You can find thousands of books and no shortage of magazines about parenting, but if you ask 10 people about the most important parenting quality, you'll likely end up with just as many answers. A parent isn’t intrinsically bad or good; she’s just a parent who makes good or bad choices. Parenting is an ongoing process that has some trial and error, and requires you to accept and learn from your limitations.
When you unconditionally love a child, you love and accept him no matter what. For example, if your child drew on the walls with crayon, you won't like what he did, but you still love him. According to a WebMD article titled “10 Commandments of Good Parenting,” it’s impossible to spoil a child with love. Just keep in mind that love isn’t synonymous with material possessions, low expectations or inappropriate leniency.
When a child gets into trouble, a parent has a couple of ways to handle the problem -- with punishment or discipline. Parents who use punishment do so as a way to make a child stop what she’s doing or to make her “pay” for her undesired actions or behaviors, according to the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University’s publication, “Discipline and Punishment: What is the Difference?” Punishments often have nothing to do with a child’s offense, are self-centered and place responsibility on the parent to take action. On the other hand, discipline helps a child learn to behave appropriately, uses logical consequences that relate to the offense, shows respect and helps a child learn self-control.
Leading by Example
Parents are a child’s first teachers. From his first words to social norms, a child learns by watching and listening to his parents. According to the article “How to Be a Good Parent: It’s All about You!” on the Psychology Today website, being a positive role model for your child can be more effective than disciplinary measures or behavior training. Because your child looks to you to see how he should socialize and behave, it’s important to make your actions and words worth imitating.
Consistency and Flexibility
Children thrive on routine. When your behaviors, boundaries, rules and modes of discipline are consistent, your child will trust you, feel safe and respect your authority. While it’s important to be consistent with your behaviors and values, it’s equally vital to practice flexibility as a parent. As your child grows, so will her needs and skills. Making adjustments to the way you parent will help foster independence and intellectual growth, and provide a structured, supportive environment.
Allowing yourself to pursue your own sense of independence is as important as fostering your child’s autonomy. Remember that you are more than a parent; you are a person with talents, hobbies and others who care about you. As you let your child explore and develop a sense of self, occasionally take time out for your own pursuits. Otherwise, according to Firestone, you’re at risk of living your life through your child, which can lead to emotional voids and rebellion.
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