Do you ever feel like your parenting is lacking? Do you feel disconnected and out of touch with your kids? Do you feel like they don't really listen to you?
Relationships are one of the key factors in determining how happy we are in life. Since our relationships with our kids is one of the most important relationships in our lives, it is important that this is a good relationship.
A good relationship with our kids is important not just for the happiness of our kids, but also for our own happiness. So, it's no wonder that we often question our parenting skills. We love our kids and we want what's best for them.
The problem is, we may not always know what actually is best for them.
What makes a good parent?
We all know that showing our kids love and attention is one of the most important things we can do as parents. This includes taking an interest in playing with our kids, and spending quality time with them.
When it comes to quality time, it is important that we make this as beneficial for our kids as possible, and put down our phones.
Besides quality time though, what else makes us good or bad parents? How do we know?
According to a 2010 study from Scientific American, the next two most important predictors of good child outcomes later in life are:
maintaining a good relationship with the other parent and managing your own stress level. In other words, your children benefit not just from how you treat them but also from how you treat your partner and yourself.
This isn't what I would have guessed are the most important factors in parenting. I would have thought helping them do well in school, or helping them make friends and learn prosocial behaviors.
But wait. Kids learn prosocial behaviors from us. We teach them how to treat other people. They learn this by mirroring us.
So, it's important that we're giving kids good examples to learn from. This is apparently especially true for kids evolving relationships with others, and their relationship with themselves.
Are you making time for your kids?
First of all, it's important to make sure that we're spending 'enough' quality time with our kids.
To do this, we have to first define quality time. Quality time is, time that you're 100% focused on your child, doing a meaningful activity. It can be an activity that your child chooses, or doing things like going on a family trip or outing.
Since you can't take your child for a special outing every day, it's important not to rely on these as your sole source of quality time. Find things that you can do together at home too.
Some quality time activities can include:
Playing a board game
Playing a sport
Eating dinner together
Making a craft project
Going for a walk
Reading a book
Having a good conversation (for older kids)
There are infinitely more possibilities, it's just important that you find something you and your child both enjoy doing together. Then spend at least 10 minutes a day with your child 1:1 enjoying each other's company.
Quality time may not be the biggest thing we have to worry about with our parenting, since a 2012 study by the Economist shows that we actually spend more time with our kids than our parents did with us.
PARENTS these days spend a lot more time with their offspring, or at least middle-class parents do. One analysis of 11 rich countries estimates that the average mother spent 54 minutes a day caring for children in 1965 but 104 minutes in 2012.
Clearly, as parents we are focused on spending time with our kids, since the data bears this out. We are good at making sure that we are building a relationship that is a solid future for our kids.
However, we may not always realize the impact that other relationships in our lives have on our kids as well.
Ask yourself, what example is my relationship setting?
Realize that your kids are watching you all the time. What kind of example are you setting for them?
When it comes to our relationship with our significant other, kids are learning what relationships are supposed to be. Are we showing them a united front, with unconditional love and support? Or, are we showing that mom and dad fight all the time and treat each other with no respect?
Having a kind, loving and compassionate relationship with our partners is just as important as the relationship that we have with our kids. Often, our relationships can suffer when we start to focus more on the kids, and less on our partners.
It is important to take time to reconnect with our partners regularly too, since our relationship as a couple forms the backbone of the family. Neglecting our relationship with our partner can be just as damaging as neglecting our relationship with our kids.
It isn't just important how we relate to our kids themselves, it's important how we relate to each other too. The relationships we have with our partners is the relationship that our kids are going to be exposed to most throughout their childhood.
If you want to raise kids that are happy, kind and well-adjusted, it's important to teach them about relationships, and we teach by example.
Kids' attachment bond with us forms the primary template for learning about relationships, but watching our relationships with each other actually comes in second place behind the parent-child relationship.
According to Talkspace, parents relationships effect kids in the following 4 ways:
Their own romantic relationships
The ability to be vulnerable
How they handle conflict
How they express emotions
So, if your relationship with your kids is suffering, ask yourself what kind of relationship you have with your spouse. Make sure that relationship is thriving too!
I know that having a supportive partner in my life makes such a big difference, especially after being in a terrible relationship with a narcissist prior to this. I think it makes me value and prioritize a good relationship even more.
Are you doing the same? Do you make time each day for your partner?
If you're struggling in your relationship with your partner, it may be time to seek couples therapy. Not just for the sake of the relationship itself, but for the sake of your kids too.
Sit down and talk to your partner about what you can do to improve your relationship, and make a plan together about what you can do to reconnect. This is a good first step toward creating a healthier relationship. Communication is always key.
How do you manage your stress?
Another one of our jobs as parents is to teach our kids emotional self-regulation. That means, we teach them how to cope with big feelings.
How we act in times of stress is important, because this is often our very worst behavior. Do you get snappish and irritable? Do you eat your feelings? Retreat into work?
You probably don't want your kids to see you screaming on the phone at the power company, then hanging up angrily and throwing it across the room.
However kids see us managing our feelings is going to become the template for their own emotional regulation in the future.
Most of us can be pretty good at managing our emotions when things are going fine in life, it's when we are under stress that our bad coping skills tend to rear their ugly head.
Because of this, it is important for us to work on managing our own stress not just for ourselves and our well being, but for our kids' wellbeing too.
There are lots of great ways to manage stress such as:
Calling a friend
Just to name a few techniques for coping with stress. It's also great if you can do any of these activities in nature, since the sunlight is proven to reduce stress levels as well.
Learning to manage our own emotions, especially when we are under stress, is key for teaching our kids proper coping skills.
Showing our kids that we prioritize our mental health through good self-care and emotional regulation skills shows them that we care about ourselves and our own wellbeing. This sets a template for kids in the future, that they shouldn't push their own feelings aside, but instead teaches them the importance of caring for themselves as much as they care for others.
When you're struggling with your kids, ask yourself some hard questions. That way, you can get to the root of your parenting dilemma. At the end of the day, parenting really is all about relationships. Your relationship with your child, your partner, and yourself are the primary relationships in your life, and have the biggest impact.
The more we treat the important people in our lives with kindness and compassion, the more we will be able to raise happy and well-adjusted kids, with whom we are well connected.
Be sure to take time to nurture all of the important relationships in your life, not just the relationship with your kids. Make sure that you aren't neglecting your partner or yourself in the quest to be the perfect parent.
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