Raising children is one of the most difficult, and yet most fulfilling thing you can do. Children were not born with operational manuals or instructional videos, and parents have to be prepared to "learn on the job".
And it's never too early to start. Even as babies, your child looks to you to develop their sense of self. Your tone of voice, body language and every expression is absorbed by your child. As they grow up, they continue model their character based on how you behave - not only what you say.
If you are positive and encouraging, the child will grow up more confident and generally happier. The reverse is true, and all too often parents don't realise how negative they are to their children. Of course, you should neither be too strict, nor be so 'loving' to the point of mollycoddling. Discipline is of course important, but how you express your corrective guidance makes a world of difference to them.
Here are some parenting tips to consider:
Communication is priority
Children aren't born knowing what to do, and they don't know what you know if you don't tell them. Hence, it is important to communicate your thoughts and intentions with them. Instead of telling them 'do' or 'do not', explain to them, and reason with them. This will help the child understand and learn in a non-judgemental way.
Watch your choice of words
Avoid using loaded words that hurt. 'What a stupid thing to do!' is unnecessarily hurtful and will bruise a child's ego. Instead, you can say, 'Susie, that is not the right thing to do,' and proceed with patient explanation why. Also, avoid words such as, 'Why can't you behave like your brother?' This creates sibling rivalry, and makes the child assign blame to the sibling for making his life more difficult.
Catch your child being good
It is very easy to catch a child misbehaving, but how often do we deliberately catch a child being good? Almost all children desire attention, whether 'good' or 'bad' attention. So if you aren't there to encourage them when they do praiseworthy things, they may turn to other methods. Parents often forget this and tend to look for negativity when they should be looking for the best in their child.
Make time for them
Parents have to juggle many responsibilities and expectations. However, it is always important to spend quality time together. Children cannot temporarily stop growing up just to wait for their parents to be free, and before you know it, too many chances would have come and gone. Making a deliberate, regular time within your schedule, and regard them as important as meeting your boss.
Love your children without spoiling them
Most parents love their children, and some take it too far. Wrongful encouragement teaches them the misguided values, and the effect of your words will wear out. Overprotection sends the unintentional message that you don't trust them to take care of themselves. Children who are spoilt tend not to grow up to be confident, independent individuals.
Manage your child's fears
Your child's initial fearlessness comes from blissful ignorance. The same child whom initially puts her hand cheerfully in a dog's biting jaws will quickly learn to scream and cry whenever dogs bark. You will need to step in and show you are there to protect them, and at the same time explain to them how things work. In this example, you can teach them that not all dogs bite, but there are some actions which will trigger unwanted reactions.
Take time outs
You will need to adapt to your child as it learns to adapt to the world. While most parents don't go to the extreme of baby talk with their teenage children, it helps to step back and take note of your own parenting style once in a while. As they grow, their needs evolve, and so should your style of approaching them.
Last of all: acknowledge that no one is perfect.
No one. Not your child. Not you. There is no perfect parent, and as humans we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Recognising your strengths helps you build on them, while acknowledging your weaknesses means you are more aware and can correct yourself the next time it happens.
Parenting is a responsibility, a joy, and a learning journey filled with tears and laughter. It is a mutual relationship that can be built on the foundations of love and trust. Spend time and effort to build a strong bond with your child right from the start, and you will find a sense of fulfilment and bliss unmatched.