Thursday, January 19, 2017

How to become a better parent

When I asked other parents: “How do I become a better parent?”, many of them answered: “Why do I need to change?” or “Why do I have to blame myself?” or “Do you think you are a better parent than I am?”. My first feeling would be better described as “bewilderment”. Today, I feel sorry for those parents because they did not understand my question.

How to become a better parent
“How do I become a better parent?” doesn’t have anything to do with blame or competition. It certainly doesn’t imply that there is something wrong with you. It is all about “DOING THE BEST I CAN FOR MY CHILD”, which happens to be “THE RIGHT THING TO DO”. 
I had a terrible childhood full of abuse, violence, neglect, and loneliness. But when I became a Mom I noticed I had been given the chance to choose which path was I going to take as a parent:
  1. The Easy Way: do what I have been trained to do my whole life and let my child have a shockingly terrible childhood, just like mine. After all, it isn’t my fault. I am not to blame. It's just how it is.
  2. The Right Thing: do whatever it takes to make sure my child has a real opportunity in life, to be raised without any type of violence, for her to feel loved, valued, respected and accepted.
I decided to DO THE RIGHT THING and to DO MY VERY BEST to become the BEST PARENT I CAN BE. It really turned into a huge effort to “break the mold” my own parents used on me. This is what really helped me:

1) I made a list based on my own experiences as a child: What would I have done differently if I were my own parent? Let your memories help you become the parent you wish you'd had when you were a child. 

2) I made my “Never Forget” list and read it quite frequently. It helped me "reprogram' myself: uninstalling malware and get the right "software" up and running. It included:

  • The Love I feel for my child is infinitely larger than the resentment I feel for my parents. They have left many scars and open wounds on me, but my will is far stronger than my pain.
  • When I feel discouraged and frightened, I need to tell myself I haven't been through hell when I was a child just to give up now. My childhood had only one favorable outcome, it gave me: Resilience. I will use it to become the best parent I can be and I will never give up
  • It is our job as parents to show our children what “LOVE” means so that when they grow up, they have a strong self-esteem and a clear idea of how they deserve to be treated by others. 
  • Parenting is not about "Controlling". It is about loving and accepting our children just the way they are. They are not made of clay. We are expected to provide them options for them to decide how to calm themselves when they are anxious, how to find their inner strength, how to solve problems, how to feel good about themselves, how to embrace challenges, how to fight a bully and how to make decisions.   
  • For a child, “Love” is not measured by the quantity and price of the toys and clothes you give them. Also, “Love” is really insubstantial if it is merely a plain word we repeat automatically. “Love” turns into a huge Super Power when we describe it as: “sharing wonderful play time together, laughing and rolling on the floor, jumping in a muddy puddle, solving problems and dreaming together, without the phone getting in our way”. In one word, for a child, “Love is CONNECTION".
  • I won't have most of the answers, but I will do my best to find the best possible answer for every question I get from my child. 

3) Take a deep breath when you are about to lose your patience, give yourself a few minutes to calm down before you say something you might later regret. Remember how helpless and frightened you felt every time your parents were mad at you when you were a child. 

4) Be ready to start over all over again every time you make a mistake. Read the lists you've written, your memories will give you the strength to apologize to your child and start again from scratch. Your child doesn't need you to be perfect. Your child needs you to do the best you can. It is ok if you make a mistake, repent and apologize.

5) My childhood memories worked as a very clear “NOT TO DO LIST”, but they did not provide any specific alternative approaches. So I started to look for answers out there by myself, reading countless books on Parenting and Positive Discipline. I had many interviews with therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and I also searched on the web for many, many hours. This process has never stopped. 

I am trying to teach my child to live the quote: “You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequence of your choice” - Ziad K. Abdelnour. Let me tell you, I just couldn't be a happier parent. I really love the consequences from what I chose. “Be the best parent I can be” is definitely the best decision I've ever made in my life.

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