Five Uncommon Parenting Solutions To Very Common Problems

These uncommon solutions were discovered through some very common problems that I have experienced, or parents that are close to me, experienced. These approaches are tried, tested and approved. Good advice is hard to find, but actually implementing the good advice can sometimes be the challenge. Solutions should not be hard to incorporate. Keeping things simple is the very nature of these solutions.

Solution One: Taking Care of Yourself

This is solely directed to the parent(s). What I am talking about here is an understanding of what it means to take care of you, FIRST. This article will help you realize how important your physical and emotional health is, and presents the keys to being able to take GOOD care of your children.

Taking care of you is nothing to joke about. It actually means that you need to do whatever you need to do to be completely healthy, FIRST. I know this notion seems unrealistic when you have two children (or more) in diapers and you do it all, day in and day out. I am one of those mothers’ too. I know the idea of giving more seems incredibly overwhelming. Mothers, especially single mothers give when there is nothing left to give. What I am suggesting though is that you give to yourself first. The children can, and will, wait and as a bonus you are setting an excellent example of model behavior for your children while you are doing it.

As we all know, children learn what they see, not what you say. So, knowing that, aren’t you glad to be teaching them how to take care of themselves by setting excellent examples of independence and self reliance? If they see that you are putting yourself first with healthy habits then they will learn to do the same. The children’s immediate and necessary needs will be met and the ones that don’t get met right away because you are stretching, doing yoga, running a mile on the tread mill or meditating, will survive. I am not suggesting you let a baby, screaming in hunger, starve while you run; what I mean is, that you schedule in time for yourself just like you would schedule in the laundry or the errands for the day.

When you decide to take care of yourself first, it is actually the most selfless act of love you can do for your children. You are giving them the gift of YOU. By taking care of your physical health and emotional health you are giving more to your children. You have more to offer when your own needs are being met. There is a clear distinction between taking care of yourself so that you may give to others, and just taking care of yourself; the difference is, that when you are taking care of yourself first in very healthy ways (working out, eating right, going back to school) the prevailing mindset will be for the greater good and wellbeing of your family. Shopping until you have no money or taking excessive time for yourself leaving your responsibilities behind is far from nurturing the wellbeing of your family. This article is about better parenting through understanding and healthy, pro-active choices.
This brings me to another point about taking care of you. I have learned that no matter who is in your life, a husband, a partner, a boyfriend/girlfriend….you are the only one responsible for taking care of you. It may seem that this suggestion is cold and dooming but the reality is that once you learn how to meet your own needs, you will be in a much better position to not only meet the needs of others but also to accept the love and attention from others. When you know how to give to yourself, it enables you to be better at receiving what others have to offer. It is that simple. So how do you do that?

Start by doing a complete self-evaluation. That means that you need to know exactly where you are right now in order to have direction on where you want to be:

1. Are you healthy?
2. Are you eating right?
3. Are you exercising regularly?
4. Do you have good friends or family members to talk with?
5. Do you have any long or short-term goals?
6. Do you sleep well?
7. Do you have any time to yourself?
8. Do you have the energy you need to complete your day’s tasks?
9. Do you smile or laugh regularly?
10. Do you have a safe place to vent your anger and frustrations?

The next step is to really look at your honest answers. Write them down so that you can really ponder what you wrote. This might be a good time to start a journal. Start a journal of your goals, dreams, frustrations, successes, and setbacks. Writing it all down can also help relieve some of the pressure of having the burden of an unofficial list rattling around in your head in a disorganized fashion. Free writing also gives enormous clarity of your own thoughts and feelings. There have been many times in my life that I sat down to vent a certain problem and something completely different ended up on the page. I discovered that what was really upsetting wasn’t what I had thought. It was like a light bulb went off in my head and all of the sudden I had a place to begin solving my issue.

Solution Two: Co-Parenting; Co-Communicating: An important key to a harmonious marriage.

Part of the disconnect that happens between parents has to do with the parenting plan and the difference of opinion in how to follow through on the plans that you make for the children. Here are a few suggestions:

A good place to minimize the angst between you and your partner is to consistently talk about your long and short-term goals for the children. Communicate with each other such things as how you were raised and the mistakes your parents made. Talk about what you want to do better and discuss how to get there. Talk about your values and the qualities you want your children to have as their foundation as they start making decisions on their own. Research has shown that the biggest issue co-parents have is the follow though with the children. It takes time, patience and a ton of effort to get through those extremely trying moments when you are tired, and beaten down from your own pressures. Make a combined list of the things you agree on and talk about how you will implement those qualities. Again, making a list of these things by both partners will help you compare and contrast conflicting ideologies. Discuss each and every area of the process. What hurdles will the children hit when you follow through? How will you handle them as a team, and as individuals? It may be difficult to predict just how challenging a situation will be before it happens, so when it does happen, take the time to talk about it with your partner. The simple act of consistent communication will help bond the two of you and strengthen your efforts.

Solution Three: Keep an eye on your long-term goals

Keeping an eye on long-term goals with your children is possibly one of the most important aspects of parenting. It is also one of the hardest to keep consistent especially with every day pressures. This section is directly related to the communication section above. The follow-through with the parents directly reflects how the children learn to follow-through with things in their own lives. They are sponges that absorb everything and if you make a snap decision to “let it go this time” you are setting yourself up for failure next time. Follow-through with long-term goals is an incredibly important lesson. The people that can be depended on, and do what they say, are the ones that follow-through with their goals even when it is hard.

