Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Big Picture Parenting

Parenting is difficult. We all enter into it full of hope and joy.  We think about the type of parent we want to be, the type of children we want to raise, the kind of family life we want to have.  And then somewhere along the way, reality creeps in.  Parenting is difficult.  There are the sleepless nights, the endless worries, the grueling schedules, the self doubt, the guilt, and did I  mention the exhaustion?!  And then what happens to those lofty goals and parenting dreams? 

We usually abandon them for sheer perseverance.  If the toddler is crying, make him stop, give him what he wants.  If the preteen is whining, give in to her demands before she makes your life miserable.  If the third grader is yelling, acquiesce in the interest of family harmony.  This is short term and short sighted parenting.  And it happens a lot.  When parents react to situations rather than reflecting on them before they react, they are parenting in the moment and usually setting themselves up for a troubled future.

Big Picture Parenting should be the goal.  If the toddler is crying, reflect on why.  Is he tired? Hungry? Frustrated? Merely giving in to a tantrum (the short sighted reaction)  reinforces the tantrum and literally teaches your toddler that tantrums are an effective way to get what they want.

A preteen with no limits is a miserable preteen.  And just because they act as though they hate you, they really act like that to everyone, so don't take it personally, just be the adult in any given situation.  That is Big Picture Parenting.  Preteens know every trick in the book to pull you down to their level.  Keep that in mind as you resist the temptation to revert to being a preteen yourself.

And the yelling third grader is just trying to test you.  Stay true to your parenting goals.  Don't react in the moment, reflect on the long term.  Remember your kids love and respect you, even if they don't always show it.  They want you to set limits for them and teach them things and love them everyday.  The best Big Picture Parents are the ones who combine a loving heart with high expectations and good communication.  Keep that in mind when things get tough.  Parenting is tough, but loving and caring family relationships are the most valuable thing you will ever possess.

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