Written by Judy Arnall, CCFE; Photo: Fotolia.com
Do you come from a “dysfunctional family”? Is your ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) score so high that you worry about doing the same to your kids? Can parenting habits change in one generation? Yes, you can change your stars!
If less-than-stellar parents raised you, here are some changes you can make to become the parent you wished you had for the next generation you are raising. You do not have to repeat negative parenting habits with your own children.
You can change your parenting style from over- permissive or authoritarian to a collaborative/ democratic positive parenting style:
- Fake it until you make it. Act like the parents you admire. Copy what they do.
- Start with yourself. Learn to love you. Change self-talk into positive, loving thoughts about how you look, what you do, and who you are.
- Learn the language of respectful communication. Take a course through colleges, universities, churches, parent centres or community centres. Learn how to use I-statements, active listening, and problem-solving.
- Learn about child development through courses or books to help you learn what to expect from children at different ages. Only
23 per cent of parents know about child development stages past the infant stage,
and knowledge about older child development stages is essential for parenting.
- If you were excessively criticized as a child, consciously make the effort to encourage your own children and hold back the negative.
- If you were not hugged or touched as a child, make a concerted effort to hug, cuddle, and hold your own children, even if it feels alien to you.
- If you were hurt, upset, or sick as a child and were told to “buck up,” “suck it up,” or “shut up,” give your child comfort by saying, “It’s okay to feel what you do.” And hug, caress, and pat your child with non-sexual touch.
- If you were ignored as a child, respond right away to your own children. Give focused attention when they need it and even when they don’t. It’s okay to have fun with your children.
- If your parents never played with you as a child, read and play with your own children.
- When you are angry, take a time-out. What need of yours is not getting met? How can you meet it? Work on your anger first and you will make better parenting decisions when you are calm.
- Forgive your parents. They probably did the best they knew how at the time with the resources they had.
- Know what your triggers and hot buttons are. We all have sensitive areas in parenting, no matter what our background is, and our awareness
of these triggers helps us to come up with alternative behaviors and coping strategies.
- Start looking at your life through the lens of gratitude. Being grateful enriches life.
Parenting, for the most part, is a learned pattern. We can change parenting patterns and develop new ones. When we become aware of our shortfalls and make a conscious effort to change how we behave, we become really good at parenting after lots of practice. Don’t worry if you make mistakes; Rome was not built in a day. Even with new learned behaviors, in times of stress, we tend to fall back on our old habits. Apologize and vow to do better next time. With renewed commitment, we get better at changing old habits with time, practice, information, and continuance. You can change family dynamics in one generation - it all starts with you!
Judy Arnall, BA, DTM, CCFE (Certified Family Life Educator), currently teaches parenting at The University of Calgary, Continuing Education, and has taught for Chinook Learning, Families Matter, and Alberta Health Services for the past 13 years. Judy is the author of the international bestseller, Discipline Without Distress: 135 Tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the newly released book, Parenting With Patience: Turn frustration into connection with 3 easy steps. For more information, contact 403- 714-6766 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To join the list for monthly notification of her free parenting webinars, proudly sponsored by Calgary’s Child Magazine, visit professionalparenting.ca.