Aug 172015 3 Responses

The First Step to Effective Parenting

There is no secret formula to effective parenting. While we desire the perfect equation, good parenting is far more an art form than a science. Parenting is as complex and nuanced as any responsibility we experience. But there is a clear first step.

While we may debate a variety of aspects of parenting, the foundation of good parenting cannot be questioned.

The first step to effective parenting is to pay attention to yourselves.

Clearly we should pay attention to our kids. Only bad parents ignore their children. Yet we can be equally bad parents by focusing completely on our children without looking at our own lives. (See: What a Child’s Mistake Reveals About a Parent)

Far too often parents spend an extreme amount of time debating how they can get their children to do something, while spending very little time considering their own actions and attitudes. It is important to assist your children on the right path, but it is far more important that you walk that path first.

What Do You Want?

Consider what you want your child to do. Don’t get caught up in the specifics of career or sports. Think about the general actions and mindsets you desire.

I want my child to:

  • be respectful
  • contribute to society
  • love and be loved
  • discover their strengths and use them
  • dream big
  • develop a strong moral character
  • have a quiet determination (See: The Trait I Admire Most in Leaders)

For these things to happen, I need to take specific steps. Yet the first step is to develop these characteristics within my own life.

If I am not pursuing these things in my life, it will not matter what I say to my children. The hypocrisy between my words and my actions will sabotage any teaching I do.

No Matter the Stage

The helpful aspect of this first step of parenting is the universal nature of the action. This is the first step no matter the situation. (See: My Four Favorite Parental Statements)

It’s true for:

  • someone who one day wants to be a parent
  • the mom or dad holding their child for the first time
  • newlyweds trying to blend two families
  • a parent separated by geography from their child
  • parents struggling through the teenage years
  • the person having just dropped off their daughter at college
  • a couple watching their adult child make bad decisions

No matter the situation, the first step is the same. While we desire a more specific action, this step should empower a parent in every aspect of life. What is needed from us as parents is not directly related to what our children are experiencing in the moment.

What If I’ve Blown It?

The main objection by many parents regarding this first step is a fear that they have already blown their chance to be a good example to their children. Because of a past mistake or major character flaw, they think their chance is lost.

Yet what better time to pay attention to yourself than when you are going through a tough time. For most parents, they are most effective in parenting when they handle their mistakes well.

I often tell couples who are contemplating divorce that they better do everything in their power to save their marriage. If the marriage goes on to fail, so be it, but do the work. They should do so, in part, because one day their child might be in a struggling marriage. In that moment, they will want to tell their child, “Do what I did.” The last thing they want to tell their child is “Just don’t follow my example.”

No matter your past, start making good decisions today. Teach your child it is never too late to make a change in life. Do everything in your power, from this day forward, to provide a good example. (See: Start Making Good Decisions)

The First Step

Clearly there are more steps to effective parenting. But the first step is the most important. Pay attention to yourselves.

More than anything else, understand the connection between the life you live and its influence on your children.

More than anything you say, how you live will be the loudest lesson your children hear.

They may not follow your lead, but it is the most effective form of parenting.

3 Responses to The First Step to Effective Parenting
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