Parenting the Child you Have

All people, including children, have their own needs and preferences. As a family, you may have many shared interests or values, but, individually, each family member is a unique and special being. Depending on your child’s personality and whether their beliefs and values differ from yours, you may encounter challenges in your parenting journey. In addition, as an adult, you bring your past experiences—that you’ve had across your lifespan—into situations and into the relationship you have with your child, and this circumstance can impact the ways in which you interact with your child.

You may remember how you were as a child or how your parents responded to your behaviors and actions during your childhood. As you reflect on these experiences, you may realize that you either do, or don’t, respond in similar ways as your parents responded to you when you were a child. You may even decide that you want to avoid responding to your child’s behaviors and actions in certain ways that felt, or still feel, uncomfortable to you.

According to the Pew Research Center (2023), today’s parents, whether they’re raising their children similarly or differently from how they were raised, are encouraging their children’s autonomy and are letting them learn and grow from their mistakes. Offering this independence can give children the freedom to make their own choices and learn how to think for themselves. Furthermore, modern parents are, on average, more accepting of their child and who their child is and wants to be (Pew Research Center, 2023) and, therefore, are providing their child with the emotional support to help instill and sustain positive self-esteem.

Parents who embrace their child’s preferences or differences, accept their child for who they are, and encourage their child’s passions may be able to build a stronger emotional bond with their child. This acceptance and support can help create emotional strength in the parent-child relationship, that, in turn, may help foster the child’s ability to manage their own feelings and thoughts about themself and others (NIH, 2017) as they mature.

To understand more about your child and what makes them unique, take time to cultivate your relationship with your child, and understand who your child is. A few strategies that can help you get started with learning more about your child follow.

  • Engage in honest and open communication with your child, and remain curious as you listen to their thoughts and feelings.
  • Read to, or with, your child. Doing this can help stimulate conversation and activate your child’s imagination, which can create conversations and provide opportunities for future exploration!
  • Plan for one-on-one time with your child to explore your child’s likes and dislikes together.

Based on what your parenting expectations were prior to welcoming your child into your family, parenting may look like what you envisioned, or it may look different. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, as you parent your child, remember to slow down, step back, remain curious, and be present. Opening your mind so you can see your child for who they truly are can provide your child with a sense of security and allow them to develop a deeper connection with you and with themself.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Child development basics. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/facts.html

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State. (2023, August). Raising siblings: Fostering positive relationships [Web-based Supplemental Parent Education Program Training]. Thrive. https://parenting.lms.militaryfamilies.psu.edu/catalog/info/id:178

Cooks-Campbell, Allaya. (2021, November 30). Conscious parenting: Raise your children by parenting yourself. BetterUp. https://www.betterup.com/blog/conscious-parenting

Gillett, Tracy. (n.d.). Why identifying your child’s essence is the key to conscious parenting. Raised Good. https://raisedgood.com/why-identifying-your-childs-essence-is-the-key-to-conscious-parenting/

Healthychildren.org. (2015, November 21). Treating children as individuals. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/Pages/Treating-Children-as-Individuals.aspx

Hurst, K, Braga, D., Greenwood, S., Baronavski, C., & Keegan, M. (2023, January 24). How today’s parents say their approach to parenting does–or doesn’t–match their own upbringing. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2023/01/24/how-todays-parents-say-their-approach-to-parenting-does-or-doesnt-match-their-own-upbringing/

National Institutes of Health News in Health. (2017, September). Positive parenting: building healthy relationships with your kids. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2017/09/positive-parenting

Sleeping Should Be Easy. (2022, May 29). On accepting your children for who they are. https://sleepingshouldbeeasy.com/accepting-your-children/

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