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4 Tips for Handling Common Parenting Difficulties

There isn't an instruction manual for parenting.

Key points

  • Every parent's experience is unique, but there are a few ways that parents can deal with common problems.
  • Parents can teach kids to live without shame and model conflict resolution by apologizing when they lose their temper.
  • Rewarding good behavior instead of trying to catch bad behavior can help create a positive environment.
  • Avoiding perpetuating myths about gender norms and having open and direct conversations about sex with teenagers is also important.

As a psychiatrist, I witness first-hand the difficulties that parents are faced with when raising children. I understand that there is not a perfect parenting manual to teach you how to best raise your children. Being a first-time parent is often about trial and error. People take advice from many resources and pass down parenting practices generationally, but it’s hard to know what will work best. It seems like it should be as simple as providing love, food, education, and shelter.

Starting from when a child is young, parents will often look for advice from experienced parents and draw on what they were taught as children. People tend to parent similarly to how they were raised by their parents. It is not instinctual but learned by what your parents modeled. It is helpful to consult resources, such as parenting books, or asking mentors, teachers, and friends. This does not mean that it will always be easy or perfect.

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Young female school psychologist having serious conversation with smart little boy at her office
Source: Photographee .eu/Shutterstock

How can you handle common parenting difficulties in younger stages of child development?

1. Model appropriate conflict resolution in front of your children. Even parents that practice good behavioral habits might lose their temper in front of their children. As long as you apologize and admit you flew off the handle, it can teach your children how to appropriately solve conflicts. Do your best not to lose your temper, of course, but the reality is that your children will also see how you make up and learn from a fight. These situations can be some of the greatest life lessons.

2. Deal with your own shame and do not pass it on. Living a no shame lifestyle builds confidence, fuels self-esteem and fosters healthy relationships. Adolescents are more likely to experience shame than adults. Women are more likely to experience the negative effects of shame. Saying “no'' and having to make an excuse, or even worse — caving and feeling guilty — are all symptoms of shame. Give children permission to set boundaries and teach them the language to do so. Allow them to say “no” and practice how to do so, and show them how to express vulnerability. This is the antidote to shame: Do not be afraid to say you are afraid or that you made a mistake.

3. Focus on good behaviors. Or, "catch them being good." Ignore the negativity. Creating a positive environment is beneficial for children. This includes catching them when they are displaying good behavior. When they are being good, praise and reward their behavior. Acknowledging bad behavior reinforces negative attention, so do your best to ignore it.

4. Unsubscribe from gender norms. Gender norms can create a toxic environment for children. Feminine and masculine traits are present across all genders. Our ideas of how boys and girls should act perpetuate myths about gender, which are not helpful.

Parenting in the teenage years becomes a little more difficult with the onset of puberty and the desire for more independence. Having direct and open communication with your teen about sex is important. It is a misconception that talking about sex with your children encourages them to start having sex earlier. Parents must prepare and protect their children by engaging their teenager in conversation and teaching them safe sexual practices. Provide accurate information and encourage your teen to wait to have sex until they feel ready. Explain how to use contraception and discuss safe sexual practices.

Every parenting experience is unique. Do the best you can, provide good advice, and if your strategy does not work, change direction and keep going. Children are resilient and will give you unlimited chances. If you need help, ask as many times as necessary. Live a guilt-free parenting life.