Being a parent is hard work, and sometimes the stress levels can get so high you wonder what you were thinking to bring kids into this world. Let’s face it, raising children is a real and constant challenge. What’s a parent to do? Here’s the secret: You need to take control. And by that I mean that you need to take control of your own emotional reactivity in various parenting situations. Understand that “taking control” does not mean becoming an authoritative dictator. For example, when your child is very young, you can tell her what to do. However, as children grow and mature, direct orders given often become a source of conflict.
Here are four suggestions about how you can lower your stress levels and take control of parenting situations.
- Take control of your own reactions. When the stress level rises, be certain that you control your behavior even if your child does not control his. Your emotional response is always up to you. Staying calm and thoughtful, even when children are trying to “push your buttons” and make you lose control, is a way of modeling for your kids.
- Take control of establishing an inspiring environment. You are building a safe place in which your kids can grow and become decision-making adults. Kids can flourish in a stable, safe environment because they can learn to create their own decisions and solve their own problems—without worrying that making a mistake and deviating from the parental perspective will not be tolerated. Trust and respect are wonderful character traits to instill in kids as they are developing family relationships in your household. These traits become a foundation for them in later years as they venture into a broader world environment. Stay firm to your value system and live it. Don’t deviate from it by inappropriate actions.
- Take control of establishing the parameters in which decisions have consequences. Your child was born with his own mind and free will, so he will be testing your authority and learning to create and embrace his own value system. But decisions have consequences, and helping your child experience this concept while living with you is a helpful first step in learning how to navigate in the world on his own.
Take control of your own decision making procedures. One thing that we find ourselves saying to our kids when we review decisions that lie before them is that we want them to make “informed decisions.” Coach them on how to take in as much information as possible before making a decision. Then, after the decision is made, they’ll know they did the best job possible, given the information they had. And be sure to back them in those decisions (as long as they are healthy and appropriate), even if you may not have come to the same conclusion. And know in your heart that you are nurturing a future self-directed adult.