Authentic Parenting

3 Counterintuitive Tips for New Parents

Becoming a parent may seem easy from the perspective of non-parents. After all, it’s only about doing simple things in the beginning: Changing a diaper, pushing a stroller in the park, making lunch, listening to your child prattle away, sharing a few ground rules on best practices, and sticking to a strict bedtime schedule. Yet it’s exhausting and nerve-wracking.

It’s not only tiring because of your child’s efforts to figure out how life works, but also because of your own self-doubts if you’re doing it right. That’s especially true if family and friends imply you could do things so much better.

Unfortunately, parenting doesn’t get easier over the years. When your child is a baby, expect problems getting a good night’s sleep every night; and when your child matures into a teenager, you can expect behavior that tests your patience, to put it mildly.

Curiously enough, parenting is also one of the most rewarding experiences in life. Behind the chaos and confusion of parenting, there is the joy of creation, molding someone you love into the person you know they can become.

Here are a few guidelines for new parents.

1. Encourage Self-Expression

Your child will probably have many whims that will mean the world to them. Your daughter, for example, might suddenly want to have her hair professionally braided like her friends. Rather than brush off these ideas as silly, encourage them. Arrange an appointment with a stylist who does braids in your city. For example, if you live in Atlanta, do an online search for the keywords “braids Atlanta” and a list of stylists will come up for you to sift through.

When you encourage self-expression, you’re helping your child to develop their own sense of self. While you might think it more important that your child spend more time studying, allowing her to get the hairstyle she thinks will impress her friends is important for her.

2. Set an Example

There is a huge difference between telling your child what to do and doing it yourself.

If, for example, you insist your child get good grades at school because it will improve their chances of success in life, but you never help them, then you are not setting an example about the value of education. Conversely, if you are fascinated with learning new things, reading books, watching documentaries, initiating thoughtful discussions at the dinner table, then your child will also love to learn.

Another example: you encourage your child to spend more time outdoors, enjoying the benefits of nature, but you never go to the park only a few blocks away. Your child will wonder why they have to do it if you don’t.

3. Praise Effort, Not Results

Psychologist Carol Dweck has done a tremendous amount of research on the relationship between mindset and success and has concluded that parents who praise their children for their academic success or sports performance do the child more harm than good. That is because their child develops a fixed mindset, believing skills, abilities, and talents are innate. When new challenges threaten their self-esteem, they will find excuses to avoid learning and growing.

She suggests that parents focus on praising effort over results because this encourages the growth mindset, the understanding that hard work, effort, and learning from experience is the best way of getting good at anything.

So, for instance, if your child gets a C grade in a math test in third-grade after studying hard, praise their effort. This attitude will encourage your child to persist in math when it becomes more challenging at higher grade levels.

Parenting Isn’t Always Intuitive

As a parent, you will do a better job at raising your children well if you are an informed parent. Reading articles and books on parenting rather than simply raising your children the way you were raised or relying on commonsense or the opinion of other parents.

Ignorance about parenting often results in unintentionally setting your children up for failure. For instance, it is easier to suggest a constructive idea than model it, and the instinctive thing to do if your child does well in school is to praise them; it took years of research for learning psychologists to discover the idea of a growth mindset.

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