Being a parent is certainly an experience in extremes. There are times when you can be so fulfilled and rewarded for what you’ve accomplished as a parent, yet plenty of other times when the best you can feel is stressed and frustrated.
Nearly every parent will admit to sometimes feeling over their heads in a job that no one has trained them for, but most of us still find that being a parent is wonderful and challenging. And, when one approaches parenting in a positive way, it’s possible to increase the wonderful while helping to reduce the stress of the job.
One way is to bring a bit of the business world into your work as a parent. A good businessman almost always starts with a business plan, setting goals and outlining how those goals will be reached. You can do a very similar thing to help bring more consistency to your parenting, rather than simply reacting to situations or disciplining haphazardly.
Start by writing down reasonable, positive goals in regard to what you’d like to achieve with your child. They can be as broad as wanting to support your child by expressing your love and acceptance. They might include not wanting to withdraw affection simply because you’re angry with your child.
Your next step is to figure out how to reach those goals. If it’s a broad goal, add specifics to it. If your goal is to be consistent in regard to discipline, think about how you and your child can work together to set limits and boundaries, and develop reasonable penalties when those limits are ignored. If a goal is to more consistently demonstrate your love and support, consider ways to make that abstract goal a real world happening.
The last step is to put your goals into practice. Realize that it may take time and repeated tries to achieve a number of these. You may find some are unattainable and need to be revised. Parenting is always going to be a dynamic experience that requires time, patience and practice.
Allow your child, and yourself, to make mistakes as you try to work toward your goals. And reward both your child and yourself when you succeed. When a businessman has a solid business plan, success is what finally comes. That’s what you want to shoot for in setting your goals as a parent.
Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Send comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit www.counseling.org.