Successful parenting is a long, challenging journey filled with joy and despair. Our children grow into a storm of chaos, deceit and temptation. Unfortunately, evolution did not prepare our genes for this. Risk abounds—mental illness, diabetes, obesity and inflammation. Yet you can, as a parent, guide and coach your children towards successful engagement with a fascinating world. Take your time to reflect on the following five tensions and see what improvements you can make in your parenting journey:
Chaos versus Rhythm
As a parent, you have a responsibility and a chance to model, educate and reinforce the basics of a good night’s sleep, daily physical activity, sound nutrition and family connection. When your children suffer sleep deprivation, sit too much, eat junk, and live on devices, they are being exploited. Children need to have fun and take risks. Give them space, but also pay attention to whether you are establishing and reinforcing healthy rhythms. Your family needs a rhythm of sleep, movement, meals and communication. The experience delivers lifelong benefits.
Entitlement versus Humility
Our generations live through the most extraordinary gains in quality and quantity of life. It has never been so good, and no wonder many young people tend to take it for granted. Just like you should encourage high expectations, you should also help your children understand humility and hard work. Entitlement leads to narcissism and disappointment, and spoiling your children will negatively affect their lives in the long run. Try to reward hard work and humility as much as you can. Limiting social media will be beneficial too.
Craving versus Restraint
Our cravings for food, stimulation and reward keep us alive in times of scarcity. In times of abundance, craving leads to addiction. Obesity, substance abuse, attention disorders and objectification of others follow. Help your children understand the power of saying “No”. Restraint is the foundation for a successful life. Model it at home, and show how it leads to success. Be a steady coach and lend your strength when they need it most. As restraint develops, focus, discipline and skills flourish.
Impulsivity versus Agility
Long-term studies repeatedly identify emotion control as the key to success. Young people are still developing the brain’s ability to do this into their early twenties. Fear, anger and sadness can explode under adversity. The consequences are never helpful. You can teach your children how to recognise and name these emotions. Show them how emotions can be tamed and trained like muscles. This will empower them. Then model and coach them on reframing destructive emotions into more helpful ones. This is agility. In fear, teach them to push toward calm. In anger, show them how to lean towards understanding and kindness. In sadness, seek gratitude and appreciation.
Digital versus Human
If you follow tech hype, it is clear that screen time is valued over face-to-face human time. Covid-19 dramatically increased screen time for young people. Real connection with extended family, friends and school communities collapsed. However, real connection is vital for the development of social skills. Many of our children have missed chunks of this development, and some may have become anxious about reconnecting. You should help your children be digitally literate and efficient. They are wonderful tools. But make sure you double down on helping your children to reconnect to their communities in real ways. They have much catching up to do on their self-awareness, empathy, influence and conflict resolution. Be their guide and encourage real connections that will help them grow.
Permissive parenting allows children to slide across tension space. Eventually, it will result in children losing rhythm, humility, restraint, agility and social skills. Authoritarian parenting demands rigid compliance at the other extreme, and it can generate passivity or aggressive resistance. Authoritative parenting allows flexibility and responsibility within clear boundaries. At times we must firmly hold a line such as emotional control. In other moments, we must give them space and trust. One day your children will be adults and have to manage the tension independently. Home is a dress rehearsal, and parenting is being a good stage director.