So you want to be a parent? Or are a parent. Hi! Welcome to to overwhelming, magnificent, infinite world of raising little humans. Parenting is by far the most exhausting & rewarding thing you can do. Yes, I know you’ve heard that before – that’s because it’s true.
This is too broad of a topic to just dive into, so I just want to share some of the most important points for me, and what I’m feeling inspired to share with you. I’m sure this will just be the beginning of a thread of posts referring to this topic.
When becoming a parent/parenting, what comes to mind as the most important step is – accepting your child! Accept your child for who they are. Allow them to explore every aspect of life as it comes. Be ready to encourage them, love them, and support them regardless of their choices. It’s our job to instill morals into these little people. You get to choose what is taught to them – make it good.
There is no promise that they’ll make the decisions you want them to as they get older – be prepared to love them anyway. Here are some of the tips/concepts I follow when parenting my little dudes.
I LOVE YOU, KID!
It’s as simple as that. Lead with love. Let your kid know you love them, often. Show up for them and be present. Being present is a way of connecting, bonding, and making sure your child is heard. Let them know you love them in creative ways, like being affectionate, having conversations about their interests, taking them to their favorite place, separating one on one time for them. We sometimes underestimate the power of true connection in this age of digital platforms & instant gratification. Kids are actually quite simple beings. They haven’t been (as) affected by the darkness of the world, or the unexpected turns of reality. It’s incredible what a simple park date can do for their mental health.
Something I’ve learned throughout the years is my kids’ love languages. Zen, my oldest, for example is a BIG fan of gifts. He feels loved when he receives gifts, and loves giving gifts as well. His second love language is quality time. He feels like he’s important when I set my phone aside and focus on solely him. My second child (step son) Aiden, is into quality time first. Gifts are cool, but he looks beyond the material world and is more interested in some eye contact and conversation. He’s SUPER into playing card games and dominos. Playing with him is showing him we love him. Learn your kids’ love language and exercise that with them. After all, they’re just like you and me, just smaller and not as equipped to communicate their emotions or needs.
Here are some of my parenting tips:
DON’T TAKE IT PERSONAL
I’m always taking everything personal. It’s just the way I’m hard wired. I always second guess my actions and assume I’ve done something wrong, I’m not good enough, or I might fail. I’M WORKING ON THIS.
BUT When it comes to kids, don’t take anything personal. I mean that on multiple levels.
Kids are bound to test you and break your heart sometimes without meaning to. Don’t take it personal. It’s not you, it’s not your fault. We have to accept that our kids are constantly being exposed to new things/new thoughts. We can’t imagine how much is going on in their heads because we’re so much older than them and so consumed in our own issues. The reality of it is, kids are working on learning to thrive in the real world. They have millions of emotions they can’t identify specifically. They’re growing everyday and prone to being overwhelmed.
If your kid is rebelling against you, not interested in the usual activities, saying rude things to you, being ungrateful – don’t take it personal! Let them experiment with their emotions and how they react to them as long as you have a boundary of appropriate behavior. You’re a great parent. You are the best parent for YOUR child. Don’t let a bad day or uncalled for behavior be a reason you doubt yourself.
Instead assure your child that you’re there for them. Let them know you are unsure why they are acting a certain way or behaving a certain way, and that you are there to hear them out if they want to talk about how they feel. Be a support system for your child. You will always be their stability – no matter what they say or do.
PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH
OUCH. Yeah, this one is really true. I think one of the biggest fears as a parent is unknowingly traumatizing my child. Like how am I supposed to know what can possibly trigger a negative memory?! I’m doing my best here!
What I try to focus on is making sure I’m backing up what I’m saying with actions. Want your child to be kind? Be kind. Want your child to eat healthier? Eat healthier. Want your child to treat people with respect? Treat people with respect. Want your child to not curse? (this one is hard for me since I have such a damn potty mouth) Don’t curse.
We can’t lead our children to be the people we want them to be morally if we’re not those people ourselves. The reflection of who you are is the true example your children are getting. Let’s raise leaders by being leaders.
MAKE (even) THE SMALL MOMENTS MAGICAL
Times are different. I remember making “soup” in my grandma’s backyard in Little Havana with moldy citrus fruits, rain water, and leaves that had fallen from the mango tree. I remember playing with dolls with neighbors and riding my bike in the backyard pretending I was in some kind of movie. Kids these days don’t always have the same kind of freedom to explore in a natural way. They’ve been born into a different age, where even in school, iPads and electronics are the most common way to learn.
That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t learn the magic of reality. The magic of life beyond the screen. The magic of a birthday surprise, the magic of a family dinner with a good conversation, the magic of a random celebration of an accomplishment. Even the magic of forgiveness & connecting with them when they’ve done something wrong. The magic of LOVE.
We’re personally HUGE fans of the element of surprise. I feel like it’s the easiest way to keep our kids on their toes about the possibilities of the future. At any moment they can be surprised with a new toy, a new activity, a trip, or even an exciting switch up of routine. We want them to be excited for life, and know that magic lives in even what seems like the most mundane day.
BALANCE ACT: PRAISE THEM/DISCIPLINE THEM
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by criticism? Like nothing you do is coming out right? It’s easy to get caught up in the discipline act. Where you’re constantly redirecting and trying to teach your child wrong from right. Don’t get lost in that sauce. Remember to give your child praise! Praise them for the simple things that make them who they are. For example: “Hey Zen, I love how outspoken you are when it comes to helping people. I love that you stand up for your friends and what’s right.” When I praise Zen for things I love about him and his personality randomly, he really takes a moment to think about why I’m saying it. He knows he hasn’t recently helped anyone or portrayed what I’m praising him for – but he takes it as a fact.
It’s always cool to be a hype man for your kid. When it comes down to it, they really do believe we are usually right or at least smart…
Let your kids know what is special about them specifically. YOU are the person that knows them best. They don’t have a spouse, or best friend that can communicate how awesome it is to spend time with them, or how uniquely perfect they are, or their strengths. You are that person, that communicator, that voice that tells them they’re enough. They rely on their parents to bring them up, to boost their confidence, to make them not feel alone.
Sometimes it’s as simple as reminding them how happy you are that they are your child. There really is no simple guide to parenting or being a good parent. But I think the journey would be less confusing if we’d all share our journeys, and the tips we’ve acquired throughout the years. Stay tuned for more.