One of the greatest tragedies in our society is that we do not require more education for marriage or parenting. Two of the hardest jobs anyone will ever have are being a spouse and/or a parent. Both roles are full of challenges and rewards. Doing these jobs well requires a great deal of emotional health.
Some parents come into my office and want me to “fix” their children and become annoyed when I ask them how they handle specific situations. Emotionally healthy parents are rarely offended and are overjoyed with our professional advice. Guess which family benefits the most from the counseling relationship? Please, be an emotionally healthy parent!
Emotionally healthy parents:
• Think objectively. They do not make assumptions. They do not assume their child has unresolved trauma just because he did not empty the dishwasher or that he is going to be an axe murderer simply because he was rude to his sibling.
• Deal with problems directly and stop problems behaviors as quickly as they can. They do not argue, negotiate, make threats, or bring up other problem behaviors. For example, if their child is throwing a toy, they ask him to stop. If he does not, they simply take it away and let the child be upset. Once the child is calm, they explain that the child can try again, but the toy will be taken if it is thrown again.
• Cope with stress in a realistic way. When their child has them overwhelmed, they take a break.
• Focus on what is right. They let their children know that they are on their side by praising every attempt he/she makes to do the right thing.
• Anticipate the future. They understand that there is an order to the development of skills. Healthy parents teach their young children to ask permission. They do this because they want teenage and adult children who come to them for input and advice.
• Teach. They teach their children the skills they need to be successful in life. They do this through repetition, practice, and modeling.
• Adapt to reality. They do this by setting their children up for success. For example, they teach their children to sit through dinner at their home before attempting to take them to a restaurant.
• Manage their expectations. They research what is age and/or developmentally appropriate and help their children obtain those skills.
• Focus on facts, not emotions. They do not let their feelings dictate their behavior. They make the healthiest choice based on the situation, not how they feel.
• Have boundaries. They set clearly defined boundaries and consistently follow them. They have healthy bedtimes, healthy media limits, and healthy diets.
• Are empathetic. They do not judge their children or attempt to fix their problems. Instead, they allow their children to live through difficult experiences and emotions by being loving, encouraging, and present.
• Are self-reflective. They honestly reflect on what they are doing well and how they can improve as parents.
• Celebrate childhood. They do not let their children’s childish behaviors surprise them, and they enjoy it when it happens.