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home : insight & opinion : guest columns
February 21, 2019

1/29/2019 1:35:00 PM
'Growing good adults' starts with relationships
For the Daily News

I often find myself saying that "parenting is THE hardest job." Nothing quite compares to the 24/7/365 work of raising another human being, let alone two or three of them.

Each stage of growth and development for our children comes with its own rewards and challenges for us as parents. I believe most parents truly want to do their best as they raise their children. I know for my husband and I, our parenting goal has always been to raise kind, compassionate, God-fearing, hardworking, responsible members of society. My husband likes to sum this up as "raising good adults." Sure, we have some other ideas of character traits we'd like for our children to possess...but really these are basics for us.

I believe all of these goals, in regards to who our children become, begin with our relationships with them as children.

As a mom to six children, ages 6-14, and a licensed school counselor, I have identified a few areas for you to focus on in building healthy relationships with your children.

1. Show your child unconditional love. Love them no matter what they say, do, or think. Express this love for them. This would mean that as parents we do not hold things over their heads, put limitations on our love ("I love you, but..."), or withdraw love when our children make mistakes.

2. Get regulated before you reprimand/discipline your child and take steps to help your child get regulated as well. We cannot expect our children to behave in a manner that shows self-control and higher level thinking skills if we ourselves are in a reactive mode.

"Flipping our Lid," as Dr. Dan Siegel, author of The Whole Brain Child and Parenting From the Inside Out, states, is when the midbrain takes over and our cerebral cortex is no longer able to help us think logically and reason. If both parent and child are in reactive mode this will only exacerbate the problems and damage the relationship.

Take deep breaths, count to 10 (or 20), walk away and come back when calm, etc. but demonstrate the use of coping skills especially before applying discipline.

3. Respect is a two-way street. We want our children to respect us and our authority, but do we show them respect as well? Listen to your children. Restrain from shaming or reprimanding them in public. It is often difficult for us to see our children grow and form their own opinions on topics but modeling an attitude of respect is far reaching.

4. Be present with your child. With so many things demanding our attention, the struggle is harder than ever before. Work, chores, family needs, social media, electronic devices. I urge you to take time every day to be fully present and connect with your child. Perhaps it is eating dinner together at the kitchen table, reading a book together, playing a game, or working together to make something. There are lots of ways to do this, but it involves taking away the distractions and being attentive to each other.

5. Set boundaries and stick to them. Children need us to be clear in our expectations for them and provide guidelines. They will push the limits and try to make us waver, however we can show them our love by holding our ground.

The relationships we foster with our children are so critical to their development, social maturity, ability to control behaviors and emotions and even their capacity for resilience. Science shows that said relationships even affect how a child's brain physically grows and develops.

Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child says "the single most common finding is that children who end up doing well have had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult."

No parent is perfect. Some seasons of life leave us doing the best we can as we take one day at a time. It's important to give yourself grace as you acknowledge areas of parenting that need improvement and then consciously work on developing those areas. Your kids may not thank you for it, but the benefits will be long standing.

A few suggested readings: The Whole Brain Child and Parenting from the Inside Out by Dr. Dan Siegel and Raising Freakishly Well Behaved Kids, by Jodi Mullen.

Editor's note: Ramsey and her husband of 18 years are the parents of six children, a family formed through biological children, adoption and foster care. She has her bachelor's degree in psychology and sociology and a master's degree in counseling and is employed by Robinson Unit 2 as an elementary school counselor.

These occasional guest columns are provided by Crawford County LIFE, a new local non-profit that "exists to liberate residents of preconceived ideas and addictive behaviors by educating to improve understanding of themselves and their needs; to facilitate community resources with the goal to empower residents toward better emotional, physical and mental health." For more information, check out Crawford County LIFE's Facebook page.

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