to the next.
15 Ways to be an Authoritative Parent
- Give your child choices. You can start this as early as your child can communicate a preference to you. Choices can be as simple as what shirt to wear or as detailed as how to throw her high school graduation party. Giving your child choices not only teaches your child how to make decisions, but it also shows your child that you value her as an individual.
- Punish the behavior, not the child. Place age-appropriate limits and expectations on your child and use natural consequences for breaking those rules. A natural consequence would be something that happens naturally, with little to no help from you, when your child breaks a rule. For example, if your son bully’s a friend, and that friend no longer wants to hang out with your son, then that would be a natural consequence. If there are no natural consequences evident, then create a consequence that clearly relates to the crime. An example would be losing the car keys for a week if your son sneaks out with the car.
- Use positive parenting. Positive Parenting is a parenting style that focuses on guidance rather than discipline, through a supportive and respectful relationship with your children. There is a lot out there right now on Positive Parenting, but one of my favorite sites is A Fine Parent.
- Hear your child out. Let your kids talk! Even when they are in trouble and you are angry. Listening to your child will give insight into their thinking process. Where did they go wrong? What was the error in their thinking that led to the inappropriate behavior? Once you pinpoint why they did what they did, discuss better options next time, and consequences. Likewise, if they are arguing their side of something, hoping to, say, spend a weekend home alone, hear them out and really listen before you make a decision. Not only do you learn more about your child, but you also show your child that you value her and her opinions.
- Use emotion-coaching. Validate your child’s feelings by allowing your child to feel what she is feeling. Do not dismiss her feelings, or immediately try to distract her, or cheer her up. Let her feel her feelings. Then help her label them and discuss them. If an inappropriate behavior resulted from that feeling, help her find a better way express herself next time.
- Practice forgiveness. You need to forgive your child utterly and completely for any mistakes he makes. Do not hold a grudge. Wipe the slate clean immediately. Likewise, you need to forgive yourself for any mistakes you make while parenting. You will make them. Wipe your slate clean and find a better way to do it next time.
- Be affectionate! Hug and kiss your child. If age appropriate, hold him in your lap or on your hip. Tousle his hair, tickle his toes. Snuggle and cuddle every chance you get.
- Spend time playing with your child. Even teenagers need to play. Shoot some hoops, spend a day shopping, or go to the movies. Find an activity your child enjoys and do it together.
- Respect your child! It is not enough to know that you do. You need to show it!! Say please and thank you when asking your child to do something. Respect his privacy. Do not talk down to him. Treat him like you would treat any other person.
- Give your children the opportunity to make mistakes and to learn from them. It is okay to let your child fall once in a while – quite literally and figuratively speaking. How many times can you tell your son to stop jumping on the bed? Maybe actually falling off the bed will teach him a lot faster than you constantly harping on him. Likewise, if your child wants do something that you know will be a bad decision, let him. As long as you know it is not going to hurt him, anyone else, or anyone’s property. Lessons are learned and remembered better through experience than through being “told so”.
- Be there for your child. Be willing to help her, support her and guide her when she needs you. Don’t turn away and say “I told you so” or “You made your bed, now you have to lie in it.” Take care, though, not to rescue your child from any natural consequences of her behavior. Don’t go running in to the school to demand that your child was unfairly sent to detention. There’s better ways to be there for your child in that situation, such as talking her through her decision after the fact.
- Actively listen to your child. When he is talking to you, don’t be thinking about what you need to get done at work. Keep your eyes and your mind on what your son is saying. Respond by rephrasing back to him what he said, or by asking open-ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no.)
- Assign chores and responsibilities. Expect your child to chip in around the house. It is part of being a family. This teaches your child responsibility, but it also shows your child that you believe he is capable of helping out. Chores will help your child feel like he is a valuable part of the team.
- Expect Respect. Don’t try to earn it. Don’t demand it. Just know that your child will show you respect. The fact that you expect respect will be evident in your relationship with your child and in how and when you discipline your child. If you discipline your child fairly, consistently and respectfully, this will show your child that you expect the same in return. Just the very act of disciplining itself is a way of teaching respect – if there is a need to discipline, it means your child was disrespectful to someone or something. Think about it – every rule we have is rooted in dis-respecting someone, something, or ones’ self.
- Value your child. Again, it is not enough to know that you do. You need to show it, in any way you can find. A lot of the above tips are good ways to show your child that you value her as an individual. Always say “I love you” and show it, in any way you can.
Making it Real….
Pick just one tip from the list above – an area you know you need to improve on – and work on it for the next month. If you need more information, research it. Google is a mom’s best friend! You can also join the conversation and hop on over to our FaceBook Group to get advice from other moms in the same boat.
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