Tons of parenting books and articles tell us how we should and shouldn’t discipline our children, as though it’s the most important aspect of raising kids. While the demeanor and actions we take during correction are important, we are leaving a few important elements of parenting out of the conversation. When we become too focused on behavior modification, it becomes easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. Dr. Gordon Neufeld said it well:
“Many people think that discipline is the essence of parenting. But that isn’t parenting. Parenting isn’t telling your child what to do when he or she misbehaves. Parenting is providing the conditions in which a child can realize his or her full human potential.”
Let’s shed light on the bigger picture and discuss three aspects of parenting that have a big impact on how our children grow.
The relationship we have with our children is the most important element of parenting. It’s the value of our connection that determines how well they listen to us, accept our limits and values, and cooperate. It’s our relationship that sets the example for future relationships – where they first learn what human relationships look like. If we have a healthy relationship based on trust, empathy, respect, and compassion, we have set a good standard. A relationship based on intimidation, control, coercion, or fear sets the standard quite low and deems this sort of relationship acceptable.
To build a great relationship with your child:
- Spend quality time together doing activities of your child’s choosing. Enter their worlds and engage with them there.
- Be a good listener.
- Keep your promises. Be trustworthy.
- Show compassion and empathy rather than brushing off emotions that make you uncomfortable.
- Be an encourager and a light reflector.
- Show respect.
- Use positive discipline.
Family culture is the family experience you create. It’s a complex story of beliefs, attitudes, values, habits, traditions, and more. Your family culture is essentially the world in which your children are raised. It profoundly shapes who they become. In my book, Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, I define what I believe are the seven pillars of family culture, which are values, dispositions, expectations, habits, communication, conflict resolution, and traditions. Happy families intentionally create positive family cultures.
Your children are watching and learning from how you interact with your spouse/partner. You are their first glimpse of romantic relationships, and they often mirror what they see lived out in front of them every day. Here are five tips to improve the relationship you have with your partner.
1. Fill up emotional tanks.
Each human being has an emotional tank that needs filling. Like the gas tank in your car, when the emotional tank gets low, the relationship starts to sputter. On an empty tank, it may well break down altogether. Keep your partner’s tank on full by being attuned to emotions, recognizing when he or she is feeling happy, sad, excited, worried, etc. Make daily emotional deposits – words of encouragement or loving gestures; listen to dreams, hopes, ideas, and desires.
2. Focus on the positives.
Focusing on what you are not getting only produces negative feelings in the relationship. Focus instead on your partner’s positive qualities and make it a point to express out loud your appreciation and admiration.
3. Argue constructively.
Conflict is inevitable but connected couples set ground rules for solving disputes and they don’t fight dirty.
4. Be flirtatious.
Don’t stop trying to woo your partner. Wink across the table, wear something special, have inside jokes, and kiss often.
5. Share leadership.
While it’s fine to agree to delegate tasks, things involved in running the home and raising children aren’t just one partner’s job. Everything is a collaborative effort.
Learn more parenting tips and lessons on building a lasting bond with your children in the book Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide.