Parents should teach their kids about gratitude and giving — before opening their gifts. Here are five tips to consider before the kids start ripping the wrapping paper and unraveling the ribbons, in Dr. Dan Peters’ “5 Ways to Manage Your Child’s Gift Expectations” on PSYCHOLOGY TODAY.
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Do you think about how you parent or are you more in “auto-pilot”? Do you approach parenting in a way that feels natural to you? Do you think about what you want for your child’s future, and parent in a way that will lead to those goals, or do you focus on the parenting moments as they occur and feel the future will work out for your child? Did you know that there are “types” of parenting styles, and different parenting styles tend to produce different outcomes?
The parenting approach practiced the longest and by most cultures has been termed the “authoritarian” parent. This parenting style is generally considered to be “traditional.” The authoritarian parent is in charge, tells kids what to do, and expects compliance. While there are surely different outcomes and loads of variables that impact a child’s experience beyond parenting alone, children of authoritarian parents tend to lean toward achievement and doing the “right” thing. They may be less likely to think outside of the box nor take chances as to not make a mistake or get in trouble.
The next most common parenting style, the “permissive” parent, emerged as a reaction to the authoritative style, and was seen more in the 1960’s in the U.S. The permissive parenting style allowed children to do what they wanted and parents did not tell their kids what to do. This parenting style tends to produce children who grow up not knowing where to draw limits in their behavior, and may range from being anxious and nervous in the world to rebellious and lacking responsibility due to lack of guidance and parental expectations.
A different parenting style emerged in the 1980’s — the “authoritative style.” The authoritative style continues to be common today because it is a combination of setting limits when necessary and giving space and freedom to children to have more choices in their own lives. Authoritative parents tend to talk more to their kids and listen to their thoughts and wishes, yet still make the final decision on matters of importance. Children raised in this parenting style tend to be responsible and cooperative adults, yet may need to look to others for validation as they may lack an inner confidence in their decisions.
Do any of the above parenting styles describe you? Are you happy and content with your own parenting approach? Are you parenting like your parents parented you? Are you doing what you liked experiencing as a child? Are you repeating things you told yourself you would never do to your own child?
I can best answer these questions by using a term I invented: the Parent Footprint. We are all leaving footprints on our children and we had footprints left us on by our parents. They may be positive, negative, or neutral, but we are all leaving our legacy to our children and future grandchildren every day. The real question is not whether you are parenting “correctly,” but whether you are parenting with intention and purpose and whether you are acting in a way that is consistent with what you want for your child. The real question is – what footprint you want to leave?
As our society is evolving, so is parenting. There is a new paradigm of parenting that is focused on the type of person we are as parents and how who we are matters most to the outcome of our children. Sure, our parenting approach definitely matters, but before we return to that topic, I want to ask you to consider what your kids see you do day in and day out? What are you doing with your time, what are they hearing you say? Do they see you engaging in your life or “sacrificing” everything for them? Do you tell them to stand up for themselves with mean friends, yet they see you get taken advantage of from others? I know these are hard questions to ask ourselves but the good news is that our kids benefit from us parents looking at ourselves and becoming aware of who we are as individuals and as parents.
The new paradigm of parenting also focuses on parents teaching and guiding, rather than controlling and exerting our will over our children. This new paradigm highlights the importance of parents realizing our children are separate people from us with separate paths, separate interests, and separate goals. This new paradigm focuses on us parents becoming more aware of ourselves so we can separate what is our goal versus our child’s goal, and taking a step back to parent in the moment to know the difference. Once we know who we are and what we want for our child, we can observe and listen to what and who our child is.
I want you to ask yourself the question that that late, wise Wayne Dyer asked in the title of one of his many enlightening books, “What do you really want for your children?” If you even ask this question, you are ahead of the game. To ask this question, and ponder the answer, provides you with the initial plan in which to parent your child. Do you want your child to be confident, successful, compassionate, or hard working? What are you doing to support this parenting goal? Are you controlling and managing your child or are you guiding and teaching?
As a parent in the trenches, I work hard to be an “aware” parent – aware of myself, aware of where I came from, aware of what I want for myself and my kids, and aware of what I am showing my kids as an example of a grown person. We are in the middle of this new parenting paradigm, and I invite you to get onboard. This is a 2 for 1 special. Your kids will benefit if they see you fully engaged in your life – and so will you. I challenge you to ask yourself what kind of parent you are. I challenge you to become more aware of where you came from and what you want for your children. We are all evolving, always, so be kind to yourself while you are growing.
What footprint do you want to leave?
The holidays are an opportunity to pause and be grateful for family and to reflect on another year coming to an end. By following these five steps, you will focus on what is most important to you, keep things in perspective, and be good to yourself and your family. Learn more in “5 Steps To Managing Stress During the Holidays” on HUFFPOST PARENTS.
