I don’t think anyone will argue with me that parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and being a good parent is even harder. For all the joy it brings, being a parent is tough!

Aside from lots of prayer, I’ve appreciated having a good friend who has been my ‘go to’ when the job has seemed all too difficult or when situations have arisen and I haven’t known the best way to deal with them….and even when my parenting methods have fallen short.

Having navigated the toddler, child, tween and now teenage years with my own children, as well as having 23 years of experience in the teaching profession, I feel I’ve gathered some ‘parenting gold’ tips over the years. A Junior School parent recently asked me to share some of my best parenting advice with them. It made me think that perhaps there’s some ‘parenting gold’ here that others may also find helpful.

Be Consistent – Do the ‘Hard Yards’ When They’re Young
Parenting young children is physically and emotionally exhausting, but consistency is the key to establishing good boundaries and healthy respect. In fact, I believe consistency is the most important disciplinary tool you need. When life is busy and you’re tired, it’s very tempting to overlook things that really need addressing. The Bible tells us to Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

When parents aren’t consistent, children get confused and boundaries aren’t well established. If you do the parenting ‘hard yards’ when your children are young you’ll reap the parenting rewards as your children grow into adolescence.

Raise your children as though there are many of them
I have two children and this advice has been so helpful. The fewer children a family has, the more likely they are to worry about small, precise details of their children’s lives, in ways that parents of multiple children tend not to. It’s important not to ‘over navigate’ life for your children as we want them to build independence and resilience. Asking yourself “Would I worry about this if I had a lot more children?” can be a very helpful perspective.

“You Asked and I Answered”
Children know how to nag and they don’t like to take no for an answer. I’m sure they often think that if they continue to ask, we’ll change our minds. Whatever the reason, using this simple response is enough to shut down even the most persistent nagging behaviour. When your children ask a question once, you should answer it. After that, if they ask again give your response as “you asked and I answered”.

Different Families Have Different Rules
Do your children ever complain and ask, “Why does so and so get to do that and I don’t?” There are so many variations of this phrase whether it be about the age they can get a phone, when they can stay home alone, or what movies or social media they can engage with.  I found it beneficial to teach my children from a young age that every family is different and the rules and boundaries in one home aren’t always the same in another. My children knew that in our family we made the rules based on what we thought was best for them and we weren’t going to be swayed by the fact that other families did things differently.

Be The Best Role Model You Can –‘ Monkey See Monkey Do’
As a parent, we are the first teacher our child will ever engage with, and our actions often say much more than the words we use.

How we behave and manage ourselves sends a strong signal to our child. If children observe different behaviour from what they are being told, then it’s likely they will become confused, and possibly resentful. Role modelling is important in every situation! Children will learn from us how to handle emotions such as frustration and anger. They will look to us to see how we respect and relate to people, and how resilient we are in different circumstances. Our actions also influence things such as exercise and well-being. Remember that as a parent there are always little eyes watching.

Teach Them It’s Not All About Them
It’s really important to teach our children that they are not the centre of the universe. Research has shown that there is a direct link between low self-esteem in children and materialism, which I find incredibly interesting. It’s easy to give our children more things because we think it will make them happy and help them feel good. However, doing this encourages them to place a higher value on material possessions than on relationships. It’s good to keep in mind that usually, our children don’t need more material things, they just need more of us.

Be Involved. Don’t Stop Talking
As children grow up, and particularly with increased use of technology and social media, children tend to withdraw a bit. This doesn’t mean they don’t still need active parents who take a keen interest in their world. Being an involved parent takes time and hard work. Sometimes it means rethinking and rearranging our priorities. Teenagers especially run to a different body clock and sometimes I find myself staying up a long time after I would like, simply to engage with my teenager. Keep the communication open! Don’t stop talking to your child (regardless of their response!). Don’t allow your child’s screen time, or increased reliance on peers to take over your parenting responsibilities.

Be Prayerful
Finally, different seasons of parenting bring about a variety of different demands, different levels of exhaustion and different decisions. Prayer is always my ‘go to’. I don’t believe in navigating the parenting journey alone. I believe in the power of prayer. Our children are God’s children. They are gifted to us and He desires us to seek his help.

If you have some effective parenting advice, let me encourage you to share it with other parents that you interact with. As I said earlier, parenting is a tough gig. To parent effectively requires a toolkit of strategies to draw upon.

Mrs Vicki Gunning / Head of Junior School