Need help parenting? While you can dive into the ocean of parenting books out there, you might want to start with some basic guidance about how to best nurture emotionally healthy children.
Below are four fundamentals worth considering:
Love your children for who they are.
You may want your children to sit up straighter, study harder, or show greater self-discipline, but those are just behaviors to be developed over time. It can be difficult to really see and accept your children for who they are partly because we often want to mold them in our image (you can read more on that challenge here). So, be sure to focus not just on who you would like them to become and how you would like them to behave, but on loving the child before you in this moment.
Help your children to become emotionally intelligent.
People feel deeply content within themselves and in their relationships when they experience empathy and compassion, can cope effectively with their emotions, and can communicate effectively. These abilities are first learned (really, more like absorbed) during childhood.
Teaching emotional intelligence begins with parents being empathic to their children when they are just infants. As they grow, parents label both things (e.g. ball) and feelings (e.g. sad). When parents can connect with their children’s experiences and accept their children no matter what they feel, the children experience themselves as worthwhile and loved. As the years pass, parents can help their children think more deeply and express themselves more clearly – often staying just a step ahead of their child’s present ability and guiding them, as necessary.
Engage earnestly with your children.
An essential ingredient in parenting is showing your children that they really matter. This means engaging with them in both happy and difficult times. Of course, the good times feel good and make you want to be together more. However, remaining appropriately engaged with your children when there is conflict is also important.
Parents must set and maintain limits while also allowing their children to protest. By children asserting what’s important to them in the face of disagreement (or even disapproval) from a loving parent, they can establish their identity as separate while also remaining connected. This is especially important early on when children are toddlers and later during adolescence because both of these phases are characterized by developing a greater sense of a separate identity. When all goes well, this ability eventually becomes an essential part of maintaining close intimate relationships in adulthood.
When your relationship with your child becomes strained by tension or outright conflict, it is important for you to try to repair that relationship. This will instill an expectation in your child that disruptions in relationships can be fixed. Without it, many people are constantly fearful of having any disagreement with people who matter to them.
You may notice that all of these basic parenting principles relate to helping children develop unconditional love and acceptance for themselves and loved ones. They also teach the valuable lesson to children that they can be themselves with people close to them, not having to worry much about rejection even when tensions arise. By These lessons help to build a foundation of emotional health that will help your children grow up to be happy, emotionally resilient adults.