Improve Parenting Skills

There are many reasons why we might want to improve parenting skills – from a legal requirement of a court, to simply wanting the best for our children; from desiring easier to manage kids, to wanting to help a child with difficulty. Whatever our motive for change wanting something different is the first step on the journey.

1. Get some help if you need it. No parent should be alone in raising a child and there are people who can help and places to go if you need to make some radical changes to your parenting skills. Never be afraid of asking for help. Much help is free – informally in playgroups and parenting clubs, and many child health providers give counseling and advice that wont cost a cent. Support can come in many different forms so try and find some.

2. Identify what you want different. Try and identify what it is about your parenting that you would like to be different. Do you want to learn some new discipline methods? Do you want to create and better use family time? Do you want to get some ideas for healthier diets and lifestyles? Is there a relationship that needs mending after years of problems and you need some skills to do this? Try and make sure you focus on you and what you can change, not the child or a problem over which you may have no control. If you find it hard to focus on what you can do – as opposed to what you want different in the child – talk to other people removed from your situation who may help you see things you can do that would make a difference.

3. Add to your knowledge. Having identified parenting skills that you want to change add to your knowledge about those skills. Perhaps you can read a book, browse the Internet, do a free course, or just spend some time with other parents to see what they are doing and what works. Keep a diary and see how your thoughts are changing as you discover new perspectives. There are lots of different ways to do things and many different opinions although some constants remain and can guide you through the healthy and not so healthy things to do.

4. Set yourself goals. Once you know what you’d like different you can start thinking about things that you can do and goals you can achieve to help make that difference. Don’t try and do everything at once but break your improvement changes down to smaller steps. Maybe you need to mend a relationship with your child that has gone wrong and want the skills to do this, so identify smaller steps you can take -like be more available; be more ready to listen; communicate firmly with assertion not aggression; be ready to forgive and start again if necessary.

5. Review your plans. From time to time you need to review where you are at. You may have made changes but maybe the goals have also shifted and you want different things, or things that worked at a certain stage are no longer applicable, or something else may have changed your situation. Review your plans and go back to the start if necessary, looking for support, redefining what you want different, learning new things, and then setting new goals.

6. Involve the child. Where possible involve the child in the changes that are taking place. They do not need to know every detail of your planned actions, but they do need to be invited to participate in new things you may be trying, and at least deserve an explanation if ground rules are suddenly shifting. Obviously children who are too young to understand can only be given time to adjust, while uncooperative adult children may only be reached as the changes in your parenting take place.

As you seek to improve parenting skills make sure that you give yourself the best chance you can for success – focus on what you can do about you; get help; plan changes; learn new things; review plans and involve the child in your efforts. Do not chastise yourself for failures too readily, since this may hamper your efforts to improve, but rather be willing to try again.