Your family has a unique combination of your culture, your individual psychology and your situation, which means your parenting style ought to be as unique as your household. Your child is not like any other so no pre-set parenting method will work completely for you. To find your own parenting style, you do not need to start from scratch. Here’s how you create your own personal parenting style that works for your family, your lifestyle and your values.
Know your values
As parents, we all want our children to be able to succeed in the world, whatever path they choose. Like all good journeys, it pays to know your destination.
The foundation of all good relationships, at home, with friends and at work start with shared values. If the things you value differ wildly from someone else you have to work much harder to get along. Take some time to understand what values drive you and what you want your child to learn.
Values can vary widely. The first step is to identify a list of up to five values that are most important to you and your family.
Not sure where to start? Here are twenty-five to get you started: empathy, discipline, hard work, justice, transparency, integrity, creativity, equity, diversity, conservation, power, benevolence, tradition, security, loyalty, spirituality, compassion, kindness, determination, courage, tolerance, appreciation, toughness, self-reliance, resilience.
To really drill down to discover your values, try:
- Writing a list of all the values which matter to you
- Reorder that list from most to least important
- Select the top five and post them on the fridge or somewhere visible
This list represents your desired destination.
Do what works
Next step, let’s figure out what works and what does not. This involves trying different techniques with your child depending on the situation.
Find inspiration from many sources: books, online, friends, family, your own experience or imagination, parenting groups and, yes, from different parenting styles. There are loads of sources of techniques to try.
I found some great techniques in books like "How to raise successful people" by Esther Wojcicki and coaches like Rachel Sklar. I even created Sesh, an app to bring science-backed techniques together in one place. The source of your inspiration does not matter—just make sure that the techniques you choose are in line with your values.
For each phase of your child’s upbringing from sleep and potty training, to tantrums and sibling rivalry, to partying and puberty there are lots of challenges to solve. For each situation I like to follow this simple cycle:
- Try a new technique with an idea of what success means
- Evaluate and ask yourself: did it work?
- If yes, write it down and use it again!
- If no,
- Write it in a different list and try it again later (or not)
- Tweak it and try again
For example, one of the problem-solving techniques I used was sportscasting. This is when you point out what your child is doing rather than comment on it, like an old-school radio sportscaster describing the game as it happens. For example, “Grace, I see you have decided to put paint on the walls. Your fists are clenched. You look upset.” This technique often opens up a conversation, more than criticism, chastisement, judgment or discipline.
The first time I tried sportscasting with my child, it did not work. I got a stony stare and pursed lips. I put it aside and tried it again a week later and it worked perfectly. In time I learned in which situations it had an effect and when it did not. It became one of the foundations to how I communicate with my children. Use this try-test-tweak method with any technique to build a library of strategies to meet every situation.
The combination of the techniques you add to your list will make up your parenting style, all leading to your chosen values. Bonus: you can share your list with other caregivers for a more consistent upbringing for your child.
Model the behavior
I have observed that there is no better parenting than showing your child how you want them to behave. Their little brains already have mirror neurons—these brain cells have evolved to help us copy the actions we observe. Babies, toddlers, and children all rely heavily on mimicry.
If we scream and yell, then we cannot feel surprised when our children do the same. If we pause and breathe deeply when upset, we can feel relief when our children do the same.
Remember that list of values you created? Live your values. Make sure to adjust your own behavior in line with your values to show your child how to approach situations and how to succeed in life.
Let’s get started on your parenting style
Ready to find your own unique parenting style? Start with these three steps:
- Make a list of the values you want your child to learn
- Try different strategies and record which do and do not work
- Show your child how you want them to behave
Parenting is not a static endeavor. When you have your list, that is not the end. Your child’s brain is growing, they are learning at an alarming rate, and they are discovering their place in the world. Your child will change over time and so must your list, your style, and your approach. Keep your values at the center and keep trying new things, iterating and, most of all, do what works.
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