Parenting children is certainly not easy; it presents new challenges for moms and dads to face every day. When those challenges arise, what’s the best response? Crackdown or go with the flow? Hold tight or let go?
It’s hard to know what to do to keep your children safe while also allowing them their developmental freedom. While there’s no definitive answer on this subject, the following tips can help you strike the right balance for your family.
1. Give Your Child the Independence They Need
It’s always nerve-wracking the first time your child wants to go hang out with friends on their own. You’ve been with them all the time — how can you ensure that they’re being safe and responsible when alone?
The first step, believe it or not, is to show them that you trust them to behave. Expressly exhibiting your trust in your child helps them feel trustworthy and responsible, encouraging them to be so in practice.
Still, you don’t need to stop your parenting right there. While giving your child their independence, you can also set some ground rules. A curfew is a good way to find this balance.
Your kiddo is free to do as they like until the clock reaches the specified time. While they’re out and about, a kids phone will enable them to stay in touch with you without exposing them to dangerous internet content.
2. Encourage Self-Expression Over Conformity
School at any age is a time when conformity exerts a strong influence both in and out of the classroom. Children are expected to listen to their teachers and follow their rules at all times. Social dynamics constantly put pressure on people to act a certain way and vie for the acceptance of their peers.
All of this can be overwhelming for your child’s young psyche, so do your best to encourage individuality and free-thinking within social bounds.
Conformity is not inherently a bad thing; rules are fundamental to society and morality. Nevertheless, it can have a negative effect on your child’s self-perception. Encouraging them to strike a balance between going along and standing out can help mitigate it.
Instead of following others all the time or listening to nobody, encourage your child to explore healthy interests. With artistic, athletic, scientific, or other means of expressing themselves, your child will learn to resist negative pressure and follow their heart.
3. Keep an Open Dialogue
You need to set guidelines for your child even if they object to them. This is your role as a parent: to help them develop good habits despite how magnetic the bad ones are.
But without a respectful openness on both sides, a disconnect can form, making it harder to understand each other. After all, why would a child consider — much less follow — your rules if they don’t know their purpose?
The common response of “Because I said so” disregards the active, human mind within a child. Without the ability to question things, and to have those questions heard, they’ll find it easier to seek answers elsewhere.
Let your child know that their thoughts are safe with you, that you will respect them even if you disagree with them. By the same token, explain your reasoning and insist on the same respect. This foundation will help your child understand why you set guidelines for them and help you do so more sensitively.
4. Allow Distractions Within Reason
Children love any kind of distraction that they can get their hands on. Toys, games, television, devices — all of these things are irresistibly stimulating to a child (as well as many adults!).
It is of course no surprise that children could watch television and play games all day. Naturally, you’ll need to apply boundaries to such activities for this very reason.
Distractions aren’t all bad though; consider when and how you consume your media. Maybe after getting home from a long workday, you relax by kicking your feet up and turning on the Xbox. You deserve to relax after putting in your productive effort for the day — and your child does, too.
An hour of play or TV after school allows kids to decompress — and teaches the importance of doing so. Productivity is a good thing, of course, but every brain needs and deserves a break.
5. Remember That Children Are People, Too!
Ultimately, your child is a developing human with thoughts and feelings of their own. Always try to put yourself in their shoes when considering rules and precautions.
How would you feel if you were told to obey a certain rule? If you can’t convincingly explain it to yourself, you’re unlikely to persuade your child it’s the right thing to do.
Show your child that most things are OK in moderation, that their feelings are real, and that independence is important. But also show them that rules can be beneficial and that trusting you will only help them.
Leaning too far to either side of the parenting scale will almost certainly cause issues, so aim to strike a balance. Communication is the most important thing in a family, especially with children. Once you’ve got that down, helping them through life will be so much easier — and more meaningful.