What we say matters. It matters because our kids care what we say (even if they say they don’t), and they internalize the messages they hear from us and incorporate them into their internal sense of self. Learn more from Dr. Dan in “Sometimes Praise Is Exactly the Right Thing for Kids,” on Mom.me, a parenting community focused on motherhood.
Parenting is not about getting it “right” and there is no way to be a “perfect” parent. Parenting humbles us and tests us in ways we couldn’t have imagined. There is no manual for your child or how to best parent her. There is no grading system or report card. Learn more in “5 Steps to Be an Aware Parent” on HUFFPOST PARENTS.
There is no job more important than being a parent.
There is also no job that is more difficult.
We go to school to learn to read, do math, science, and history. We go to college or training programs to gain knowledge and skills in an area of future employment. We receive job training or attend training programs once we are hired for a job. Yet, most of us enter the job of parenthood with no formal training and little preparation. However, we come to the parenting journey with years of personal experiences. These experiences are primarily given to us by our parents, family, and caregivers.
Whether having a child was planned or not, the reality is that most of us think and hope that love will be enough to parent our child. For those of us on this parenting journey, we know that love is unfortunately not enough. Our children come into this world as their own unique beings, with unique personalities and temperaments. They often do as they want to do rather than what we want them to do. We have expectations, hopes, and dreams for them. We also have worries and fears about them and their future. They make us happy, angry, irritable, tired, and scared.
We are living in a new frontier. Information about everything is at our finger-tips and comes at us constantly and with a rapid pace. We have access to more information than in the history of mankind which has allowed us to make scientific breakthroughs. However, this technology also makes us more distracted, less present, and busier. It also makes us compare ourselves and our children to others and worry about where we are falling short, what we need to do better, and what we wished was different. As a result, parents often feel less than and may end up focusing on their child’s weaknesses or problems as the expense of honoring and cultivating their child’s strengths and whole being.
There has been a paradigm shift in the science of parenting. This shift has put the focus on the parent as the primary vehicle for positive and purposeful parenting. This is good news. Why? It means that parents have a significant impact on shaping and guiding their children’s future by working on their OWN behavior. This new paradigm has found that parents who work on understanding themselves, identifying their parenting goals, are present with their children, and work on being healthy and engaged in life raise kids who are self-aware, can regulate their emotions, and relate well with others.
Every time we walk into a room or interact with our children, we are bringing in our energy. Our kids absorb our energy – both positive and negative – like energy from the sun. What most of us don’t realize is that we bring our past experiences, and the energy that goes with it, to our interactions with our children. We have expectations for how our children should behave and talk to us, how hard they should work, how silly they should be, and how much they should apply themselves. We have expectations and worries for their future. While some of these ideas come from our current life and communities in which we live, many of them come from the conditioning of what was right and wrong, what happened when we made a mistake, or what happened when our parents had a bad day or drank too much.
Becoming aware of how our past influences our current parenting and how our children trigger those past memories and experiences, are among the most important elements of parenting with purpose. Understanding the experiences and events that were harmful, shameful, or demeaning and being able to forgive and let go of the lingering effects of these experiences allows parents to more freely see their children for who they are and parent them in real time.
The next critical step in parenting with purpose is for parents to understand who they are – what they care about, what drives them, and what brings them joy and happiness. We cannot expect our children to experience happiness and joy if we are unable to experience happiness and joy and share it with our children. Understanding who we are and what we care about, along with understanding where we come from allows parents to engage with their children in the moment and focus on what is important.
The joy of parenting lies in the adventure and journey. The art of parenting comes from learning about ourselves while we are learning about our children. In being aware and present, we learn from our children and in turn are able to guide them in their growth and development. When we know who we are, we can help our children understand who they are. When our children can understand who they are, they can be in the world with joy and excitement, learn how to manage themselves, utilize coping skills for life’s inevitable challenges, and contribute to making the world a better place.
Photo: Parent Footprint/ Shutterstock, used with permission
Did you know that there are “types” of parenting styles, and different parenting styles tend to produce different outcomes? Are you parenting like your parents parented you? Are you repeating things you told yourself you would never do to your own child? Learn more in “What Type of Parent Are You?” on HUFFPOST PARENTS.
Dr. Dan Peters offers five things to tell your children post-election, in “Trump Won, Hillary Lost, Now What?” on PSYCHOLOGY TODAY. Now that the election is over we all have to be strong – for our children, for our colleagues, for our country. Don’t let fear win. Choose hope. That way we ALL win.
What did you feel like when you were growing up? Did you feel accepted and understood? Did you feel like an outsider? Did you have people who got you? Did you have a place where you felt you belonged? Our experiences as children guide our parenting beliefs, which determine our parenting behavior. Learn more about how your prior experiences as a child impact your parenting in Dr. Dan Peters’ guest blog post on Gifted Homeschoolers Forum.