As parents, we try our best to do the right thing at all times for our children. We constantly pray and ask for guidance in leading our children. Unfortunately, even as adults, we are still products of our past environment and continue to be influenced by the things we saw and heard as children. These things lead us in making decisions that are not always appropriate for our own children. The lifestyle that worked for us might not be the lifestyle that our children are here to live. So what advice would I offer parents?
- Figure it out. – As I just stated, what worked for me in growing up did not work for my son. He did not respond well to harsh criticism. He didn’t have the desire to prove me wrong if I doubted him. He did not have the mentality of, “I’m going to make a believer out of you, even if it’s the last thing I do.” You have to figure out what works for your child to bring out the best of them. It took me many years to realize that my son needed to talk through things. He needed to hear the good and the bad and process it all for himself. This led him to understanding the power in his own decision making. When he made mistakes, he would either alter his efforts or stick with the plan until it came to fruition. In the midst of all of this, we had to figure it out. I didn’t read books and I didn’t seek advice from other mothers; we created our own lane that allowed us to run our race.
- Set boundaries – We wanted our son to feel free to share his thoughts, ideas and even things he disagreed on. However, none of this came without boundaries. We reminded him that while we were open to hearing what he had to say and we valued his input, there were still restrictions in his approach and what he was allowed to have input on. We talked to our son about major decisions such as purchasing vehicles, going on vacations and adjustments to spending that would impact him. We gave him the courtesy of knowing he was part of the decision making process as long as he understood and played his defined role.
- Express your love through words and actions – I grew up in a household where love was in the deeds but never in the words. I can’t say that I liked this lifestyle so I definitely changed it in my parenting. Every night we said, “I love you”. We made sure no matter how upset we got, our son knew our love still existed. We gave hugs, pounds, fist bumps, kisses on the cheeks, and many more terms of endearment so he would never feel he wasn’t loved. Our love was extended beyond making sure there was a roof over his head and food on the table. Even during his teenage years, we made quality time matter. While we wanted him to know they things we provided him was a part of our love, it was not the only thing that we shared to show him how much we truly love him.
- Provide support – As a child, the one thing I was able to say is I had the most supportive parents on the planet. They attended all of our school functions and extra-curricular activities. This was so important to me in my development. However, support can take a different turn. Support extended beyond being at all the functions. Support included addressing the teacher that suggested your son would be a first generation college student on an athletic scholarship. Support was having a conversation with the teacher that made my son’s athletic abilities a priority over his academic abilities. Support was also calling out the behaviors of my son and the adults who felt he could go through phases of life with little to no accountability. Yes, we loved supporting the glowing moments but the growing moments were just as relevant.
- Model the behaviors you want to see – Lead by example. In parenting we have a tendency to want to be right because we’re the adults. The biggest example we could have set was admitting we were wrong and letting our son see us make mistakes. In learning from those mistakes, we had to show him how to bounce back and transform into something better. My son had an opportunity to watch us in roles of coaches, educators, students, parents, spouses, etc. Each of these roles challenged our decision making, our integrity, our resilience and even our pride. And with Simba watching, we still had to show him how to rise above it all. This took a very conscious effort because we had to make determinations on how we would want to see him respond if placed in a similar situation. Would he fold or would he spread?
Are you a parent? What are some of the mistakes you’ve made and what has helped you become more effective as a parent? Drop some tips below.