By Mutryce A. Williams
Navigating "Island" Parenting is a submission of quotes, tips and parenting advice that I have gathered over the years as a source of inspiration and as tools to deal with the daily challenges of parenting. This week’s issue features, Ten Essential Parenting Tips by Stephanie Knaak PhD, Do I Respect My Child - An Excerpt from 21 Questions that Successful Parent’s Ask Themselves by Dr. Ed Wimberly, Ten False Assumptions About Raising Kids by Dr. Ed Wimberly, and Parenting Quotes.
The hope is that this submission would make the journey of parenting a bit easier or brighter, even if it is for one person. Parenting is hard work. We need as much support as possible. Given our culture, as parents we are also not apt to ask for help, as it expected that we already know everything. This is a fallacy that we have to overcome. As West Indians we also consider our way or style of parenting to be the best way of parenting, but any good thing can be made even better. I am also aware that with the heightened political climate that there is anxiety and tension, parents can become easily overwhelmed. Let us not forget life’s everyday challenges, any bit of advice or support that would help us navigate island parenting can go a long way.
10 Essential Parenting Tips
by Stephanie Knaak PhD
Why only 10 parenting tips? Because parents are already bombarded with too much advice, that’s why. These tips are the main parenting principles that appear over and over again in the research and professional literature. Think of them as big picture tips; reminders that parenting isn’t just about taking care of kids, it’s about taking care of kids’ parents and kids’ families. Use these principles to help guide you in your parenting journey.
#1 of the 10:
There is no one scientifically-established “right” way to raise a child.
Even though there is so much expert advice out there, the bottom line remains that parenting is not a science.
The vast majority of the expert advice about the “how tos” of good parenting is really more opinion than anything else. Those opinions change over time, in accordance with shifts in ideology and other changes to the social and political climate. In fact, the balance of the scientific evidence tells us that many of the particulars we worry about -- how long we breastfeed for, whether we should work or stay home, using time-outs or other disciplinary techniques -- don’t make much of a difference in the big picture of child outcomes.
The key is to be thoughtful, engaged and intentional about your parenting. Figure out what works for you, for your child, for your family. Use approaches that fit your priorities and beliefs. Don’t be afraid to change something that isn’t working and don’t be afraid to seek help and advice when you need it.
Above all, remember what Dr Spock famously said all those years ago: “Trust yourself; you know more than you think you do.”
#2 of the 10 parenting tips is:
Take good care of your child’s mother.
In other words, put yourself first. This may sound selfish, but it’s one of the most important of all the 10 parenting tips. If you’ve ever been on an airplane, you know the rule -- “if you are traveling with children, put the oxygen mask on yourself first.” It is simply too hard to be on your top game if your own physical, spiritual, personal and emotional needs are not being prioritized. Unfortunately, we live in a parenting climate that discourages mothers from putting themselves first. It’s easy for us to feel selfish and guilty for taking time for ourselves, for doing things for ourselves, for taking care of our own needs and interests… especially if doing these things it means taking time away from our children. Well guess what? That’s just plain wrong. It’s time to stop feeling guilty or selfish for making your own self care a priority. Placing your child’s mother at any other position on the priority list other than first (okay, maybe shared for first) is counter-productive to healthy parenting. It’s bad for moms, bad for kids, bad for families.
#3 of the 10 parenting tips is:
Be “family-centered” instead of “child-centered.”
Children thrive in solid family environments, whatever those environments might look like. In other words, it’s not how the family is set up (i.e., whether you are a lone parent, a two-parent family, a blended family etc.); it’s about the overall functioning, harmony and emotional health of the unit itself.
The family is the main structure in which children grow, learn, and experience their lives. So, if you are married or living with a partner (or whatever your family structure might look like), make this/these relationship(s) a priority. Put in the time and energy needed. It’s one of the best things you can do as a parent.
#4 of the 10 parenting tips is:
Remember the principle of mimesis.
One of the key ways children learn is by mimicking (and eventually internalizing) what they see and experience every day. A lot of this occurs subconsciously. For better or worse, children learn a lot of their coping skills, their habits, their styles of communication, etc. from their parents. They mimic and internalize how they see us living and functioning in our day-to-day worlds -- how we do things, how we communicate, how we cope and make decisions and solve problems. You are the example for your children. So, the more you strive you live your own life well (and happily), the better this will be for your kids.
#5 of the 10 parenting tips is:
It is about quality time.
Raising your kids well doesn’t mean you have to be with them all the time. In other words, parenting well isn’t about “spending time” per se, rather, it’s about being plugged-in, interested, engaged in your children’s lives.
One way to do this is by making sure moments of quality parent-child time get carved into the day. Quality time can be as simple as sitting together for a meal, taking a walk or bike ride together, talking together, playing a game, reading together, or just plain hanging out.
#6 of the 10 parenting tips is:
Remember the adage “it takes a village to raise a child.”
As the mom, you likely do have the bulk of the responsibility. But that doesn’t mean that it should be all up to you, or that you should be doing it all (even though the dominant culture can easily make us feel this way). That’s just not a realistic expectation, nor is it a particularly healthy one. It is good for kids to have a number of influences in their lives -- other people to help take care of them, to teach them things, to do things with them, to spend time with them. Don’t expect to do it all yourself, and don’t feel guilty for not doing it all. It does take a village to raise a child.
