As Carl Jung wrote, “‘Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on children than the unlived lives of their parents.”
According to parenting expert Laura Gauld, our own personal growth as adults will be our true legacy to our children — not the successes and talents we think will inspire them.
Live a little
“As parents, we make mistakes every day,” says Gauld, award-winning co-author of the book The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have and creator of the effective parenting seminars that emerged from it. “And that’s all right. We will never be perfect.”
“Still,” she says, “there are some guiding principles and practical tools that can help us grow as people, inspire our children, and ultimately build confidence in performing our most important job.”
Gauld’s advice to parents: Live a little.
How? Here are 6 steps you can take to become a better parent.
Lead by example.
Take risks in front of your child.
Do something each day for pure joy.
Tackle the deep attitudes that hold you back.
Accept what your own parents gave you, what they tried to give you, and what they were unable to give you.
Understand your job as a parent.
“This is the foundation of parenting,” Gauld says of the last point. “Like any job, one must understand the duties and responsibilities that go along with it. Most of the unproductive issues we get into as parents stem from the conflict between the role we want to play in our child’s life, rather than accepting the role we need to play.”
For example, Gauld offers, we can be friendly with our children, but we are not their “friends.” Also, we love our children, yet we must resist seeking their love. Our role is to teach, guide, and to establish a foundation of character.
Make some traditions
Finally, take some time this year to build family traditions.
“The big picture of raising children is done with the actions, routines, and practices that make up a lifetime of memories, habits, and character,” says Gauld. “It is never too late to start a family tradition. Often, the value of these actions is seen looking back at one’s upbringing.”
If you get so busy with school, work and the day’s activities that you’re missing meals with your family, find a way to establish dinner as a meal where everyone sits down together. Light candles at the dinner table.
“Studies show that simply having dinner together reduces the chances of depression in teenagers, drug use, and other challenges to young lives. If a shared meal seems an impossible task, remember that an improvement in parenting requires a commitment to priorities–and those priorities need to be made clear.”