On days when we doubt if we are good parents or not (everyone has these days), we can look to three things that will help us determine the extent of our effectiveness.
- Live in love (not fear).
When we let our love for our children shine through, then we are in a better position to communicate that love with our words, actions, demeanor, and attitude. If we withhold our love out of fear (of whatever, like vulnerability) or if we let fear (of whatever, like tragedy) take control of our parenting decisions, then the love that will lead the way for us kind of gets lost in the background. Let love be first. Fear not of loss or of looking foolish. Just let the care and kindness that you have in your heart for you children and your family be the main idea of every step you take on your journey as a parent.
- Always tell the truth (even if it’s embarrassing).
When we stand on the side of truth, then we will never have anything to worry about. Anxiety and stress melt away in the presence of truth, so as long as you’re telling it and living it, then you’re good to go. We need to be honest with ourselves and honest with others (directly so when necessary)—even if this means that we ruin an illusion for ourselves that we were trying to live up to or if this means that others won’t understand or might think the wrong thing.
For example, we might be having a lousy day and might be making a lot of mistakes along the way. We need to know that this is the case instead of brushing it away and instead of still telling ourselves that we were awesome today when in fact we were not. (We can remind ourselves that we are growing and learning and getting better step by step, but we cannot exchange this truth for an outright falsehood like, “I am already the most perfect parent that ever lived!” On the other hand, if we really did well with most of the challenges we faced in the day, we can recognize that openly with ourselves instead of getting down on ourselves for missing one or two things.) It does no good neither to deny hard truths nor to minimize our [even little] accomplishments in this often rocky path of parenting.
Also for example, with regards to other people, sometimes things happen that might seem to reflect poorly on us, but in reality, our kids are just being the kids that they are and we are simply (and truly) doing the best job that we can as the parents that we are. So always telling the truth with others (and maybe not directly to them but just with ourselves about what the truth actually is) might look like this: we are out at the store (or wherever), and our kids are being kids. We are keeping them close, we are keeping an eye on them, we are giving them positive direction, but still our kids are sounding like kids (e.g., laughing, being loud, or whining) and acting like kids (e.g., being silly, having tantrums, or fighting with each other). So if you feel (or see) that you are getting stares from others, brush it off and ignore them because you know the truth about the situation. And the truth is that your kids are acting their age and you are doing the best job you can. Don’t let anyone else make you feel bad for being a real, live parent of real, live children. Child-friendly parenting is about doing what’s best for your children’s well-being and not for anyone else’s.
- Let freedom ring (with reasonable limits in place).
Embracing freedom in our family and home is about letting go of negative control and owning our responsibility to utilize positive control for greater safety, health, and well-being of our children as individuals, of our family as a unit, and of ourselves as the stewards we are of our very selves and of those entrusted to us. This positive form of “control” is a life-giving influence and veritable safety net that we have and exert with wisdom and finesse over our children. When they are young, we will allow them and encourage them to be the children that they are while yet also having and enforcing important limits that are reasonable.
Being a child-friendly parent is not about throwing everything to the wind and seeing how everything turns out by chance, fate, and good intention. It’s about celebrating our children as the unique individuals as they are and deliberately caring well for their bodies and souls by making use of practical and achievable parameters. We wouldn’t be good parents if we laissez-faire-ed it the whole way through. Yes, our child is his or her own person who makes his or her own choices (which becomes all the more true the older they get), but it’s our job to lovingly, gently, patiently, tenderly, empathetically, consistently, and (when necessary) firmly guide them through life the best that we can to increase the likelihood that they will want to make good choices and then actually make good choices for themselves and then stand by those choices, being proud of themselves for doing the right thing, even if it was hard.