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Becoming the parent you want to be


Chances are, you have a parenting philosophy even if you’ve never articulated it. You might be against spanking, for instance. (And hopefully.) You might limit TV. You might attend church or temple every week and talk about the lessons afterward. You might have a rule that there is no shouting inside the house.

In conversations with friends and relatives, I’ve come to realize I have a pretty strong sense of what I want my parenting to be. I don’t always meet these aspirations. I can be impatient at times. I have raised my voice rather than reasoned. I have tired of childish games sooner than I would like. In the everyday tumble of life amid work demands and sleep deficits, the gap between our ideals and our realities can widen.

That’s why I had to share with you a wonderful blog post that lays out “<a href=”http://zenhabits.net/2009/06/7-secrets-to-raising-a-happy-child/” target=”_blank”>7 Secrets to Raising a Happy Child</a>.” It’s as if writer Sean Platt crept into my head and wrote down my thoughts. I have spoken in favor of all of these guidelines to friends and family at one time or another, though I certainly didn’t express my thoughts as well as this writer. Sean has his own blog, <a href=”http://writerdad.com/” target=”_blank”>Writer Dad</a>, that’s also well worth bookmarking. (He also loves “<a href=”http://writerdad.com/writing/why-lost-is-the-best-television-show-ever/” target=”_blank”>Lost</a>,” which makes him an automatic kindred spirit.)

Here is the short version of Sean’s post, with some of my addenda. (If you want to read the unexpurgated version, just click on the link above.)

“1. Let your child know you are excited to see them when they enter the room. Let them see the light dance inside your eyes when their gaze drifts into yours. Be mindful of their presence by showing them your smile and greeting them warmly. Say their name out loud. Not only do children love to hear the sound of their name, they also long to feel validation from their loved ones.”
(This is such a simple and joyful thing to do that it’s going to be No. 1 on my list as well. I am pretty sure I do this most of time already, but I’ll try to never forget even on days when everything is going wrong.)

“2. Teach your child it’s okay to be bored. As parents, it’s often our instinct to entertain our children each and every waking hour. When we don’t possess the time or energy, it is all too easy to allow the glowing blue babysitter in the living room to do the heavy lifting. But when we rely on television, or any other form of autopilot attention, we succeed only in limiting our child’s development. Children have vivid imaginations that flourish upon nurturing. But without the opportunity to coax their creativity, it will only whither on the vine.”
(I totally agree with this! I often have said that I think boredom is useful. It forces the mind to wander and who knows where that might lead? I am against DVDs in the car and will never give my child a portable gaming device. Let her be a little bored once in a while! Maybe she’ll daydream herself to a magical place that can only be found in the imagination.)

“3. Limit your child’s media. Related, but not limited to number two. Limiting your child’s exposure to media isn’t only a positive move for promoting their creativity, it is an excellent method to broaden their attention span while grooming their ability to stay calm. Your child will have plenty of exposure to more than you want soon enough.”
(Thanks to Tivo, the Pumpkin has no idea that some people just sit down and channel surf. Whenever I allow very limited TV time, we watch a show recorded specially for her.)

“4. Let your child know they are more important than work by giving them eye contact and attention. Your child doesn’t just need you around, they need you present. Play with your child, interact with them, find out what is important to them by asking questions and listening to their answers.”
(This is the hardest one for working parents, isn’t it? It’s so hard sometimes to pull away from the e-mail or phone messages to just stop and sit on the floor and make time.)

“5. Let your child make a few of the rules. You don’t have to make them the boss to let them feel empowered. Often, power struggles with our children are the direct result of them feeling a loss of control.”
(My strategy is negotiation. We have an elaborate system of working out “deals” in our home. I lay out what I expect, she listens and sometimes makes a counteroffer. Then we both agree on the terms and even shake hands. Obviously, I don’t allow her to have a say when safety is at stake, but if we’re talking about trying a new food or reading a book before or after we brush teeth, I think negotiation is fine.)

“6. Teach your child — don’t assume it’s all happening outside the house. Home schooling is every parent’s job.”
(This is an example I received from my husband’s family. His dad used to give the kids regular assignments. The tradition lives on today with my husband’s two sisters and brother. In our house, the Pumpkin knows that she is attending “home school,” where she is learning everything from the names of creatures in the sea to which island in the South Pacific grows cloves. We have a lot of fun. )

“7. Model appropriate behavior. In my opinion, this is the most important item on the list. Children do as they see, not as they’re told. If you want your child to be mindful of others, you must be mindful of others yourself. If you want your child to by happy, you must smile without hesitation. There is no one more influential to your child than you. At least for now.”
(This is without a doubt my weakest link. I lose my temper too often. I let little things get to me at times. I don’t “go with the flow” as much as I’d like. This is definitely an area I have to emphasize myself as I strive to become a better parent.)

I hope you enjoyed this list as much as I did. The “<a href=”http://zenhabits.net/” target=”_blank”>zenhabits, simple productivity</a>” site has other useful links as well, like this one that lays out “<a href=”http://zenhabits.net/2007/02/100-ways-to-have-fun-with-your-kids-for/” target=”_blank”>100 Ways to Have Fun with Your Kids for Free or Cheap</a>.” I wonder how my mom would like No. 100: “Prank call their grandparents, using disguised, humorous voices.”

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009 at 2:23 am by Julie Moran Alterio. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: Emotions, Motherhood, Parenting, Values




About this blog
Parents’ Place is a hangout for openly discussing the A’s to Z’s of raising a child in the Lower Hudson Valley. From deciding when to stop using a binky to when to let your teenager take driving lessons, Parents’ Place is here to let us all vent, share, and most of all, learn from each other.
Leading the conversation are Julie Moran Alterio, a business reporter and mom of a toddler, Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, a reporter and single father with joint custody of a 9-year-old son, and Len Maniace, a reporter and father of two sons.


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About the authors
Julie Moran AlterioJulie Moran AlterioJulie Moran Alterio, her husband and baby girl — “Pumpkin” — share their Northern Westchester home with three iPods and more colorful plastic toys than seems necessary to entertain one tiny human. READ MORE
Jorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-Gibbon has been a journalist for more than 20 years and a father for nine. READ MORE
Jane LernerJane LernerJane Lerner covers health and hospitals for The Journal News in Rockland, where she lives with her husband and two children. READ MORE
Len Maniace.jpgLen ManiaceLen Maniace is a reporter and father of two sons. READ MORE