Written by Caroline Meyer

You may already have a specific parenting style which might have worked for a previous child or children, but what happens if you have a child that does not respond well to the current parenting style? It may be a child with special needs or just one that is quite different to the others and needs a different support structure.  Your children might be very different from each other which may mean that you need to change how you do things in order to support all of your children equally.  This can be very tough but the changes you make can make a huge impact on a child’s life and help them turn out better adjusted as well. 

Parenting styles will probably change as your child ages as well. The parenting style for a toddler or young child will not be the same one you use for an older child or a rebellious teen. Little ones are more carefree, and you can actually push them a little harder than you can older children. It is also important to note that your child is not the same as your friend’s child and your parenting styles may also be wildly different, so you don’t need to base your choices on what works for someone else. As a parent, there is always room for improvement, and you can adjust your style as you see fit without switching it up so much that it becomes confusing for everyone.  

Children are individuals and you will need to adjust how you tackle things with each child. This does not mean that you compromise on the rules and regulations in your home. You do however need to give the child some leeway for self-expression and to develop as people. By strictly forcing children into a mould of your design you may actually foster rebellion and achieve the opposite of the close bond you want with your kids. There are a few things you can do to improve your parenting role without compromising on the actual discipline in your home.  

Give Them Breathing Space 

While it is important to know where your child is and who they are with and that they are safe, this doesn’t mean you need to know the minutiae of everything that happens in their lives. You don’t have to scrutinise everything or invade their privacy to find out what is happening in their lives. Allow them to come to you and tell you with openness and honesty and live their lives. Don’t hover over them or force them into hiding things in order to have some space. Let them breathe and develop as people and be available when they want to share their experiences with you while backing off when they don’t want to.   

Allow Mistakes to Happen 

You made mistakes. You might not want your child to make the same mistakes. The facts are, no one is perfect. Your child will make mistakes. It’s okay to make mistakes sometimes as this is how we learn. It is good for a child to experience some disappointment and learn how to cope with it. Life is not simple and easy, and you will not always be there to help your child over every stumbling block. They need to fall so they can learn to stand up and find another way to get over the hurdle. You can be there to support and guide them but allow them to make mistakes and learn from them. 

Don’t Compare or Pigeon-Hole 

Don’t compare your child with anyone. Not friends, not siblings, not even you as a child. This can have serious detrimental effects on your kid. Each child is an individual with their own personalities, their own strengths and shortcomings. Do not expect them to be like anyone else. You can encourage growth of their strengths and improvement of shortcomings without making comparisons. You can support and be there for your child without trying to force them into a pigeon-hole of who you think they are. In this same way, avoid labelling. When you label one child the “brain” and one child the “athlete” which can create expectations and also lead the other child to believe they cannot match up in that department. Don’t force a child into a narrow outlook of this kind and avoid creating these types of labels which can be detrimental to your children. Let them put their energy in to anything they want and praise their efforts and achievements without labelling. 

Give Attention 

The best gift a parent can give a child is their attention and time. Giving material things may be fun, but there is nothing that compares to spending quality time with your child. Whether it is spending time with them in pursuit of a hobby, attending their events or just an hour together doing something that your child enjoys on a regular basis, this can make all the difference. Showing your child that you care but dedicated time to them means more than any game or toy you can buy. 

Be A Role Model 

Kids learn by emulating adults as well as from what is being directly taught to them. They may unintentionally pick up something you didn’t expect by copying you. You need to be aware of the example you set for your child. They are a lot more aware than you realize and will often pick up on things you were not expecting.  Be aware of what you do and say around your children as they may be absorbing the lessons you teach inadvertently in your parental role. 

Stay Calm  

Part of parenting is dealing with the mess ups that come with the role. Kids will break rules and push boundaries. Kids will make mistakes. It is not okay for a parent to lash out violently in anger, neither physically not verbally. Kids are not always in perfect control of their emotions and as a parent you need to set the example on how to deal with the complex feelings they may have. Calm yourself first, then deal with the child. Try and look beyond what they have done and ask them for the reasons as well. Punish appropriately from a place of calm and love. Offer support and understanding while still keeping to the principles of the basic house rules. 

Parent to Your Kids 

Your parenting style will change to your kids and while you can read a ton of parenting advice and receive it in spadesful from friends and family, you know your child best. You don’t need to jump on the bandwagon with the latest parenting trend. You don’t need to do something just because everyone else is doing it. Go with your gut instinct on what is best for your child and your circumstances. Don’t be afraid to change your parenting style through the various growth phases of your child as well as with their personal changes. Your shy toddler may become an extroverted tween, your mini artist may become the captain of the rugby team. Children grow and change and as parents we need to change along with them to give the best parenting we can.