Reading through dozens of articles on eating disorders and parenting practices (this is for a class  in the Marriage and Family Therapy graduate program I’m enrolled in) recently has started me thinking:  You can proactively take charge of your parenting by implementing some changes starting today.  It doesn’t mean you won’t have issues come up, it just means you’ll have some better tools to deal with them.

Raise your E.Q. (emotional intelligence). 

Learn about emotional intelligence.  Let your children know it is okay to voice their emotions–especially anger and sadness.  And, while it is okay to vocalize them, it is not okay to harm someone in the process.  For example, saying “I am so angry at you!” and then they slap you or their sibling upside the head is not exactly expressing your emotions in a very connecting way.  It’s okay to express and to have all of your emotions–but it’s not okay to act them out.  When you make it okay to express all of their emotions, they’ll be better equipped to process them as they come up instead of acting them out or squashing them down.

Never imply or say to a child “You’re better than your mom/dad.” 

That’s a challenge they don’t need in their life.  On the one hand they’ll feel like they need to live up to that and on the other, they’ll feel terrible that they do have to.  They don’t need the paradox–that’s too confusing and too damaging to their well-being (kids with eating disorders may present with this, but it also reminds me of kids who are going through Parental Alienation).

Don’t make your child your best friend or spousal stand-in.

–especially if it means you’re excluding the other parent.  This is too confusing to a kid.  They need to be a kid–not a grown up taking care of their parent.  They need a family with structure, meaning with parents at the helm, and kids being kids.  There are a lot of parents without clear boundaries who use their kids for their own needs instead of looking out for their children’s needs.  When your child is older–then it may be appropriate to be good friends, but not when children are younger.

Mom–if you don’t have a voice in your family, it’s time to start asserting yourself. 

Your sons look to you as a role model for their girlfriends/wives.  Your daughters look to you as a role model.  You’re important, you’re enough, and your needs are just as important as everyone else’s in the family.  Got that?

Kids need structure and love. 

Structure means holding kids accountable to the rules and consequences in your home.  Do they know what the rules and consequences of your home are?  No?  Time to sit down and let them know.  By the way, do your kids know you love them?  Unconditionally?  You may get mad in a moment with them, but let them know it doesn’t change the love you have for them.

Don’t let technology take over your family’s life. 

Set up rules and consequences–and parents, remember you are your kids’ first role model.

Teach your kids about competition. 

Competition is about being your best and contributing your best effort and attitude.  It is not about being better than someone else, but giving it your best to be better than you were yesterday.  Use it as motivation to do and be your best, not to put someone down–or yourself down.  Remember–you’re a role model.  Demonstrate respectful and healthy competition to your kids.  Have fun, challenge yourself, and have the intention of creating positive memories.  By the way, be cognizant of sibling competition.  Be careful of playing favorites or comparing your kids to one another. Everyone is unique–even identical twins!  Honor their uniqueness and specialness.