Effective Parenting is a prevention building block
By Linda E. Huber, LCSW, CASAC(g), CPP, SAP
As parents, we have the most important job in the world. There is nothing we do in our lifetimes that is more significant than how we raise our children. It’s a challenging, full time job that lasts throughout our lives, no matter how old our children get. While parenting presents us with struggles and trials, it also offers us many rewards. Those rewards, too, can last through our lives. Raising children is an adventure, full of surprises and changes.
Instead of living their own lives, many parents live through their children. Rather than offering to their children, they are taking from them. We can best help our children not by sacrificing ourselves for them, but by trying to fulfill our own lives. When we are involved in an honest pursuit of our goals, we serve as positive examples for our children. To teach our children how to live a good life,” we have to genuinely value ourselves, accept all of our feelings, wants, and priorities, and actively participate in our own lives. We will have a profound positive effect on the personal development of our children and on their future, to the extent that we retain our capacity for feeling and a willingness to invest fully in our lives.
Being a positive role model for our children requires forethought and self control. Today we talk a lot about disciplining our children. Parents need to put an equal emphasis on disciplining themselves. It’s easy to dispense don’ts to our kids: “Don’t smoke.” “Don’t drink and drive.” “Don’t do drugs.” “Don’t lie.” It takes much more effort and discipline to practice what we preach. It takes a strong character to give our kids a good role model to copy, because the will copy us. What a disservice we do to them if we only give them self destructive behaviors as a road map to follow in life. If you don’t want your kids dying of lung cancer, a wise strategy would be to stop smoking yourself. If you think you can sneak a cigarette when the kids aren’t looking, you are wrong; they smell it. If we don’t want the kids lying to get out of going to school, we best not lie about taking a “sick” day from work.
Challenge yourself to identify the positive things you can role model for your kids — things like happiness, consideration, self respect, patience, generosity, self-discipline, diligence, kindness, bravery, and compassion. Role model feeding your body with wholesome and nourishing food, expanding your mind with enlightening reading, exercising for physical and mental health, speaking well about yourself and others, and enjoying life with friends and family. Kids respect adults who walk their talk. Children are sensitive and astute with an uncanny ability to distinguish between adults who only talk a good game and those who play the game by the rules they preach. Credible adults inspire kids’ confidence and admiration. Each and every day, parents build a legacy for children to inherit.
And remember that during the middle school and high school years your kids need you even though they say they don’t. So make the best use of this important time frame by following these tips:
¨ Be patient. In our fast-paced lives, it is tempting to be hurried, to rush through relationships and the daily tasks of life. Take time to be in the moment, to appreciate differences, to offer regret for mistakes made.
¨ Listen. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Don’t rush to fill in silence or “fix” a problem for our children. Avoid interrupting. Ask engaging questions.
¨ Model good decision making. Talk about values and ethics. What principles do you stand by when making decisions at work, home and play? Speak your thoughts out loud as a way of teaching children good decision-making skills.
¨ Answer your child’s questions and be consistent. While life changes around us, it is our home and family that can create a strong foundation.
¨ Be diligent. Have ongoing conversations about the tough topics like drugs, alcohol, tobacco and violence. Share often your hopes and dreams for your child’s future.
REMEMBER THAT PARENTING WITH POSITIVE VALUES IS PREVENTION