I remember the moment when I first held my daughter in my arms. Overwhelmed with love and joy, nonetheless I worried about what kind of parent I would be. I wished that I had been better prepared, or that there was such a thing as parenting school.
In reality, such a school does exist and it can be the best of all. This school is called home.
We each have learned how to parent from our own parents. In our homes, we have seen many good parenting habits and some bad. The key is to keep the best and discard the rest.
Keep the best
. Research from the University of North Carolina shows that children in families that are actively involved in religious activities tend to enjoy stronger family relationships than those whose families have less or no religious involvement. Pray together as a family at mealtimes and before bed. Read scriptures or other inspirational texts together. Sing hymns. Attend worship services as a family. Define what spirituality means to you and your family and share spiritual moments together.
. Denise Witmer says that family traditions give family members a sense of belonging, help children develop their identity, provide them a sense of security and creates lasting memories. It is easy to create family traditions around holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Discover other ways to develop family traditions beyond the holidays.
For example, we have a tradition when our children turn 16. Their first date is with either my husband or myself. We take them to a fancy restaurant and let them practice their dating skills on us. It gives us a chance to spend one-on-one time with them, to catch up on their lives and to have a significant conversation.
. MindBodyGreen.com says that gratitudenot only increases your overall happiness, it also strengthens your immune system, improves sleep, increases energy and makes you more confident in yourself. Foster an attitude of gratitude not only at Thanksgiving but throughout the year. Thank God for your blessings when you pray together. Make gratitude a part of your dinner conversation. Consider keeping a family gratitude journal where you write down the things you are thankful for.
. Sometimes our busy schedules pull us in many different directions. It is important to find time to be together. Eat dinner together whenever you can. You can set aside one day a week as a family night to play games and have fun. Focus on enjoying the moment. Read books to your children before bed. Find time to enjoy one-on-one time with each of your children.
Discard the rest
Abuse or neglect
. Unfortunately, not everyone comes from a healthy, functional family. That does not doom you to be a terrible parent. You can learn from your parents' mistakes. It is never acceptable to physically or emotionally abuse a child. You can learn to transition from spanking to consequence-based discipline. When your child does something wrong, separate the behavior from the person. Do not criticize him, belittle him or call him names.
. Your children need a parent, not another friend. Children need structure to feel safe and secure. It is important that you set family rules and consistently enforce them.
. Embrace the individuality of each of your children. Everybody comes into the world with unique talents and weaknesses. Celebrate your children's talents and help them overcome their weaknesses. Let them know that it is OK if they do not run as fast as an older brother or if their grades aren't as good as their big sister's.
. One of our goals as parents is to prepare our children for the world. They need to be able to practice the skills that they are learning. Your children are more resilient than you know. They will learn and grow from the minor bumps and bruises of life. Allow them to develop problem-solving skills. Let your children experience the natural consequences of their behavior when they make a mistake.
. Do not expect perfection from yourself or your children. We all make mistakes, and that's OK. Learn from them. Mistakes are the pathway to personal growth. Forgive yourself and move on.
I wish I could go back in time and reassure the new-mom me. I would tell myself that I knew more than I realized. I had learned a lot from my own loving parents, because I had, indeed, been to a great parenting school in our home.