Your Development as a Parent

Parents develop along with their children, responding to the different challenges that growing children present and changing their style of parenting as their family matures.

No single approach to parenting works for all families. Parenting is hard work and an extremely personal experience. Each family - and within that family, each parent-child relationship - is different.

There are many theories and recommended practices about family life and child-rearing. You need to find out what works best for you and your own youngsters. Keeping your family functioning well will often be a matter of trial and error. Even so, a better understanding of your own parenting style and why you are drawn to the decisions you make and the expectations you have will help you become the type of parent you wish to be.

Parenting Principles

Parenting is one of life's biggest challenges. It requires loving, respecting and empathizing with your children. It involves protecting, guiding, communicating, teaching, showing patience, setting limits and resolving conflicts. If you feel you fall short in some of these areas, bear in mind that they are acquired skills. They can be learned and improved upon at any time.

Successful parenting begins with understanding and valuing yourself and your children. Without self-respect, you may have difficulty tolerating the inevitable trials of family life.

Too often, parents strive for perfection, but there is no such thing as the perfect family and the perfect parent. Every member of the family unit needs to work toward accepting the humanness of every other member, including faults and limitations. Rather than striving to be perfect, everyone should work toward being "as good as I possibly can."

A second key to successful parenting is understanding your child - reading his cues correctly, engaging in dialogue and listening carefully and appreciating these things that make your child unique.

When family difficulties arise, trust your gut and listen to your heart as well as your head. You may have better parenting instincts than you think. Because there are few definitively "right" answers, use your experience as a guide. Also, both inside and outside the family, have people you can talk to, share feelings with and turn to for support and guidance. Do not allow parenting to become a lonely experience, or you risk having frustration and fatigue get the best of you.

Your Child's Developmental Needs and Personality Traits

Your youngster, like all children, is unique, and thus there are differences in parenting each child. Some children are easier to manage than others. Some are more troubled than others. Each child's own characteristics will affect your approach to parenting and the way your family functions.

As your middle-years child moves through particular stages of development, your own personality can influence just how well you adapt to these phases. For example, if you tend to be a parent who values routines and sets a lot of rules, you may have particular difficulty with a rebellious and controlling child. In the same way, if you are an energetic and sometimes impatient person, you might have trouble with a low-key and slow-moving youngster. Mothers may feel closer to their daughters, may play with and relate to them more easily than to their sons. These are the types of issues to reflect upon in order to better understand your relationship with your family.

Excerpted from "Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5-12" Bantam 1999

© Copyright 2000 American Academy of Pediatrics