Parenting is hard. The unseen stress of parenting is exhausting as it stands outside the parameters of a mass pandemic. Now the mental load of being a parent has been compacted with even more expectations. COVID-19 has upped our parenting responsibilities, however, that does not mean that we have to let go of our core values related to setting a good example for our children. This time offers us more opportunities to show grace and offer kindness to ourselves and those around us. Now, more than ever is an opportune time to step up and show our children how to be good humans. Listed below are 7 ways to set a good example for your children.
Be a good listener.
This seems small, but in reality, it is a game-changer. This can be as simple as taking the two extra minutes at bedtime to hear all about your child’s newest interest. It can also be as simple as turning off the radio and talking while riding in the car. Even as adults, one of our greatest attributes is the ability to listen. Nothing is more comforting to a human being than to be heard and understood. This is no different for our smaller human counterparts. They also want to be heard. This can be exhausting but will set the foundation for open communication from the start. The simple act of listening requires nothing more than my time. When you use good listening skills with your partner, your family, and your children, you are showing your child you value their time and care about what they have to say. And by modeling good listening, you are teaching them a lifelong skill of being present and listening.
Take up a few healthy habits.
Taking a walk with the family after dinner, choosing the salad over the pizza, or training for that half-marathon. Whatever health goals you may have, go for them. Making healthy choices in front of your children will help them understand the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Share your goals with your children. If your goal is to eat healthy, share that with your child. Let them see your hard work. The best way to show your child that he/she can do the hard things in life is by doing them in front of your children. Even the smallest of actions can make a large impact. All parents want healthier children, so why not start with yourself and show your kiddos how to become healthy one choice at a time?
Navigating rules and challenging behavior as a parent is difficult. Even with a degree in child development, I second guess my parenting strategies daily. Set limits for yourself, and your children. Just like in the workplace, there are standards in place that help guide the employees in their decision making, parenting should be similar. If dinner time is screen-free, this means when you get that important text message from a co-worker in the middle of the meal, it will have to wait. Let your children share in the conversation about what limits are needed. Boundaries are important and needed. Setting limits for yourself and your children puts everyone on the same playing field. Everyone knows what is expected and what is allowed.
Get comfortable saying sorry.
This one is hard. We are human and we make mistakes. So apologies are needed. If you say something rude to your spouse in passing during a stressful moment; it’s important that your children hear you apologize. As a parent, you do not apologize for disciplining your child but often apologize for your reaction. If you set a limit in your family to always have your bedroom picked up by dinner and this rule is broken, then discipline is needed. This was a rule that was discussed and known, yet not listened to. Therefore, there are consequences. This does not mean the reaction of raising your voice is justified. This is where an apology may come into place. Saying you are sorry to your partner, co-workers, friends, and children help show your children you are only human. You make mistakes just like the next person. This will also make it easier for your children to come forward and apologize the next time they make a mistake. Getting comfortable showing humility in front of your children helps them to understand that making mistakes is okay and saying sorry goes a long way.
Show them how to self-care.
Self-care was not a word used very much in the ’80s and ’90s. It is new and trendy, but oh so very important. Self-care looks different for each person, however, modeling it in front of your children shows them the importance of caring for your own well-being. Maybe this is seen when your son wakes up to find you sitting in silence with your coffee and prayers in the morning. Maybe it’s your kids knowing that you get a massage once a month to help you unwind. Maybe they know that their dad’s evening walks are so he can be alone for a few minutes and take time for himself. Parenting is a giving relationship. For most of those first years in parenting, the parents give more than the child to the relationship. This means parents pour out a lot of love and time. Basically, you can’t pour from a broken pitcher. So, take some time for yourself. Don’t feel guilty about that weekend away, that trip to the spa, or the need for an hour away from your children. The most important thing you can do to set a good example for your child is to be healthy yourself. By showing children the importance of self-care, we are teaching them future coping skills.
Honesty is essential.
This one also seems like a no-brainer. Being truthful in any relations is important. Just as you expect and appreciate honestly from your family and friends, your children will appreciate it from you. Yes, certain things are hard to navigate in regard to honestly. Some things are too big and hard for little ears and minds to understand. This is when honesty can become tricky. It is 100% okay to answer hard questions with, “This is something we can talk about when you are a little older.” It is also okay to only share a small amount of information. However, transparency is important. It is also almost always certain that your children will call you out in lie, anyway. So better to be honest in most situations. This has been tricky in regard to COVID-19. For younger children, you can still use honestly without divulging large amounts of information. Take something big and scary like COVID-19 and break it down into small bite-sized information. Younger children do not need to know death statistics or CDC standards. However, they do have the right to know that school might look different. Small appropriate amounts of information keep you honest, without sharing the scary adult-sized information to those young minds. Honesty is at the core of every healthy relationship; this includes the relationship you have with your children.
Lastly, show kindness. With all the big and scary changes in the world today, kindness goes a long way. Small acts of kindness displayed in front of your children will radically change their life over time. By stepping up and showing kindness to those around you, you are creating a kinder world. You are teaching the next generation of humans the importance of kindness. Baking cookies for the neighbors, sending cards to friends, paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru, are all simple ways to share a little kindness. Do this in front of your children. Get them involved. Ask for their ideas on how they can spread kindness. We can show our children the importance of eating healthy, setting limits, and saying sorry, but the greatest way to set a good example for our children is to spread kindness.