#7 of the 10 parenting tips is:
Parents need time-outs too.
This tip isn’t so much about using time-outs as a disciplinary tool (although those can work well too). This tip is about giving yourself a time-out when faced with a challenging parenting situation. In the heat of anger, in the heat of being reactive, in the heat of feeling overwhelmed or unsure or frustrated, it can become quite easy to say or do something we might later regret. When we get to the edge like that (and it happens to all of us), it’s a good idea to take our own temporary time-out from the situation to regroup, to calm down, to clear our heads. Put the kids in their room, put the baby in her/his crib (even if s/he cries) ~ do whatever you need to do (as long as the kids are safe) to give yourself some space to collect your thoughts, calm down, gain perspective.
#8 of the 10 parenting tips is:
Set boundaries and expectations.
First, children want and need boundaries and expectations. They want and need us to say “no” to those things we feel are inappropriate, not needed, not reasonable, etc. They also want to know what is expected of them and what we believe they can achieve. Establishing boundaries and setting expectations teaches children so much. It teaches them about limits, about balance, about risks, about priorities, about responsibilities, about citizenship, and more.
#9 of the 10 parenting tips is:
Identify your “big picture” parenting priorities.
This tip is about identifying your ultimate parenting objectives. What do you hope for your child? What are some of the core skills, attributes, beliefs, habits, ideas, etc. that you want to instill in your child? Figuring some of these things out is what gives you a framework for parenting ~ it’s your sense of what the “big picture” looks like for you. Having this “big picture” set of parenting priorities makes it much easier to then identify and figure out the best approach to take in any given parenting situation, from the thousands of small, day-to-day decisions and considerations to the big issues and decisions.
#10 of the 10 parenting tips is:
Don’t undermine or cut down.
As much as they like to push the boundaries, children do generally aim to please their parents. They look for our approval, our support, our guidance, our teaching. It is our job to give them that, and to give it with dignity and respect always.
This is not to say we can’t get angry, express disappointment, or express displeasure with their behavior or efforts or attitude. The point is to be sure that we avoid language or behavior that cuts them down, makes them feel unworthy, and undermine them.
An Excerpt from: Parenting with an Attitude -- 21 Questions Successful Parents Ask Themselves
Dr Ed Wimberly
“Kids who are respected by their parents are more likely and willing to show respect toward others.”
Question #2: Do I respect my kids?
What’s the Bottom Line?
Respect is caught by kids more than it is directly taught. The need and right for respect is not based on age, nor is it earned by performance or ability. While rights and privileges are earned and can be lost, respecting your kids -- just because they are your kids -- is a constant, a right that must never be taken from them.
Respecting our kids, while not always easy or natural, is a fundamental necessity if we are to help them feel a sense of their own self-worth. If we are able to respect our kids just because of who they are, then they will grow up with a greater sense of who they are, and what they have to offer. They will also develop a greater capacity and desire to respect others as well. Raising great kids requires that parents show them they are respected just for being who they are. A good question that will help in assessing the respect you have for your kids is: do I treat my best friends and my kids in a similar manner when it comes to respect?
1. As a child growing up, were you respected by your parents?
2. What impact did their respect/non-respect have when you were growing up?
3. Do you treat your best friend and your kids in a similar respectful manner?
4. Do you agree or disagree with the idea that respect is more effectively caught rather than simply taught to our kids?
5. Are you succeeding at instilling in your kids a respect for others?
6. What signs do you see that suggest that you are succeeding?
7. In what ways do you show respect to your kids?
8. In what ways do you see your kids showing respect (or disrespect) toward others?
Ten False Assumptions about Parenting
By Dr Ed Wimberly
1. All unacceptable behaviors are signs of challenges to my authority so should be handled by me in the same way.
2. Challenges to my authority are avoidable and if they do occur, it is sure sign that I am “losing the battle” and am not a good parent.
3. It is my anger that finally motivates my kids to obey.
4. If I just love my kids enough, then everything else will fall into place.
5. I should be able to out, “Yes, but my kids…”
6. If my kids don’t seem to be listening, then they will not be affected by what I say about them to others.
7. My kids must earn my respect and it can be lost if they don’t perform, obey, or live up to my expectations.
8. Doing the opposite of what mistakes my parents made with me must be the right way for me to parent my kids.
9. If I want my kids to love me, then they must need me.
10. If my disciplinary approach works to get the desired behavior change in my kids, then it must be the right approach and all right to use.
Children seldom misquote you. They usually repeat word-for-word what you should not have said. Unknown
We are apt to forget that children watch examples better than they listen to preaching. Roy L. Smith
Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you. H. Jackson Brown
My father didn’t tell me how to live, he lived, and let me watch him do it. Clarence Budinton Kelland
Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you. Robert Fulghum
To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while. Josh Billings
Mutryce A. Williams is a native St Kitts and Nevis whose writings embrace and mirror the West Indian life. She holds a Masters of Politics degree and is a doctoral candidate pursuing studies in Public Policy Administration with a double concentration in Terrorism, Mediation and Peace, and Homeland Security Policy and Coordination. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org