Parenting is a hard, exhausting job. Sometimes parents and children look more like opposing armies than loving family. This is normal to some extent. From day to day, parents get tired, and children test boundaries. It’s a sure recipe for conflict.
It’s easy to get locked into these daily battles, and see winning those battles as successful parenting. But successful parenting is much more than that. It is equipping your children with the beliefs, attitudes, and skills they will need to live happy, productive lives. That means parents need to see those daily battles as part of the more important larger picture, namely growing kids into successful adults.
Seeing the daily grind of parenting as pieces of a larger whole requires that parents think differently. It requires that parents take a “big picture” view. Parents who hold this view see daily struggles as small parts of that big picture.
How do parents develop big picture thinking? It’s helpful to keep several truths in mind:
- Let your kids know what is expected of them. You can’t hit a target you can’t see. If you expect your kids to learn to be respectful of adults, keep their voices down inside the house, or do well in school, tell them. Then make sure you praise them profusely when they attempt to live up to those standards.
- What works in the moment may not be the right thing to do. There are many bad ways to make a child stop doing something, we can yell, curse, or hit them. But what are we teaching our children when we do these things? Asking ourselves that question before we act might mean we parents change our behavior.
- More of what kids learn is “caught” rather than “taught.” Most parents would never teach their kids to use foul language. But how many of us have been shocked to hear our kids use some of the same four-letter words they’ve heard from us? Be sure, they are watching us, and they will copy what they see from us.
- Not every battle is worth fighting. Recently, a book encouraged people to, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” That’s good advice for a parent. Let kids figure out their own way of doing things, their unique way of handling situations. As long as nobody is being hurt, and your values are respected, let small irritations slide.
- Remember, everything you do makes a difference. Every interaction, every conversation we have with other people has the potential to help or hurt that other person. That means as parents we need to seek to build up our kids, even when we’re giving correction. That will teach them to be encouragers also.
No parent is perfect. Thankfully, kids don’t need perfection. They do need parents who love them completely. One way we show our love for our kids is to see how what we do today will affect them in the future. Parents who can see the long-term perspective of what they want their kids to be give a great gift to themselves, and their children.