There is no single right or wrong way to parent, but maintaining basic standards of safety and behavior can make the difference between responsible and careless parenting. Many individuals parent in ways that reflect their own upbringing, explains North Shore Family Services. Even if a parent acts in ways that are careless, however, is never too late to change approaches and adopt more responsible parenting strategies.
Discipline is often one area in which the line between careless and responsible parenting is thin. Discipline that is too harsh may leave children feeling fearful, anxious or dependent. Overly harsh discipline may include severe corporal punishment, punishing one child for his sibling’s misbehaviors, yelling at a child over simple mistakes (for example, a small child spilling a drink), or cursing at a child.
Lack of discipline can also have negative effects. Specifically, inadequate discipline can lead children to have a poor understanding of rules and social expectations. Children who have no discipline–or inconsistent discipline–may struggle to thrive in school and have difficulty complying with authority figures’ directives. They may also feel entitled to receive benefits or privileges and thus struggle to maintain a healthy work ethic.
Responsible parenting balances love and understanding with effective limits. Although responsible parents will not always make the right disciplinary choices and may at times be too harsh or too lenient, they will strive to learn from these mistakes and guide their child toward a healthy outlook.
Establishing healthy boundaries can differentiate a responsible parent from a careless parent. At its most basic level, a boundary is where one person ends and another person begins. Helping a child understand his or her role in the family and society is an important responsibility for parents. Because the roles that children learn in their youth can affect their interpersonal relationships well into adulthood, a responsible parent should be prepared to set boundaries for their children, enforce those boundaries and have discussions about their role in the family and in society as a whole.
For example, while it is good to give children choices about what they wear, what they watch on TV, and how they schedule their free time, giving children too much say in how the household is run can be unhealthy. Remember: You are the parent and have ultimate control over how to run your household. This does not mean you need to discount your child’s opinion, but rather, mitigate choices with age-appropriate expectations and boundaries.
Remembering that you are the parent and not the child’s friend is also an important boundary and a key quality of responsible parenting. Your child will not always like your choices (and might express this strongly), but your role is to help your child transition into a responsible, independent adult and this role is not always compatible with your child’s wishes. Although having an angry, pouting child may be frustrating or stressful, coping with these behaviors is yet another part of responsible parenting.
Reap What You Sow
Responsible parenting involves more than just guiding your children in the right direction; it also involves monitoring your own behavior and reactions and responding in a way that you would like your children to model. In other words, you reap what you sow. For example, if you curse, yell, or demean other people–even in a joking manner–your children will likely pick up these behaviors. “Do as I say, not as I do” rarely works and can be an example of irresponsible parenting.
As a responsible parent, part of your job is to model the types of behaviors and values you would like to see in your children, including patience, respect, and a good work ethic. That said, if you are like most parents, you have picked up a few bad habits throughout your life. If you want you child to avoid these habits and mistakes, take the time to look at your own behavior and make positive changes. If you slip up and curse, for example, apologize to your children and show that you know you made a mistake and are striving to change for the better. Recognizing your shortcomings can also be a good way to help children learn the value of self-awareness and taking responsibility for your own choices and behaviors.
Responsible Parenting: Self-Care
Although you may see your children as your primary responsibility, it will be difficult to meet their needs if you are not meeting your own needs. While many parents will be forced to take on a second job, work overtime, and push themselves to their emotional and physical limits at some time or another, this is not sustainable over the long-term. Even the most energetic parent cannot be at his or her best when he or she is not caring for him or herself. This does not mean that you need to take a vacation you cannot afford or ignore your children, but rather ensure that you are getting a reasonable amount of sleep, are eating regular meals, and are nurturing your relationship, if you have a spouse or partner. Even putting you children to bed 30 minutes early to give you and/or your partner time to rest and rejuvenate can help you feel more collected and patient as a parent.
Finding Help: The Ultimate Parental Responsibility
Meeting Basic Needs
All children have several basic needs: physical, emotional and educational. A responsible parent is aware of the dimensions of these needs and is prepared to provide for her child appropriately. Additionally, because children’s basic needs evolve with age, a responsible parent should have a basic knowledge of child development and understand how children’s needs and behaviors evolve across the lifespan. Likewise, responsible parents understand that each child is unique and does not try to take one-size-fits all approach to parenting. This is particularly important if a child has physical, emotional or cognitive limitations.
One hallmark of responsible parenting is knowing when to seek help. At times, meeting all of your child’s needs on your own will be difficult–if not impossible. Thus, a responsible parent recognizes the limitations of their knowledge and patience and reaches out to others, such as family, teachers, and therapists for support. Responsible parents recognize that they will never be able to have all the answers to their parenting dilemmas. Likewise, responsible parents will seek out assistance, even if it feels painful or embarrassing; no one wants to admit that they are in over their heard, but this is a normal parent of parenting and the human condition.
Whether the parent needs help with discipline or the child’s behavior or academic performance, responsible parenting might involve asking for help from a counselor, social worker, pediatrician, or private parenting class. Similarly, if a family is struggling financially, a responsible parent will reach out to community resources when necessary to ensure that a child has nutritional food to eat and a safe place to live, even if this type of help-seeking behavior feels uncomfortable to the parent. If you are feeling uncomfortable seeking help, talk to other parents. Even if their lives seem “perfect” from the outside, you will likely find that many of them are either in the same situation as you or have been in your place at sometime in the past.
Source: Anna Green.