As promised, I’m writing a second blog post. I’ve been thinking about this one and asking myself, ‘where do I start?’ Where does a parent begin to figure out how to parent? I want to re-iterate that I’m not a professional advice-giver on parenting. I have my Masters’ Degree in both Guidance Counseling and Mental Health Counseling. I have 18 years of Guidance Counseling and 10 years of Mental Health Counseling experience. I have been a kid of two parents and I am a parent. This is me with my personal experience giving some ideas.
So, the best place to begin is to realize that no matter who you are, no matter how self-actualized you are or self-aware, there’s always blind spots. We tend to parent the way we were parented. It is normal to do this even if you don’t happen to agree with how you were parented. Now, if you had fabulous parents and you are a fabulous parent, then you don’t need to read anymore. And maybe you should be the one writing! But, for the rest of us mere mortals we have to face some sort of short-coming in how our parents parented us and therefore, how we are likely to parent our children.
There are ways to help you break the cycle (if that’s what you need to do) such as seeing a Counselor or Pastor or praying and meditating or talking with a friend or mentor. But, another way to go about being the best parent you can be is to put yourself in the shoes of your child. ‘What does it feel like to have a parent who _____________ (you fill in the blank). It’s understandable that, at times, we are less than our best. We may feel frustrated, tired, or even angry. We don’t have to be perfect parents and we don’t have to always respond perfectly. It’s ok if we make a mistake or two or three, but we can do less of these things and more of the good things. The things that make being a parent rewarding and that make memorable moments for our child.
When we stop and put ourselves in our child’s shoes, we practice empathy. Empathy is not something we are born with. It is a social skill that we are taught. Some of us were taught this more than others. So developing empathy, if you don’t have it, is a process. It comes by asking those questions, ‘what does it feel like…’ and then imagining yourself being that person and reacting to whatever is going on. When you get in touch with how you would feel, that doesn’t always mean that person definitely feels that, but it is a start.
Another way to tap into how it feels to be your child is to ask your child how they feel. Surprisingly, a lot of them can tell you how they feel. Let me caution that you’ll have to listen non-defensively. Be prepared for whatever the child tells you in their honest response to the question. Take that information as feedback, not a put down, and then work on acting differently and responding differently to the situations where you respond less than your best.
Each time you make an effort to change, to do better, to say you’re sorry when you’ve been less than your best, the child feels you caring for them. You don’t have to be a perfect parent. It’s ok to make mistakes. We all do. None of us are given a manual on how to be a parent when we become one. We have to learn it as we go. Be kind to yourself. Be as open and honest with your blind spots as you can. Be willing to say you’re sorry. Be willing to ask your child how they feel and listen non-defensively. Be willing to change. This is what will make you the best parent you can be and to become your child’s hero!