Recently, parents have asked me about the best strategies for being an effective parent for their children. Obviously, the needs of children change over the span from infancy to young adulthood. That being said, there are some universal truths to keep in mind throughout the quest to being an attuned and effective parent.
Remember that it is our job to teach our children the necessary skills to become competent and independent. Here is a short list of the things we can and cannot do for our children.
Things you CAN do as a parent:
  • You can mirror, validate and empathize as your children share their thoughts, feelings and experiences in the world. This helps build a sense of being held safely for children and allows them to share more.
  • You can expand your child’s world by introducing new opportunities.
  • You can provide a sense of safety by being reliable and consistent in your expectations and the way you hold your child accountable. Kids crave consistency.
  • You can encourage your child to do their homework and help them acquire the skills necessary to succeed in their education.
  • You can have realistic expectations and provide needed resources to help your child meet them.
  • You can instill in your child a sense of hard work and always putting their best effort forward.
  • You can teach your child a sense of resiliency. It will help them create a sense of perseverance and tenacity which will aid them throughout their lives.
  • You can connect with your child. Tuck them in at night, talk to them about their day, about when you were little, about what you’re going to do this weekend, just talk with them.
  • You can keep your child healthy by ensuring they eat nutritious food, get plenty of exercise and spend lots of time outside.
Things you CANNOT do as a parent:
  • You cannot make your children happy – they will never be happy all the time.
  • You cannot give your child self-esteem – they must develop it on their own in a variety of situations, they have to master skills on their own- it is the only way to gain self-esteem.
  • You cannot choose your child’s friends and you can’t micromanage their friendships.
  • You cannot keep your child 100% safe all of the time.
  • You cannot give your child independence, they have to want it and take it for themselves; kids have to strike out on their own. You can undermine their independence though by not being attuned and not supporting your child’s impulses towards independence with appropriate guidance and prudence.
In conclusion, being an intentional and conscious parent melds various concepts together. Most importantly, we must be reliable and consistent in our expectations of our children – it helps them be able to organize their worlds in a predictable way. We must always remember that the choices we make regarding our children should come out of our love and wisdom. When things do not work out as expected, we must be able to listen to our children’s responses and validate their world while guiding them toward the most positive choices.
Herb Tannenbaum
Harbor Hills Day Camp
Mendham, NJ