Do you want your child to grow up to be respectful, confident, happy, secure and generous? Most parents would enthusiastically agree. Did you know that parenting styles are the most important predictor of what a child will be like as an adult? Learning to use a balanced parenting style will help your children be all of those things and more!
Balanced parenting means letting your children know you love and accept them unconditionally, while also establishing age-appropriate, firm control. Age appropriate, firm control will look different depending on the age of your child. All children need clear rules and boundaries that are consistently enforced. Parents need to take time to explain the boundaries and rules to their children and, when appropriate, even let them have a say in what rules are established.
However, being a positive and balanced parent through divorce can be difficult.The stress parents experience may push them to become a strict dictator who is always worried about enforcing the rules. When parents take on a dictator parenting style children may obey, but often feel understood and frequently rebel. On the other hand, parents can become marshmallow-like and enforce very few rules. This can result in children feeling a lack of support and become disobedient. Some parents can get so caught up in their own grief over the end of their marriage they begin to neglect their child’s needs and emotions. When this occurs, children can feel abandoned and start to act out in an effort to get their parent’s attention. It can be hard not to stray to a less effective parenting style, but research shows that a balanced style helps parents raise healthy, well-adjusted kids!
I actually teach a class called “Co-Parenting Through Divorce” the first Wednesday of every month. It meets the Oklahoma requirement for divorcing parents to take a parenting class. Call me for more information on this class at 405-258-0560.
Here are some ways you can create a balanced, safe environment for your child:
• Be aware of what your child is doing and who he or she is with. When children go through a divorce, they can feel like their world is turned upside down. As a result, they may seek out new friends or groups where they feel understood. If parents are not careful, these groups can introduce children to risky behaviors such as drug or sex.
• When it is safe to do so, allow your child to learn from the natural consequences of their actions. One example of natural consequences is that when your child does not put their dirty clothes into the hamper by a certain time, then their clothes do not get washed. The logical consequence is that they have to wear dirty clothing. Natural consequences teach children to be responsible and accept the consequences of their behavior.
• Give your child age-appropriate choices. When children have the option to choose what they would like to do, they frequently behave better. For instance, bedtime is set for 9 p.m., but the child can choose between wearing either their Batman or Spiderman pajamas.
• Spend time just talking with your child. Let them know that it is okay to share their feelings. After a divorce, many children have scary thoughts but do not know how to express them. Parents can help eliminate their fears and start the healing process by giving them opportunities to talk about their worries, disappointments, hurts and hopes.
You can make a big difference in your child’s life by consistently providing a safe learning environment.