Five Timeless Tips to Ease Stress for Parents

Expert advice that has survived the decades…

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Child rearing advice is like fashion. It changes all the time.

Why?

>> Science brings us new information. Whole generations of parents put their newborns to sleep face down to avoid choking. Now it’s de rigueur to place the little ones face up to reduce the risk of SIDS.

>> One generation is setting right what they believe were the errors of the previous generation. A parenting practice like helicopter parenting may be what adults do when they feel they never had the parental involvement they needed in their own childhoods: I want my children to know they can count on me, even though I felt like I couldn’t count on my parents.

>> The parent’s need is disguised as the child’s need. For instance, some parents may experience guilt for choosing a demanding career, and so buy more stuff and take their children on fancier trips to assuage that guilt.

In any of these cases, we are trying to be one thing: Perfect.

But one of the most important things we need to know about parenting is that we can never be perfect, regardless of our choices.

So what’s a parent to do? The obvious answer is to love our children. Love them and love them some more and keep them safe until they have developed judgment commensurate with the kinds of risks or dangers they will face.

Of course, what seems loving to one may not seem that way to another. And that’s where parenting can get extra challenging. Our ways of being in the world are a result of many factors including how we are raised (nurture) and how we have been since birth (nature).

Some characteristics, like optimism and extraversion, seem hardwired at birth. So an inherently introverted child, born to an inherently extroverted parent, may feel stressed by the level of engagement that extroverts require. The parent may be less sensitive to or even judgemental about their child’s need for alone time or quiet activities, and the child may feel she never measures up.

You don’t have to go very far to imagine how differences in just one area can affect the experience of both parent and child!

In the midst of this complexity, I have compiled five of the best tips I learned from my dear, late father, Dr. Crook. My father was a world-renowned pediatrician and an advocate for all parents and children. A caring man and a very loving father — was Dr. Crook perfect? No, but luckily that’s not what’s required to be a fantastic parent.

Here are five tips compiled from his years helping parents and children:

Tip #1: The actions of a good enough parent must change as a child grows and matures — don’t treat a five-year-old like a two-year-old or vice versa.

Tip #2: Understand the developmental stages your child will go through and support their successful transitions. Remember your role (and hopefully your goal) is to raise loving and independent adults.

Tip #3: My father used to say, “What are you trying to teach the child and what does the child seem to be learning?” If you spank a child for hitting a younger sibling, you are actually teaching him that it’s okay for bigger people to hit smaller people. As a parent your actions will speak louder and have more impact than your words. Keep your words and actions aligned. Your children will know, even if you don’t.

Tip #4: Dr. Crook was especially partial to the three L’s: Love, Limits, and Let Them Grow Up. The love is self –explanatory. The limits? He used to ask the parents of his patients how they would feel crossing the long and tall Tennessee River bridge if there were no guard rails? Surprised by his question, they said they would be very anxious or even refuse to cross. When asked if they had ever hit the rails, they would say of course not, but they would still want the security of knowing the rails were there. He would smile and say, “And that’s the reason it’s important to give your children limits. They allow your child to feel safe.”

After they feel safe, let them grow up — encourage their independence. Let them see that you have confidence in their abilities and their judgment.

Tip #5: Give yourself a break. As parents, we can neither take all the credit or all the blame for how our children turn out. Remember you are most likely doing the best you can at the time and that’s usually good enough!


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