The temper-tantrums, the screaming and the crying from our children are designed perfectly so that parents will often “give in and give up,” and worse, often lose sight of the long-term goal. There are a million excuses why you may feel the need to give in NOW but just wait…the long-term goal is much more rewarding. There is indeed a fantastic light at the end of the tunnel. By seeing the long-term goals through, everyone wins. The parents win as the children learn from their own experiences tackling their own “hard life” lessons to prevail when times are difficult. The children win because they are gaining a characteristic and personality trait that will serve them well through the rest of their lives. Lastly, the long-term goal has been realized. This applies to almost anything you can think of when raising children. Having the long-term goals in sight and the follow-through to make these goals happen will separate you and your children from the rest.

Solution Four: Communicate with your Children

This is so very important… but the line you shouldn’t cross is MUCH more important. Under even the best of circumstances, it can be tough on the children to hear and feel your adult pain and fears. They are powerless to make the situation better or easier, so giving them all the reasons why things are tough can cause more harm then good. They will feel the same burden but with out the power of the coping skills to help. This scenario is extremely difficult for children, and often a common mistake parents make. The reverse of this is not telling them anything and leaving them to imagine the worst case scenario. When you don’t give the children ANY information, but they know something is going on, they are thinking the worst possible thing or even more detrimental to their wellbeing, they are blaming themselves for whatever is going on. There is balance and this section will explain that balance.
Many child psychologists will tell you that when discussing important things with your children there are a couple of things that should be considered. One obvious consideration is your child’s age. This means that you can’t discuss divorce with a 3 year old the way you can discuss it with a 10 year old. Carefully choose your words. Second, consider your child’s maturity level or developmental stage. The way to determine this is by talking to your child. Let me correct that statement, by LISTENING to your child. Ask questions and see what they know first. Get them to articulate what is going on in their minds and hearts. If they have trouble articulating their feelings or their understanding of the issue, ask more questions. Break the issue down into several small pieces so that the child has an opportunity to comprehend and process before going on.

The last and most important challenge in communicating with your children is when to STOP. When they stop asking questions, you should stop talking. They will need the time to think about what you have said and most likely will come back for more information when they are ready. My girls, without fail always came back. Sometimes it was a month later, but when they were ready to hear more, they asked. It is very important for you to know your child. It is very important for you to pay attention to the nonverbal cues that are taking place during the conversation. It is very important for you to know when you are about to give them more than they need to know. It is better to say too little, than too much, too soon. The discussion of sex with pre-adolescent children is a perfect example of crossing that line carefully. There are some parents that are in the school of thought that the more they know now, the better, especially in this fast moving world. And there are some that want to keep their children as innocent and as far away from sex as long as they can. There has to be a balance and that balance is what I am talking about.

Solution Five: If your marriage or partnership is over, do not act out of guilt with your children

This means to let go completely of the blame for breaking up the ‘happy home.’ Chances are the children already know it wasn’t a happy home, and if the marriage will not work no matter what you have tried, then the decision was a good one. Don’t feel guilty and then give in to the children’s every whim in order to try and make up for it. It will be a never ending hole you dig and they will play into it. This cycle creates an unhealthy pattern that will replace establishing healthy routines and structure.

Children need stability and consistency, especially when the world as they know it has been rocked. The “guilt gifts” and the “buying their troubles away”’ will only exacerbate their insecurity in the long run. I have seen it firsthand. I watched one of my closest friends do it with her daughter when she made the very difficult decision to end her marriage. The scenario was just as I had outlined. She tried everything to make it work. The husband was diagnosed Bi-polar and refused any type of treatment. This provided for an incredibly unstable, unpredictable and often explosive home for the little girl. My friend finally separated from him and then the nightmare began. Instead of keeping things relatively the same (i.e. school routines, evening routines, and afterschool events) my close friend started to give into every whim of her daughter. If her daughter didn’t want to go to tennis practice, she didn’t go. If her daughter wanted a TV in her room, she got it. It was all in the name of “well, she is going through a lot right now with her Dad and me not being together.” As it turns out, both my friend and I were going through a divorce at the same time and her daughter is struggling. Today, she is still angry, confused and continues to “act out.” She has no respect for her mother and expects the guilt gifts to continue even though it has been over 6 years since the traumatic event unfolded. I kept the same structure, the same routines and the same expectations with my girls during that difficult time, as I do today, and did not experience the same tribulations. .
In the end, we all know that there are no right answers, no magic formula to raise children but we do know that consistent parenting and the sharing of information & strategies that work so that we all can benefit easily from the experience of others.

Author's Bio: 

Sarah was born in Boston, MA, raised in New York City and graduated from the University of Connecticut with two degrees. She obtained her degrees in Communications and Psychology. Through her own personal tragedies and struggles Sarah married young and had two beautiful girls. Even though her marriage failed, her devotion to her graduate education and her girls was unsurpassed. With her Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in analyzing foreign markets, and a new career opportunity in MD, she moved to MD where she met and fell in love with Enrique. Today, Sarah lives in Maryland with her husband and their children, researching, writing and publishing articles and books.