Maybe you are one of the lucky parents who have found a parenting style that works well for you and your kids. More likely though, you are like the rest of us who have to make changes to our parenting style now and then. Children have unique personalities and needs that are dynamic and change as they grow. You can’t use the same techniques with a teenager as you can a toddler, nor can you use the same techniques with two children with extremely different personalities. In addition, sometimes you miss opportunities during your children’s younger years and have to make adjustments later on.
With that in mind, here are a few ways you can make changes to your parenting style to better suit your children’s needs.
Make specific goals
Evaluate the things you want to change in your parenting style or specific behaviors that you want to change. If your kids are used to you doing things a certain way, expect some protest. Kids need boundaries and consequences but also praise and rewards. Try to decide what your child needs and make your goals to meet their specific needs. If your current system isn’t working, you may need to make your goals smaller or the time frames smaller.
Work on one goal at a time
Don’t overwhelm your child by making drastic changes. Make one small change at a time. Set a goal; work on it. Keep working on it until you figure out what works. It’s okay to change the way you do things, but changing too much or too frequently can confuse your child. So, try to give the change a little time and reevaluate if it isn’t working.
Be calm and parent on
When you’re not calm, your kids aren’t calm. When making changes, it’s very important to be calm and consistent. Kids react to your stress level. Be conscientious of your volume and tone when you are speaking to your kids. Explain the rules clearly. Enforce the change calmly. Try not to let your children’s emotional response change your plan.
Consistency is important for kids. If you have been flip-flopping around from one parenting technique to the next, or laying down the law and then being lax, this inconsistency sends confusing messages to your kids. Instead of seeing the rules as rules, they may see the them as mom being mean or just in a bad mood. If you are consistent, then the rules are more clear, and there is less confusion. Still, while consistency is the ideal, it’s not always what happens. This is where it helps to just regroup and start over. It’s okay to start over on a new routine or a change that wasn’t kept up with. For example, let’s say the rule was no food should be taken out of the kitchen or dining room. Maybe you stopped enforcing or had some meals at the sofa. It’s okay to tell your kids we’re regrouping and we’re starting over on the no eating in the living room rule. Eventually, if you stick with it, the rule will stick.
Parenting is more than just rules and consequences. Maybe you were more of a strict parent and need to work on being more relaxed, or maybe you were too much of a permissive parent and need to set some boundaries. In either case, when making changes to your parenting style, make them slowly. Set little goals and change one thing about how you parent a time. Making too drastic of a change too fast, can be hard on both kids and parents. If your parenting style really needs some work or your kids have challenges that are beyond minor tweaks, you may want to get help from a family therapist. One thing that is great about working with a therapist, is that they can help you with goals and also help reinforce your goals. Sometimes having a second adult working with your kids can make a huge difference when you are trying to make big changes in how you parent.