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Suzanne Manser, PhD

Licensed Psychologist

3 Tips to Being a Better Parent

If you want to be a better parent, focus on raising your child to know their worth.

After loving them, this is the single best thing you can do for your child. A child who knows their worth will not depend on anyone else to validate them. A child who knows their worth can accept and esteem themselves. They will not accept less than they deserve. They will learn how to live a fulfilling life. Knowing your worth is extremely powerful. 

When children are young, their parents have an enormous impact on what they come to believe about themselves. Parents have enormous power to build their child up or tear them down, simply by how they treat them on a daily basis. To help build your child up and feel solid in their worth, there are three things to focus on.

Three tips to help you be a better parent:

1. Regard your child.

To regard someone means to take them seriously, respect them, and pay attention to them. Just as you do with adults you respect, look your child in the eyes when they’re talking to you. Fully listen to them, because what they’re saying matters. Take their opinions, needs, and feelings seriously, even if they seem immature to you. Respect their opinions, needs, and feelings as valid. Respect their boundaries as valid; they are allowed to think and feel and want and need different things than you do. Don’t lie to your child, and keep your word. Spend quality time with them, even 10 minutes a day.

Children learn who they are and what they are worth by how their parents treat them. When you take your child seriously, you teach them they are worth being taken seriously. When you keep your word, you teach them that they are worth you keeping your word. You teach them they are worth being listened to, that they are worth your time. By treating them with regard, you are teaching them that they are worth regarding.

Regard, like love, should not be conditional. A child should not have to act in any special way to deserve their parent’s love and regard. The lack of conditions is what makes it safe for a child to be themselves. The lack of conditions teaches them that they are always loveable and worthy and acceptable, just as they are.

 

2. Show up for your child.

 Show up to their games or performances.  Show up to dinner or family game night. Show up by being the cool-headed, understanding adult when they are acting like a challenging child. Show up by holding strong on the boundaries they need even if they are angry with you about it. Show up with tissues and a hug instead of a lecture when they get their heart broken. Show up when they need someone to be on their side. Stand up for them, even if it’s uncomfortable for you, especially if it means standing up to another adult who is treating them disrespectfully. Put in the effort to see what your child needs and do it for them. When you can’t show up, let them know that you want to.

Plain and simple, showing up for your child shows them that they matter. You are giving your time for them. You are putting them first. You are paying attention to what they need. You are putting in effort. They learn that they are worth the effort and attention and prioritization and care. That they matter enough for you to do that.

 

3. Own your stuff.

 We can’t raise a child who knows their worth if we’re making that child feel bad for something that isn’t theirs to own. Sincerely apologize to your child (and others) when you make a mistake. Own your perfectionism and unrealistic expectations instead of putting them on your child. Own and acknowledge your feelings, especially if you are acting more impatient, angry, or unkind than usual. Tell your child that you yelled or acted in a way you wished you hadn’t because you are feeling grumpy or stressed, not because they deserved it. If you have had (or are having) trouble accepting your child or being kind, let them know that that’s a you problem and not a them problem.

By owning your stuff, you’re teaching your child which part of a painful interaction is theirs and which part is yours. If you own what’s yours, they won’t have to wonder if it’s theirs. They won’t have to take responsibility for an adult’s feelings or bad behavior. When they take responsibility for other people’s feelings and behaviors, their sense of self is immediately eroded, and their worth becomes tied to someone else’s stuff that they have no control over. It diminishes worth instead of reinforcing it.

When you own your stuff, you are giving your child the chance to own their stuff. You are teaching them that whatever they did or said or are is not shameful, that it should not be hidden and never acknowledged. It can be acknowledged as a mistake or a learning moment, and your child is still loveable, worthy, and acceptable. It shows them that nothing can change their worthiness.

That’s it! Three things to help you be a better parent. If these tips feel like novel concepts or feel hard to do, it’s probably because you were not parented like this. You were not shown how to do this. Historically, children have not been respected as full humans, yet at the same time they were treated as if they have the brain development to act like adults and know what adults know. That approach creates a psychological bind for the child, and they end up sacrificing themselves to get out of it.

That bind may feel familiar to you. If so, these tips will probably take time and practice before you can do them consistently. That’s true for any new skill, whether you’re learning to be a better parent or learning to speak a different language. The effort is worth it – this will make a difference for the rest of your child’s life.

Kids learn who they are by how their parents treat them. If you want to raise a child who knows their worth, you have to treat them like they are unconditionally worthy. Like they are valid and loveable and acceptable all the time. Because they are. You are too, by the way.

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