Although it is certainly our desire, sometimes it’s not easy to be at our parenting best. The busyness and challenges of life, and our children’s dependence on us, can leave our tanks near empty at times. Stresses in our own lives are not always easy to compartmentalize, and they can easily spill over into our parenting. And, during the teen years, when our relationships often experience greater strain and conflict, it’s common to carry our frustrations and irritations into the next day. Sound familiar?
To help get your parenting day off to a good start with a fresh attitude, we’re sharing our top ten parenting verbs (with definitions courtesy of Dictionary.com). Think of them as words to live by as you parent to the best of your ability. They will grow your children and strengthen your relationships when you live them out. Here goes:
- Inspire:to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence. Children do their best when they are intrinsically motivated and inspired. Share inspirational stories and people and help them discover what inspires them. Set high standards and challenge your kids to be the leader they can be.
- Empower:to give power or authority to. One of the most powerful motivators is to be respected, and it applies to children, too. Although they are still under our authority, the more we can place them in situations where they can demonstrate leadership, the more motivated and growth-minded they will become. This becomes even more important in the teen years.
- Encourage:to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence. One of the surest ways to build self-confidence in children, and a strong relationship, is to be an encourager rather than a critic. Many children today are exhibiting a fear of failure due to parental overprotection or undue performance pressure. Instead, place your children in situations with uncertain outcomes and be their biggest cheerleaders whether they win or lose. It’s huge.
- Understand:to perceive the meaning of. One of the best relationship builders is to “listen to understand.” Often when we communicate, we are so focused on proving our point or convincing the other party, that they inevitably shut down. Mutual understanding should be a key goal of any communication, and it is made possible by empathetic and active listening. Your kids, and especially your teens, will appreciate you for it.
- Affirm:to state or assert positively. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is our affirmation of their uniqueness, virtues, strengths, and worth. Kids need to know they matter and to be valued more for their person than their performance. Make it a point to compliment their character and leadership qualities whenever you can, and it will pay huge dividends.
- Value:to consider with respect to worth, excellence, usefulness, or importance. We all need to know that we matter, and this is especially true when our children exhibit self-doubt or have disappointing outcomes. They can feel like they are letting us down. Parents, this is your greatest opportunity to shine, whether through spoken or written words of affirmation.
- Engage:to occupy the attention or efforts of a person.Because of overscheduling and technology, today’s children and parents are suffering relational disengagement. We see it everywhere. Children need our undivided attention when we’re together, especially in the teen years when their interest in communicating with parents is more sporadic. Be all in.
- Enjoy:to experience with joy; take pleasure in. There’s nothing like seeing parents and children have fun together. It builds memories and relationship capital. However, when we overschedule our children or ourselves, or predominantly focus on academics and performance, we squander opportunities to truly enjoy one another. Be fun. Be playful. Enter their world.
- Coach:to give instruction or advice in the capacity of a coach. As children grow, our “maturity differential” with them gradually diminishes. So, when they enter the teen years, it becomes increasingly important to communicate as a coach and influencer rather than as an authoritarian. This mind-shift enables us to move from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat in our child’s life and position for a flourishing adult-to-adult relationship.
- Believe:to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something. Aside from unconditional love, our belief in our children and their future is one of the most important gifts we can give. It’s like having the wind at their backs. How can children be optimistic and hopeful when it’s not expressed by their parents? When you’re their cheerleader, and their believer, it’s gold.
Well, what do you think? Which of the above come naturally to you and which are more challenging? How might your children rate you on these verbs?
We encourage you to live out these verbs to the best of your ability and strive to begin each day with a renewed spirit. To help out, we created a special handout that you can access here. Be sure to print it off and keep it in a place where you can see it from time to time. To all of you parents out there, we salute you and believe in you!
About the Author
Dennis Trittin is the author of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead and Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. Through his books, blog, and nationwide speaking engagements, Dennis prepares students for life success and equips parents and educators in their vital training role. You can find him here on Facebook.