Nothing can fully prepare you for parenting. All the books and classes in the world can give you helpful tips and tell you about the ups and downs, but until your kids are born, you don’t really understand how hard and confusing it can be to raise another human being.
One of the hardest parts about parenting? Finding balance.
You don’t want to be the parent who never lets their kids take a risk or make their own decisions, but you also don’t want to be so permissive that they don’t understand boundaries and end up in real trouble. It’s a fine line to be authoritative without being authoritarian.
Why Does Balance Matter?
The term “helicopter parent” has been around for a while. Helicopter parents hover over their kids’ lives, structuring all their free time and ensuring that they never make a mistake. This might seem like the best way to get your kids into Harvard, but it can backfire.
Kids who are never allowed to choose how they spend their time, relax, or make their own decisions often struggle as they get older. They don’t know how to manage their own lives and emotions because they’ve always been managed by someone else.
Studies on helicopter parenting have shown that too much control over your kids’ lives can be extremely harmful. Once they leave home, they won’t have the skills to make it in a challenging world. Doing everything for your kids and making all their decisions means they don’t have a chance to become independent.
On the other hand, letting your kids do anything they want isn’t a good way to help them become well-rounded, responsible adults either. If they aren’t taught how to behave properly and deal with their emotions in a healthy way, they might easily get into trouble.
This is why balance in parenting is so important. Your kids need to learn how to make good decisions, manage and cope with their emotional and mental health, and become responsible, functional adults. That only happens when they are given both freedom and discipline in a balanced way.
Parents need to have expectations for their kids, but they need to be realistic and reasonable. You should expect your child to put in enough effort at school, but don’t be disappointed if their grades aren’t perfect. Expect your kids to help out around the house, but don’t make them spend hours doing chores every day.
Expectations will help your kids learn the importance of effort and responsibility, but unreasonable expectations can lead to resentment, anxiety, and rebellion. Balance your expectations, so your kids learn valuable life lessons without getting discouraged and giving up.
Which Issues Are Most Important?
There are so many things to teach kids, and some of them are more important than others. As a family, what values are most important to you? Deep down, most people know that values such as kindness and perseverance should be fundamental, but instilling these values does take some effort.
Other issues can also arise that will require balance, such as smartphone use. When will you allow your kids to have their own phones? How will you ensure that they’re not addicted to their phones and getting too much screen time?
Figuring out which issues are most important and which you can let go will help take some of the stress off of parenting. Focusing on what matters can help you find the right balance.
When your kids are younger, they’ll have less freedom. As they grow, it’s important to gradually give them more opportunities for age-appropriate freedom. This will give them a chance to explore their world, make their own choices, and experience the consequences of their actions, both good and bad.
Even when they’re older, though, you should still be on the lookout for problem behaviors as they test their new freedom. Intervening when you think your child might be trying out smoking, for instance, could help prevent nicotine addiction and health issues in the future. Pick your battles carefully!
Provide Guidance, Not Decisions
One of the most important aspects of balanced parenting is not swooping in and making all the decisions for your child.
When they’re little, you might give them the power to choose their own outfit, for example. You can provide guidance, but you need to let them make their own decisions, little by little.
By the time they’re older, they can choose from different activities or sports they want to try until they choose where they want to go to college. This process will help your kids gain confidence in their own abilities and allow them to enter the world better prepared for what life throws at them.
Think of Discipline as Teaching
Many adults today grew up with an authoritarian father figure in their lives. Today, it’s becoming clear that raising kids this way isn’t necessarily the best choice. Instead of harshly punishing kids when they test boundaries, we’re learning that redirection and natural consequences can be more effective.
Having “control” over your kids might be appealing, but it’s not the best way to ensure that they respect and love you. Thinking of discipline as teaching, rather than punishment, will help you get into a mindset that will help ensure that your kids look to you when they need help or advice. Explain why their behavior is inappropriate instead of just handing out punishments whenever you see fit.
We all make mistakes as parents. We all struggle with finding the right balance. But if you’re doing what you can to find that balance, then your kids are probably going to turn out just fine. You’re always learning, and you can always improve!
This content is brought to you by Andrew Deen.
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