How can I become a better parent?
Wow, that's too difficult to answer in 800 words. Right?
As the father of a 3 and 1/2-year-old (my daughter would insist I added the 1/2), I ask myself this question daily. I also ponder:
How can I become a better person?
How can I be the best role model?
How can I be the best Dad possible?
How can I avoid screwing her up?
I push myself to answer these questions. Above all else, more important than fame or fortune, I want to become a better Dad. So, let's talk about how one can accomplish this.
First, let's get one thing straight: we all have the potential to be great parents. You don't need to grow up in the suburbs, the street, or a high rise apartment to be a great Dad or Mom. You also don't need to follow one, exclusive parenting playbook. I've learned that being a Dad is a trial and error proposition. We will fail a hell of a lot more than we will succeed, but, that's OK! That's life. We fail, we learn, and hopefully we correct our faults, grow, and get better.
So, we know that we need to care about being a better parent first. We're aware that we need to work every day to grow as parents. However, what actions should we take to be a better parent? What can we actually DO? Well, the list is long, but let's focus on three tips:
2. Be patient
3. LET YOUR CHILD DISCOVER WHO HE/SHE WANTS TO BE
OK, we're done. Have a good day...
Just kidding. Let's explore each of these in more detail. First, you have to become a better listener. What does that mean? Well, don't ignore what your child tells you. If he/she says she wants to be a dancer, don't sign her up for soccer instead. If she tells you that she likes rice, not pasta, don't make fettuccine. In other words, don't ignore what your child says. You will better understand your child, and as a result become a better parent, if you listen to what he/she likes, what scares him/her, and what ambitions he/she has. Listen first, think, and respond to your child in ways that help him/her become a more informed, rational person.
Second, all parents MUST be patient. All of us parents have had moments in our lives when we want to cry, scream, or both. This morning, for example, my daughter wanted to dress like a pirate for preschool. My wife braided her hair, we put on a shirt that in her mind was appropriate pirate attire, and headed toward the car. My daughter stopped, tears formed in her eyes, and she scolded me for forgetting her pirate boots. She was wearing a pink shirt, black pants, and black socks. Her boots are brown. I knew this wouldn't fly with Mom, so I patiently tried to convince her to wear tennis shoes instead. Upon hearing this, her crying intensified. This was the pivotal moment. I could have freaked out, yelled at her, and told her they didn't match (matching by the way is a concept she clearly doesn't understand at this point of her life). However, I didn't do this. I took a deep breath and negotiated. I asked if it would be OK if she wore her tennis shoes to preschool and changed into her boots when school was over. I bolstered my plan by arguing that her boots might get dirty if she wore them to school. She thought about this for a second, her tears subsided, and she reluctantly agreed. She was convinced by reason. She did what I wanted because I was patient, not pushy.
Lastly, all parents must let their child find himself/herself. We should NEVER push our kids toward being someone they aren't. If your kid loves music and sings constantly (like my daughter does), then encourage her to sing, dance, and play instruments. Sure, a musician wouldn't be my first choice for a career. It can be very unstable. But, her life isn't my life. She needs to learn who she is, who she doesn't want to be, and how she can become her ideal self. I will encourage her to find herself at all times. Instead of forcing your child into a stable career and safe life, push him/her toward his/her passions. Trust me: your child will figure out the rest.
So, there it is. Now you can become the perfect parent. Haha, I know this short article isn't the answer to all of your parenting questions. However, it is a start. Like our kids, we need to work on ourselves every day. Now go give your kid a hug. You both need it,