As parents most of us have the right intentions, but in the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s difficult to parent positively. As a result, a lot of our interactions with our kids are reactive. According to Marianna S. Klebanov, JD, it’s important to become more aware of our parenting behaviors.
“Just like professional development and getting your finances in order, becoming a more conscious parent involves identifying areas in which you need to improve and keeping those goals at the front of your mind,” says Klebanov, coauthor along with Adam D. Travis of The Critical Role of Parenting in Human Development www.criticalroleofparenting.
Here, she shares a list of 9 things you can do to parent more consciously in 2015. (“Remember, no parent is perfect, and we all make mistakes,” she reminds. “These items are meant to be gentle reminders, not indictments! You might even find it helpful to print this list out and post it on the fridge or bathroom mirror as a daily tickler.”)
In 2015, I resolve to:
- Stop spanking. Many of us grew up being spanked, and it’s an easy response when a child is misbehaving. “While spanking can get the desired results in the short term, the truth is, there are no long-term benefits, and it can lead to quite a few issues down the road, including adversely impacting cognitive development and behavior,” Klebanov comments.
- Stop fighting in front of the kids. To be clear, Klebanov isn’t referring to basic constructive arguing, which can serve as a good lesson to youngsters, but to arguments that involve put-downs, name-calling, insults, or threats. “This is a negative, destructive communication pattern you don’t want to model to your children,” Klebanov comments. “Seeing parents fight is incredibly stressful to kids and can spark feelings of fear and anxiety that last long after Mom and Dad have made up.”
- Model kindness and compassion. We all say we want to raise kids who are kind and compassionate—but be honest: How often do you demonstrate those values in action? “Kids notice things like whether you’re nice or rude to the cashier, whether you help or ignore others who are less fortunate, and how you respond when someone makes a mistake,” Klebanov notes. “The values that stick will be the ones you live, not the ones you preach about.
- Back away from teasing, yelling, and threatening. To your child, these behaviors are demeaning and sometimes frightening. And long-term, they negatively affect kids’ self-esteem, social skills, and even academic skills. “It’s important to limit your expressions of anger toward your kids, especially for behaviors that are developmentally appropriate—even if they make you feel frustrated or angry,” Klebanov says. “Go to therapy if necessary.”
- Promptly and lovingly respond to my baby’s cries. Science has shown that a caregiver’s signals and availability are critical in infancy because they directly impact the child’s healthy emotional and psychological development. “Even if you’re tired, busy, or frustrated, it’s very important to promptly respond to your baby’s distress in a positive, supportive, understanding, and compassionate way. Don’t leave infants to cry.”
- Criticize less. Parental criticism comes from a good place. We want our children to learn, improve, develop good habits, avoid mistakes, and generally be the best they can be. But we don’t always stop to consider the impact our criticism has on their self-image and confidence. “This year, strive to be more sensitive of what you’re criticizing, how often you’re criticizing, and whether or not it’s constructive or destructive,” Klebanov advises.
- Hug and kiss more. When parents are affectionate and loving, it positively affects children’s mental health, as well as their social and emotional development. “So hug and kiss your children as much as possible, as long as they’ll let you,” comments Klebanov.
- Give them the responsibilities and freedoms they’ve earned. You may want your kids to stay little forever, but they’re growing physically, emotionally, and psychologically every day. Even if it’s bittersweet for you, give them privileges and responsibilities that are appropriate for their ages and maturity levels.
- Spend more time with family members—even those I don’t particularly like. Children deserve positive and meaningful relationships with their family members—even those you’d rather not spend time with. (For instance, if you’re divorced, allow your children to spend time with your ex and your ex’s family, if your kids so desire.)