The Key to Parenting Success
By This is How We Grow Author, Dr. Christina Hibbert
We all want our children to rise to their full potential, to become contributing members of society, to treat us with respect. And all of that is good. But the most valuable thing I have learned in my many years of parenting is that parenting is more about the parent than the child. We can discipline our kids and tell them what to do, or we can model good behavior and show them who and how to be. As I write in my article, Parenting Success, “Parenting is more about the parent than the child. That’s why it’s called parenting and not childing”
Children learn best by example. Think about yelling. Have you ever found yourself yelling, “Stop yelling!” to your children? Does it make any sense at all? Do you ever find yourself, in a fit of frustration, trying to teach your child about controlling their emotions? How can you teach them something you can’t do well yourself?
I learned this in an intense way when my family went through one of our toughest times. In 2007, my brother-in-law died of skin cancer. Two months later, my sister suddenly died. They had two young sons, my nephews, and my husband and I inherited those two boys. I was also pregnant at the time with our fourth baby. Our new sons came to live with us, I gave birth, and went from three to six kids in a matter of weeks.
The years after these events were tough—for all of us. Between trying to create a new family, dealing with difficult new extended family members and courts as we tried to adopt, and simply trying to help us all heal, needless to say, I was overloaded. I was faced with heavy grief and postpartum depression. I was desperately trying to be there for my husband and kids, who were also struggling to make sense of it all. At times, it became too much. I would take out my frustrations on my family, complaining that my kids weren’t “helpful,” or “responsible enough.” Soon, however, I would realize—it wasn’t my kids’ fault they weren’t helping as much as I wanted them to. After all, they were also dealing with grief. Also, I hadn’t been communicating and teaching them effectively what I needed them to do because I had been so overwhelmed. They needed my instruction and guidance before I could hold them accountable. And they needed my example if any of us were to get through.
As I write in my new memoir, This is How We Grow ,** I had to model for my children how to “choose to grow, no matter what life throws your way.” Through the years that followed, I continually reminded myself that parenting is about being a good parent, and being a good parent is doing my own work, then teaching my kids how to do theirs. (Read my article, Parenting Success Skills: #1 Do Your Own Work First ) I reminded myself that if I wanted my kids to behave and to become their best, I had to do the same. I shared my emotions with the kids and invited them to share theirs with me. We talked often. We cried together. When I made mistakes, I apologized and showed them how I can change and do better. And they have learned to do the same.
Yes, parenting is a tough job. We all make mistakes and say and do things we later regret, but what matters is, we try. We show our children we are in this together—that we are also trying to be better, that we are practicing what we preach. We let them see some of our failures and struggles and emotions, and then we let them witness how we work things out. We model for them, and they learn from our example. This is the trick to good parenting. This is the key to parenting success.
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This is How We Grow Book:
Parenting Success Skills: #1 Do Your Own Work First: