There's no manual for parenting that tells us how to do things just right. That's why parents feel like parenting is one of the toughest callings on the planet. Plus, how we raise our kids affects their lives forever, but no pressure.
While there are definite don'ts when it comes to parenting, such as neglect and abuse, it's not always easy to pinpoint what the responsible parents do. How do they raise their kids? What works that gives their kids a grounded upbringing? What are their secrets for success?
As opposed to only looking at what they do, it's important to figure out what they don't. Eliminating the wrong behavior when handling our kids is essential. Our kids need to know what we expect from them and what to expect from us, and responsible parents make that easy by knowing their values and living them out.
Responsible parents usually have a list of don'ts to make sure that no matter how distracted, frustrated, or burnt out they feel, they won't cross a line and commit a parenting act they are ashamed of. They take the parenting gig seriously and live consciously to ensure they are making the best decisions they know how to for their kids.
Of course, parenting responsibly is harder than just moving through the job on autopilot. Responsible parents know their kids and stay engaged to ensure they are communicating well. Here are the things they won't do.
15 Refuse To Check Up On Kids
Our kids can get in trouble faster than we think, and they can also make one bad decision and get hurt. Responsible parents know that while kids need freedom, they also need to be checked on by a responsible adult.
Younger kids should obviously be monitored to make sure they don't swallow small items or get into anything dangerous. However, we need to check up on school-aged and older kids as well. Though we may not be with them every second of every day, we should be asking questions and engaging in conversation so we know what is happening in their lives. If we see changes in their behavior, we need to continually check in to make sure they know we are available and want to help them.
Knowing who our kids' friends are and that they are where they said they would be is part of being a parent.
14 Ignore The Unmet Need
For the most part, kids don't cry, scream, and act out just for fun. Sure, every once in a while it will seem like their fit is just coming from a place of selfish entitlement, but most of the time the real problem is an unmet need.
When children are tired, hungry, or experiencing feelings they don't know how to express, they act out. Though it would just be easier for us if they said, "I'm tired" or "I'm angry", that's not usually how it works. Children may not know what they need, so they simply make bad decisions that draw attention to them, leaving parents wondering what is going on.
Responsible parents know to look for the unmet need. Offer a snack. Ask if they want to snuggle for a nap. Encourage them to talk about their feelings. Anything that helps mom and dad figure what they can do to meet the need and stop the desperate behavior coming from it staying unmet.
13 Fail to Practice What They Preach
Kids have eyes, not just ears. That means when we tell them to use kind words or to pick up their clothes but they then see us treat a customer service representative poorly or leave our laundry all over the house, they know we're hypocrites. They may not know the exact term, but they know that what we say doesn't line up at all with what we do.
Responsible parents let their actions speak loudest. Our actions speak louder than our words no matter what, but responsible parents understand this, so they don't waste hours lecturing a child about self-control. They live it out. They don't tell their kids that vegging in front of a screen is a bad idea. They model limited screen time and engage in other activities in front of their kids.
This one is hard, but the more we model the behavior we want to see in our kids, the more likely we are to actually see it.
12 Put Materials Over Time
This is an easy trap to fall into since advertisers absolutely love to target children and convince them of all the things they need in their lives. Parents then go to great lengths to make sure their children have toys and electronics without prioritizing quality time, the thing they need the most.
Responsible parents know that budgeting time is often just as hard, if not harder, than budgeting money, but they do it. They balance the calendar to always lean towards quality moments with their kids instead of just giving them an item they want and then disengaging. In our world of iPhones, tablets, and a constant stream of other expensive distractions, offering time is even more important.
With young children, it's important for parents to remember that quality matters more than quantity. Researchers found that time spent with children needs to be involved, with mom talking to or reading to kids. Family dinners are also a great way to spend quality time, even if a parent has been at work all day.
11 Withhold Physical Affection
Parents are allowed to take a time out. It's normal to need time to process our own feelings when our kids misbehave. However, when we join our children again, we shouldn't withhold physical affection from them because we are upset about something they did.
Even when kids are wrong and express themselves in an inappropriate way, responsible parents know that withholding physical affection is not the right answer. Holding a child's hand while talking to them, hugging them once the problem has been solved, and showing other signs of affection lets a child know they haven't done something so terrible that their parent can even stand to be near them.
Physical affection may also help us stay calm while disciplining a child. It's harder to yell at a child when he or she is perched in our lap. We feel calmer because of that physical touch, and that means we will likely come across kinder, even when disciplining.
10 Complain More Than They Express Contentment
We don't want to raise our kids to be thankless, and many parents will admit that they are surprised at the lack of gratefulness their kids express for their charmed lives. However, telling our kids to be thankful isn't enough. They need to see it modeled.
Responsible parents lead by example, so instead of harping on their kids to say thank you, they simply make sure their kids see them be thankful. They also write thank you cards or other notes of gratitude and explain to their children why this is important.
Responsible parents also try to keep their words positive, spending more time focusing on the good than complaining of what they want to change. Kids learn from observing, so watching a parent be complimentary as opposed to confrontational teaches them how this works. Even when a parent has a problem, a responsible one reframes the situation as an opportunity to solve an issue instead of an opportunity to gripe.
9 Try To Control Children Like A Puppet
Though a child grows in mom's body and spends months connected to her by a cord, he is still his own person. Though we absolutely have to guide kids and teach them how to make responsible decisions, we cannot and should not control their every move.
The temptation to micromanage is strong because as parents, we are the ones who most frequently witness our child's behavior. When we don't like what we see, it's easy to pick apart our kids or to correct them every step of the way. What responsible parents know is that picking our nos is more important than correcting every single thing.
When we try to control every decision our child makes, they don't learn how to make their own decisions and they may lack confidence because their parents don't have the smallest bit of faith that they can do something without screwing it up. Responsible parents choose the important battles and take domain over those, but they let the small stuff go. Also, most of parenting is small stuff.
8 Deny Responsibility For Behavior At Home
Most children truly do benefit from a village mentality when it comes to growing up, meaning that people in their lives besides their parents will influence their upbringing. Teachers, friends, and extended family help shape a child, but they should not be the ones solely responsible for a child's discipline.
Parents need to be handling what happens at home and be aware of what is going on with their kids no matter where they are.
When mom and dad don't deal with how their kids act at home, instead choosing to let teachers or friends correct their children when they are at school or other homes, they open up a world of problems. Responsible parents know discipline begins at home.
If parents don't teach kids what is acceptable and unacceptable under their roof, it's highly unlikely they are going to go into the world and act appropriately. This leaves the village working overtime to correct behavior that should have been dealt with at home.
7 Let Things Get Out Of Control
While it's true parents can't control every move their child makes, they also have to exert some authority over the parenting situation. Parents are parents, and that means they are the ones who draw the line and say what is or isn't acceptable. When parents decide to forfeit this part of their job, they are not being responsible.
Kids should not be able to cross every line or act out without thought for others and receive no correction. Parents who let their kids get out of control assuming the kids will grow out of the behavior or learn to correct it themselves are not facing reality. When a child is out of control and not corrected, they learn that is what is acceptable.
They may also use even more outlandish behavior to try to get their parents' attention, hoping for someone to notice them spiraling way off course.
Parents need to model staying in control as well, explaining that it's possible to feel angry without pushing someone or jealous without taking someone else's possessions. When parents show what it looks like to stay in control of big feelings, they are practicing responsible parenting at its best.
6 Refuse To Hold Their Kids Accountable
No parents wants to think of their kid as the trouble maker, but all kids make poor decisions at times. These decisions don't define them, but parents still have to hold their kids accountable.
By addressing bad behavior, letting kids know it's a choice to act that way, and offering natural consequences, responsible parents show their kids how to take ownership over their bad choices and make them right. The positive results of this can be seen throughout life.
Kids who learn they are accountable for their actions when they are young may have an easier time when they are adults because they already understand their actions have consequences. They grew up with parents who addressed bad behavior and encouraged them to make it right as opposed to making excuses for inappropriate responses. This better prepares them for adulthood when the choices they make have even bigger consequences.
5 Choose Man-Made Over Natural Consequences
Spanking, yelling, and time outs are common punishments offered to kids when they step out of line. However, responsible parents understand the power of natural consequences, those that occur naturally when a person makes a bad choice.
Make no mistake, letting a child suffer from natural consequences is not easy. While it tends to remove the parent a bit from being the one to actually deliver the consequence, allowing a child to suffer the natural consequences for their actions is not easy.
It looks like letting the child who didn't pack his homework after being told to three times suffer the consequences of that action when it he gets to school instead of dashing to his classroom with his homework. It looks like letting a child who received a speeding ticket figure out a way to pay for it on their own instead of doing it for them. It's not easy, but it's effective and a much better way of preparing kids for the real world.
4 Trust Their Kids With Technology
We live in a world saturated with screens. Cell phones, tablets, and laptops offer children interactions with the world through pushing a few buttons. Though many people give their kids these devices so they can play what they believe are kid-friendly games, responsible parents know that any access to the online world needs to be closely monitored.
Giving our kids access to all the Internet has to offer and not checking in is like giving them bleach in a water bottle and telling them not to drink it. They don't understand the risks, and by the time they stumble across something inappropriate or confusing for them to describe to their parents, it can be too late.
Online predators are real. People who try to put inappropriate content on apps and games designed for kids are real. Social media bullying that has led to tragic endings is real. Responsible parents filter what their kids have access to and then monitor them online.
3 Hear Without Listening
Kids offer a ton of words in a day, at least young ones do. They can talk for hours about whatever their interest is at the time, and parents often zone out when they reach a place where they are just too saturated by sound.
Responsible parents know this is a mistake. Yes, our kids talk a ton, and sometimes it's about things we aren't really interested in. However, our kids find this information important, so it should be important to us. When we actually listen to our kids, we can ask them questions about their favorite books, video games, or whatever they are into. We may also find that listening to them about one area of their life leads them to open up to us about other parts.
Responsible parents know it's necessary to establish open and healthy communication with a child early in life to avoid problems later on. One way to do that is by actively listening.
2 Put Being Liked Over Being The Parent
Who doesn't want to be the cool mom? I mean, it's fun when our kids are singing our praises because of how awesome we are. However, being liked is not our number one job for our kids. Being a parent is.
Responsible parents know that having a respectful relationship with a child is key. We're not trying to make them hate us. However, they also know that there will be times when their kids say they are being unfair for enforcing a rule that the child doesn't like. That's okay. Though our kids may not like us in that moment, we know we are doing what is best for them and can put our role as parent over our role as friend.
This isn't easy and requires discipline, but responsible parents know it's more important to be respected than liked all of the time.
1 Be Discourteous With Others
Being a role model is more important than any lecture a parent can give. That's why when kids watch their parents cuss at a driver during rush hour traffic, cut in line to be served first, or do other discourteous things, all the words in the world from mom and dad about being kind won't go very far.
Kids learn from what they see, and if they see their parents model behavior that says not everyone in the world deserves courteous treatment, that's what they will learn.
The flip side of this is we can't tolerate our kids being discourteous to others. Can they be frustrated, angry, or put off by someone's behavior? Of course. Our kids are human. However, we have to teach them how to deal with those feelings without letting it devolve into just plain mean. Plus, we have to apologize and admit our own mistake if they learned the discourteous behavior from us.
Resources: Abbot, Psychology Today, Very Well, Teachmag.com