Once you have your kids, it’s likely you’ll spend a lot of time pondering how to be a good parent.
If you’re like me you want to make sure you get it right and will have a picture of the perfect mother in your mind.
Everyone has their own definition and it is so easy to judge others without knowing or understanding their individual struggles.
Caitlin will be 11 in November and Ieuan will be 9 in June so I figure I must have learned something by now.
Here are 20 of my tips on how to be a good parent. You’ll have your own, of course, but see if you agree with any of these.
1. Be a role model.
Kids watch you all the time – and they copy. That’s why counting to ten is such a useful skill. If your kids see you consistently losing your rag and having a ‘grown-up’ tantrum, rest assured you’ll be seeing more of the same from them.
2. Cuddle them often (especially boys).
You can’t really show too much love, can you? And I’m so aware that the day will come when cuddles, sitting on my lap and nestling up together on the sofa will be deemed ‘not cool’. In fact I tear up just thinking about it!
3. Be present.
We’re all (probably) guilty of not giving our kids our full attention whilst looking at phones or PCs. The truth is you have to sacrifice what you want to do to meet your child’s needs. You need to be there mentally as well as physically. Otherwise one day you’ll look back and realise how much you missed – and how you’d give anything to experience it all again!
4. Don’t do their homework for them.
There sometimes comes a point when, after much stropping, pleading and pen throwing, we may consider just doing the kids’ homework for them just to keep the peace. We’re not doing them any favours and worse, we’re not letting their teachers know where they may need extra support.
5. Establish consistent rules from the beginning.
We recognised quite early on that it was going to be far easier to instil a sense of respect for others and discipline into our kids when they were young.
The idea of doing this with teenagers was never appealing!
The rules we teach our kids will shape the people they will become – hopefully in a good way. And if we don’t teach our kids any rules, how will they look after themselves when we are not there?
6. Explain your rules and decisions.
For example, we explain to Ieuan that his early bed time is so that he can ‘recharge’ (like his iPad!) and be full of energy for enjoying the next day. Caitlin knows that she should drink water so that her brain and body are hydrated so she can learn easily at school.
7. But don’t micro-manage them.
I’m guilt of this (see my post here). Play is a way of learning and being creative; of putting ideas together and finding out what works.
If you stifle this creativity, you take out all the fun of play – and being a child. You just have to put up with some mess and chaos. I’m still working on this one!
8. Encourage their independence.
Again this comes back to setting consistent rules and limits so that the child feels free to explore. To succeed, we really need both self control and independence.
Sometimes it’s hard to recognise whether a child needs independence or whether they are just pushing the boundaries.
9. Adapt your parenting to fit the individual child.
As a 10 year old, Caitlin’s needs are definitely different to those of her younger brother. We try to stagger bedtimes and to give her more grown-up tasks to do around the house, which is helping her develop her sense of self-esteem.
10. Avoid harsh discipline.
A real hot potato but we have found that it just does not work. If you show aggression, you are teaching aggression.
Better to have the consistent rules mentioned above with a set of clear consequences e.g. if you are rude to mummy and daddy, there will be no iPad today.
Again, you need to tailor your approach to the individual child. We had very little success with the ‘naughty step’ and ‘time out’.
We also learned that any consequences have to be enforced as close to the ‘misdemeanour’ as possible, otherwise the child does not learn the cause and effect of their actions.
11. Treat your child with respect.
This comes back to a child’s tendency to learn through observation.
If we respect our children, hopefully they will respect us and others.
Thankfully we have moved away from the old philosophy that “children should be seen and not heard”.
Our challenge today, however, is to balance their needs and ours.
There are some who think that parenting today has become much too liberal with too little respect being shown to adults and especially teachers.
12. Grit your teeth at picky eating.
I have written at length about Ieuan’s aversion to vegetables [here] but he is gradually getting better at eating a wider range of food. He now expends so much energy running everywhere I think he’s too hungry to care but oh the hours we’ve spent at the table waiting for him to chew and finally swallow one tiny piece of carrot!
It does get better – last Friday I nearly passed out with shock as he came home from school and asked for a ham sandwich.
13. Bedtime routines are important.
I remember reading that sleep is the time when babies and children’s brains develop, hence the importance of getting younger children to nap.
We have always been really strict about observing sensible bed times. Naps are long gone but if the children are under the weather, really stroppy or just exhausted, we will have a family ‘siesta’.
Nowadays the kids are in bed around 7:30 pm, possibly 8 pm at the weekend but no later.
14. Time with your partner is equally important!
You need ‘adult time’ at the end of the day, particularly if, like mine, your partner works long hours or works away a lot.
I always think it’s sad when you go out for a meal and the restaurant is full of couples not talking to one another or, worse, looking at their respective phones.
You have to have more in common than just bringing up the children together.
15. Guilt is unavoidable.
So you need to learn to deal with it – ideally by talking to other parents in the same boat or, if they are still around, your own parents.
Grandparents can really be a vital source of support, can’t they?
Working mothers feel guilty about working. Stay at home mothers feel guilty about not working.
Either way, being a parent is the most responsible job of the lot.
16. Don’t try to make your child your friend.
Remember that TV series (probably Channel 5) where the mums tried to out-dress / out-dance / out-flirt their teenage daughters by going clubbing with them (and then wondering why there was very little discipline in the house)?
It’s probably not very fashionable to say so but I think at some point you need to step aside and let your daughters shine.
That is not to say that you should dress in beige and take up knitting but a bit of dignity in some cases wouldn’t go amiss.
I also hate it when parents call their children ‘mate’. If you’re trying to be your child’s best friend, it’s going to be very difficult to exert any discipline or authority.
17. A caesarian birth is still a birth.
Much nonsense has appeared on Facebook over the years claiming that ‘real’ women have a natural birth and having a caesarian is a cop out.
Leaving aside the fact that this is deeply insulting to those who had to have sections, it completely ignores the fact that the most important thing is to deliver the baby safely and with minimum risk to the mother’s health.
18. It is not a crime to not breastfeed.
If you can’t, you can’t. I can’t bear stories where mums are made to feel bad because they struggle with breastfeeding.
I breast-fed Caitlin for 10 weeks then had to give up because I was not producing enough milk. Ieuan went straight on to formula.
Yes, we know that breast milk gives a baby the best start but Ieuan seems to have survived well enough on SMA.
19. You do not have to lose the baby weight in 6 weeks after the birth.
I put on 4 stone with Caitlin. Largely because eating cheese was the only thing I could do that made me feel any better.
Ieuan was born 20 months after Caitlin so although I had lost a couple of stone in between pregnancies, I still had 2 stone to shift before my wedding in 2011.
I did the Rosemary Conley eating plan and took a year or so to lose it all.
Babies don’t stay small for long. As long as you are healthy why not make the most of your precious time with your baby rather than counting calories and making yourself even more stressed at what can be a challenging time, especially for new mums.
20. Go with your gut instinct.
It’s great to gather as many tips as you can to shore up your confidence as a parent but there are times when you have to trust your own gut instinct.
You will know when your child is really ill and when they are just playing up. You will know when they are really upset.
At these times, particularly when it comes to children’s health, you have to be pushy and stand your ground.
Demand second opinions.
If you’re really worried, take your child to A&E or an out of hours doctor.
Yes, you may be thought of as the neurotic mum who’s there every time their child coughs but I would rather that than miss a diagnosis of something like measles or meningitis.
I hope you found these helpful. Are there any you would add?
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Midlife mum from Cardiff. Wine Imbiber. Likes glitter, fluff and olives. Approaching tweendom with Caitlin (11) and Ieuan (10). The husband is hiding in the loft.
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