“My parents suffered from that ideal of a perfect nuclear family. They found that a difficult pressure, I think.”

—Tim Burton

Most parents worry far too much about being perfect, and they always blame themselves when kids get into trouble or end up with emotional issues. The main reason is that family, school, peer, and media pressure is relentless. So, let us look at practical ways you can be a better parent without tearing your hair out or having a nervous breakdown. Here are 13 ways you can be a better parent.

1. Spend more time with your kids.

No, you don’t want to get away from them; you want to give them some more prime time. In the UK, parents have to work the longest hours in Europe and try to make up for it by buying their kids the latest electronic devices. Not a good idea! Here are ways you can spend more time with your kids:

  • Try to make meal times an event when you can be together. No devices. Just talk and listen to your kids.
  • Organize collecting kids with other friends and neighbours so you have more time for yourself.
  • Get your groceries delivered, organize cleaning the house better by assigning chores to the kids and giving rewards.

2. Stop worrying so much about the kids’ diet.

Healthy eating is a great idea! The only problem is that it takes time to get organized, and then you have to revolutionize everybody’s diet. This can be far too stressful and often expensive too. Just introduce a few healthier eating habits so that you do not have to do all that planning.

Make sure that junk food is never bought in large quantities. Encourage kids to get into smoothies by asking them to invent them or help you make them. Use nuts, fruit and chocolate as snacks. Banning certain foods in one fell swoop is never a good idea. Just introduce healthy eating on a gradual basis.

3. Forget yelling—there are quieter ways.

When kids are yelled at, screamed at, insulted, and threatened, it has a negative impact on their development—this is bad parenting and is just another form of child abuse. It is shocking to realize that 1 in 8 children are abused at some point before they reach the age of eighteen. That is the US average, and it’s quite scary. One Princeton psychiatrist has noted that the maltreatment of children is swept under the carpet far too often.

There are plenty of methods you can adopt to avoid getting into a yelling match. Here are my favorites:

  • Use time out yourself and walk away.
  • Use a pause button technique and tell the kid you will talk about it later.
  • Know that you don’t have to attend every fight you are invited to.
  • Agree with the child when they protest that something is unfair or far too difficult. Displaying empathy is always a good idea.
  • Establish clear rules on unacceptable insults and name calling.

4. Are your kids doing too much?

Maybe your kids are overscheduled. They are dashing (and you are the taxi driver) from sports, piano lessons and choir practice. If this is the case, you may want to restrict a few of the activities.  You can cut out anything that interferes with eating together, for example. Then you can have the music teacher come to your home instead of you dashing around and polluting the atmosphere with petrol fumes.

5. What example are you setting?

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”

—Robert Fulghum

Time for some difficult questions. Are you likely to curse and swear at stupid drivers in front of your kids? Do you lie for convenience sake when you want to avoid an appointment? If we want our kids to be honest, to show respect for others, and to grow up as balanced, empathetic persons, then we have to make sure that the role we are setting is in line with what we preach.

6. Do fun things together.

Weekends should be dedicated to going out, doing sports and any form of physical exercise or anything which is fun. The great advantage of doing exercise is that you get the benefit of the released endorphins, which will put you in a great mood. In addition, kids are able to concentrate better after doing sports. This is great for getting homework done in record time.

7. Are you spoiling your kids?

Spoiling kids could mean simply that you are continuing to treat them like babies and you are being over-protective. One solution for not spoiling is to actually talk about behavior as they get older. Asking them about why they behave in a certain way can be an eye opener. Also explain that material possessions are far less important than being a caring, honest and tolerant person.

8. Don’t parent like your own parents.

Far too often, parents try to redress the wrongs they suffered during their own upbringing. If they were deprived of material possessions, they tend to lavish gifts on their offspring. At times, this can backfire and the child may see this as invasive and over the top. Other times, being showered with presents can make a child feel entitled to everything they want and is the worst possible lesson on how to approach work and relationships.

9. Don’t worry too much about peer pressure.

Parents always think that peer pressure is likely to lead to negative behavior. But have you considered how it can also positively affect motivation and a healthy competitive edge in academic and sports achievements? It may not necessarily always be a bad thing.

10. Get social media into perspective.

Yes, it is extremely irritating to see kids and teens texting all the time and being glued to their devices. There are a few simple practical things you can do to limit this. Banning such activity is out of the question.

The best way is to set a good example. When you arrive home, make sure that your own mobile is turned off and that you can give kids your full attention. Also, make sure that during mealtimes, all devices are switched off.

The good news is that teens who text all the time are also likely to be just as socially active in the real world. Australian research on 100,000 teens who were texting all the time found that 80% were following this up with real social interaction.

11. There are no perfect kids either.

Too often, we set our sights too high and we want our children to be well behaved, do well academically, and be great at sports too.  In addition, they have to be polite, kind, and clean! We should lower our standards and be prepared for normal kids who are going to spill things and lose their tempers just like we do at times.

12. How can you improve?

Ask your kids! That is what the guy who runs Single Dad Laughing website did. He asked the kids how parents could do better. Some fascinating and really funny answers here!  They want to watch TV shows in their underpants, would like apple slices cut straighter and also want him to stop asking questions as the answers will all be posted on his Facebook page!

13. Guide your children

There is far too much emphasis on consequences and punishment and toeing the line. The best way is to guide rather than punish. Parents can spot triggers and avoid situations that are likely to lead to trouble. It is also useful to empathize with kids when they are mad, but point out that verbal communication is what it is all about.

Last but not least, promise yourself that you can easily be a better parent and do not be discouraged by the so-called perfect parents you see at your kids’ school every day. Commit yourself by starting to make small changes every day. Achieving mini goals is what it is all about. When you do, pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that you are going to be a great parent.

Have you set some goals for yourself in the parenting adventure? Tell us about them in the comments below.

Check out Parenting: 6 Myths You Should Know About

Featured photo credit: Happy Family/David Amsler via flickr.com

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