Kids are fabulous — but frustrating. If you’re like most parents, you desperately want to be a great mom or dad and do the right thing.
But it’s so hard to know what’s right, and often what appears “right” seems almost impossible to do. (Prime example: staying calm. Please, show me one parent who manages to stay calm all the time!)
But you know what? Good parenting doesn’t have to be rocket science.
As a parenting coach and mom of two myself, there are a few tried-and-true tips that I find work well for almost every parent. Here are the seven simple things that every great mom and dad knows to do:
1. They show their anger (the right way).
You’re allowed to get angry. Really. What actually matters is how you display that emotion.
The key to getting this “right” is knowing the source of your frustration. For example, think about those times when you arrive home and have to get dinner on the table and everyone is tired and cranky. It’s always then that the kids keep interrupting and wanting your attention.
But the problem isn’t the kids’ interruptions — it’s the workload.
So in times like these, instead of barking back at my daughters, I try to explain, “I’m sorry, I can’t look at that now. I’m frustrated that we’re late, and I’m trying to get sorted out and get dinner ready.”
This way they know it’s the situation — not them.
2. They wait to dish out consequences.
Many experts say you need to respond immediately when your kids misbehave. But I think it’s pretty poor advice.
If you don’t know what to do, it’s perfectly fine to say, “I don’t know how to handle this right now. I’ll get back to you.” You can even say, “I’m so angry I can’t think straight. I’m going to deal with this when I’m calmer.”
In my own parenting, I find that I feel better about myself when I give a considered response rather than a knee-jerk reaction. My kids also get a more powerful message when I have well thought-out consequences and am able to deliver them calmly.
3. They focus on quality time.
You don’t need perfect “work-life balance” — but you do need daily one-on-one time with each child. Even just five minutes of quality time every day can turn your relationship around.
For example, my older daughter used to be very challenging. She would constantly provoke me and tell me that Daddy was her favorite.
But when I started spending regular time with her every day, doing an activity of her choice, we became much closer. She transformed from someone who worked against me to someone who wanted to please me.
We felt closer to each other, so our behavior changed. We both became kinder and more understanding toward each other. It was truly amazing.
4. They hug their kids when they’re being horrible.
When children behave hatefully, it’s because they feel awful about themselves. So they end up provoking other people to behave hatefully toward them. They feel that’s what they deserve.
But if you do the opposite, they change. That’s why when my daughter lashes out and is mean to everyone, I take her aside. I wrap my arms around her and ask her what’s wrong, and she melts.
She has a cry, lets it all out, and tells me what’s bothering her. Then we move on.
5. They don’t solve their kids’ problems.
Raising independent, self-reliant children requires that they make their own mistakes and solve them on their own.
So, when your child tells you a problem, empathize — and then hand it back.
When my kids tell me about something they’re having trouble with, I bite my tongue to stop myself jumping in and saving them. Then I say something like, “Oh no, that sounds upsetting! What are you going to do?”
If they ask for my advice, I say, “I don’t know what you should do, but I can give you some ideas.” After each idea I say, “How would that work for you?” That allows them to think through the consequences and take ownership of the solution.
6. They don’t overanalyze.
It’s fine to think about situations and establish what you can learn from them. But sometimes our mind gets a little obsessed and repeatedly churns things over, on an endless, self-flagellating loop. We end up analyzing a situation to death.
When this happens, I recommend telling yourself “thank you, mind” and then moving on to other things. It’s a little like a reset button that allows you to acknowledge the thought and then continue on with your day.
7. They keep compliments simple.
The most powerful thing you can say to your kids isn’t “I love you” — it’s “I love you just the way you are.” And yes, those last five words are critical.
The first time I told my older daughter that I loved her just the way she is, her eyes went huge. She said, “Really?” and I nodded. She looked visibly relieved, and then she melted — it was lovely. It was clearly a very powerful message.
Best of all, we can all use this powerful technique on our kids, as often as we like. Give it a try and see the look on your child’s face.
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