5 Tips for Better Parenting

Jennifer Lawler offers 5 tips to help parents get through the tough times of parenting:

1. Find a teacher. Just as I needed a teacher when I began training in martial arts, I needed a teacher when I became a parent. All of us do. Teachers aren't always the most obvious people. Finding a teacher will help you navigate the course. While each of us has a different mothering experience, sharing our knowledge and being open to learning from others can make us more effective, more confident mothers.

Who's the boss at Grandma's?

2. Find your inner child.
As parents, we often think that our job is to help our children develop control over their actions ? to help them look without touching and to think before they speak and to weigh the consequences before acting. But by appreciating our children's impulses, enjoying their take on the world, and allowing them to sometimes lead the way, we can open up a joyful new world.

3. The wise mother does not reflect on past deeds. It's important for mothers to recognize that what has happened in the past doesn't necessarily determine what will happen now or in the future. Suppose, for example, that you're trying to help your child with her math homework, yet every time you do, the two of you get into a fight. The answer isn't to never help your child with math homework. The answer is to consider what you could do differently to change the outcome and then focus on that rather than thinking about all the times your efforts to help have ended in a fight.

Raise a responsible child

4. Visualize your real parenting goals. We have many goals for our children and for ourselves as parents. But sometimes we forget what our "real" goal is. We need to look at the targets behind our targets. That is, what we're hoping to accomplish by setting the goals, rules and expectations that we set. For example, suppose you want your toddler to clean his plate at dinner. What happens when he doesn't? Do you punish him? You have to look at what you want to accomplish with this goal. If you think it's important not to waste food, then perhaps a different strategy would work, such as making less food, serving smaller portions, etc. If your goal is for your child to grow up strong and healthy, find out of if this is the best way of achieving the goal. If you just don't want to raise a picky eater, then perhaps you offer small amounts of different dishes and if he doesn't find them appealing, then he'll just have to wait for the next meal to fill up.

5. Know yourself.
We all have strengths and weaknesses, and as parents it's important to know what these are. For example, and I admit this is a failing, but I hate playing board games. I know these teach valuable lessons ? turn taking, following rules, counting, etc. ? but I hate them. I could try to change or pretend I don't hate them but my daughter would figure it out and might think I don't like playing with her, or that I find her boring, when that's not the case. So I encourage other people ? friends, sitters ? to play board games with her. I love traveling with her, so she's gone all over the country with me; I'm a voracious book reader so we read tons of books together; I love doing art projects so we break out the glue and glitter regularly; and I take pride in how she helps me with household chores. Instead of pretending our weaknesses don't exist, let's admit them, find someone else to take over, and move along.

Excerpt from Dojo Wisdom for Mothers by Jennifer Lawler (2005, Penguin Compass).