“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
– Frederick Douglass
When an eagerly anticipated son or daughter finally arrives in your life, there is an undeniable feeling of being complete; complete as a family and the same for you personally. However, not everything is complete.
This little bundle of joy that you never wish out of your loving arms is not complete. She left something behind. Yes, their instruction manual.
No baby arrives on earth with the necessary parental operating guide required by its new parents.
Have you ever owned something as intricate, as advanced or technologically brilliant as a newborn child and had to just “wing it”? No, didn’t think so.
What’s more, you are going to spend pretty much the rest of your life simply winging it when it comes to your kids. Yes, there are a multitude of books, written by experts in backgrounds ranging from psychology to paediatrics to social sciences, right down to the self-professed experts. There are also many instructional DVDs of a similar nature and thousands of go-to websites, all proclaiming to be the best online instruction manual for new parents.
Many of these (but certainly not all of them) will provide you with valuable information on how to be a good parent.
What follows is my self-written instruction manual for your child (later, modified to children), gathered partly from some of the more responsible sources mentioned above, but mostly from personal experience and the experiences of family and friends; all of which have been tempered by a good dose of sheer common sense, and that includes living in our technological, all-digital world.
However, let’s throw in a curveball, as they say.
Apart from being an exceptionally proud parent, I am also a recovering alcoholic, 6 years down a clean and sober road – a road I hope and pray my children never have to travel along. So, below are my 5 essential steps (we people in recovery, we like to do things in steps) for becoming a better parent. Let’s begin.
Become A Better Parent With These Tips!
Becoming a parent, and bringing your little bundle of humanity home, has the capacity, in time, to make you think you’re losing your sanity.
11pm, then 1am, and then 4am bouts of screaming to start will have you questioning that sanity within a week. Does it get better? Yes.
But slowly. Very, very slowly. Apparently, there are babies out there that (wait for it) actually sleep like normal people. Through the night and everything. Amazing, huh?
Me? Never met one. So you need to be smart. Now and in the future.
Here are some ways you can “be smart”:
The world can be a confusing place for our little adults. Because of this, children need boundaries (crave them, in fact), helping them to make some sense of everything around them. So, create boundaries that allow them to do just that, safely enabling them to explore the world.
Discipline is not punishment. Repeat after me. Many make this mistake and use the two terms interchangeably.
Discipline is setting behavioral boundaries that your child understands clearly. These boundaries teach an important lesson – how to behave in the right way in this confusing world that he may find himself in. When he gets a little older, you can explain to him that the world doesn’t get any less confusing when you become an adult…
Additionally, your child craves independence as well as boundaries. Giving her responsibilities (tidying up toys, getting dressed, etc) will give her that sense of independence, and can do wonders for her self-esteem too.
Don’t rush in if your child is getting frustrated with something. Acknowledge that emotion, but give him the space to find his own solution. You’ll have a far more resilient and self-reliant child in the long-term.
Yes, I admit, I missed a lot of this when I was a new father. Back then, my addiction was still active; I was pre-rehab, and past really caring.
As long as my child was being cared for by her Mom, it was just another thing that had a weaker pull on me than the next bottle.
Is that shameful? Yes. Could I help it? No.
It did eventually form part of my acceptance of needing rehab. I guess I’ll be making up for lost time for a long time. I’m more than happy to do it now – that goes without saying.
Here are some ways to spend quality time with your child:
Lot’s of (Free) Play
They choose the game, they set the rules (if any). And that’s it. Have some fun!
One Day – One Book
Reading is a wonderful way of bonding with a child. The cuddles, the security she finds in your voice, the story itself. Yes, it’s truly wonderful. And a great learning opportunity.
Time with Daddy
One for me, I know. Time spent with a father is just as important as that time spent with Mom. You may not think that, but your child does.
As adults, we have to try to really think when it comes to our earliest memories. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
We don’t necessarily remember particular words spoken, but we do remember the feelings associated with our family experiences, like Christmas and bedtime and birthdays. Make those memories good ones for your child.
This one is straight from my Mom and Dad, the benefit of which I see every day, especially in my new clean and sober life. And, yes, I’m grateful for it too.
Here are a few examples:
Teaching children to help others, like volunteering, is a brilliant way to teach gratitude, and, just as importantly, self-worth.
Talk About It
Have conversations with your children about being good, being polite, and being responsible. It may stem from a good character in a book you read with them, or maybe someone they see on the street, helping others.
Demonstrating to your kids how being a generous and kind person makes you and others feel good is a great way to teach the right values. Practice what you preach (one of my Mom’s favorite sayings).
Be a Person Your Child Likes & Respects
Ok, this really is the biggie for me. It’s quite simple too, especially now.
Remember, the greatest source of your child’s early education is you – the parent. As another old saying (no offense, Mom) goes, “Actions speak louder than words.”
A child’s behavior is a reflection of their parents, so
● Admit when you’re wrong
● Tell the truth – don’t lie.
● Be a loving and caring partner (it’s the first glimpse of a child of an intimate relationship)
Yes, there’s another example for those like me. If you’re an addict (alcohol, drugs, whatever), don’t be blitzed in front of your children.
Do it somewhere else. It doesn’t mean, once they are becoming older, that you can’t be honest and discuss it with them, but, in their formative years, they don’t need it. Fact.
This will also avoid you having to lie, the addict’s usual pastime.
Active Children Have Active Brains
Now for the science (it’s ok, no rockets). Research, and there has been plenty over the last 30 years or so, has proven that physically active children benefit from better brain development than their less active peers, meaning they have better cognition and a higher academic level.
Here are a couple of ways to get your children more active:
Even from a very young age, you can do this. Placing a baby on their tummy to get them moving, encouraging walking rather than using a stroller as children get older, right up to school sports clubs for the older children in school.
More research* has shown that children who have the luxury of a TV in their room
○ Sleep less
○ Weigh more
○ Achieve lower grades, and are
○ Less socially-skilled
Just as a slightly cheeky aside to this, Moms and Dads with a TV in their room have less… you know.
The Missing Instruction Manual…
“A two-year-old is kind of like having a blender, but you don’t have a top for it.”
– Jerry Seinfeld
So, there you have them – 5 essential steps to becoming a better parent. They won’t make you the best parent in the world simply because nobody has ever owned a copy of that missing instruction manual and subsequently published it for all the parents whose copy is missing.
Yes, that’s everyone.
However, by following these steps of being smart, sharing quality time, teaching gratitude, being a person your child likes and respects, and understanding active children have active brains, you will be a much better parent than otherwise.
As you are aware, I’m no child psychologist, pediatric consultant, or social science guru – I’m a proud parent, just like you, learning how to wing it with the best of them.
Maybe there are other steps that you have learned yourselves about your experiences of parenting that you’d like to share with others?
Please feel free to do so in the comments below. All are gratefully received. So thanks in advance.
Lastly, if anyone stumbles across a copy of that missing child instruction manual in a garage sale somewhere, please let the rest of us know.
Hi, my name is Andy! I was born in Bogota, Colombia, but raised in Los Angeles, California. I’m a proud parent of three beautiful kids, and I’ve been clean and sober 6 years now. I do everything I can and pray every night so my children don’t have to live the same lifestyle I lived. I spend my time helping others with their recovery and growing my online business.