The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

New Year Resolution: Believe in Yourself as a Parent

Every New Year we make resolutions to do things differently in the future. Parents aspire to have a positive influence on their children. No matter how hard they try every year, overpowering negative outside influences work overtime to thwart them — violence
in schools, on the street and TV, dishonesty and greed in the workplace, the message of hopelessness and despair — just to mention a few.

Begin this year believing in yourself as a parent. Remember you know your child best and have his or her interests at heart. You can seek advice and ideas, but do not disregard your own feelings because you think you know less. You are the highest authority concerning your own children.

Try to communicate to your children that they are acceptable to you completely just as they are. This does not mean you have to accept everything they do. This is called separating the deed from the doer. Never say anything negative about your child as a person. Saying: “your room is messy and I want you to clean it.” is much different from saying: “You are a messy person and the condition of your room proves I’m right about you.” Avoid sentences that label.

The most important but most difficult thing to acknowledge as parents is that we are our children’s role models. We cannot get by with the philosophy of: “Do as I say not as I do.” Children imitate us and they learn by observing and listening to what goes on around them. Most children admire and love their parents and want to be like them. For good or ill, they are the product of the adult role models around them.

If parents always communicate with each other in a sarcastic, derogatory way, children conclude that is what husbands and wives do. If children are physically struck when parents feel they are in the way or have not done what parents expect them to do, then children learn to be secretive, to be evasive and to be untruthful to avoid abuse.

We cannot expect anything different. We need to be aware of our youngest audience in everything we do. The wonderful part of this, however, is that it works the other way too. Parents who treat and communicate with one another with respect even though they may disagree, model these skills for their children to learn.

Many parents want their children to be perfect and are disappointed when they are not. However, parents are not perfect either.

Set high standards for yourself and your children will reflect them. You may make mistakes but that is how we learn. Try not to be too hard on yourself. You will be a better role model for your children if you can relax a little and laugh a little when things go wrong.

I encourage parents to begin this New Year by rethinking their role as models for their children. While you cannot control the outside influences on your children, you can control what happens in your home. I wish you success in the New year in what is your most important and ultimately, your most rewarding responsibility.

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