It’s the most important job any of us will ever do, and so many of us are clueless. It’s the role that will makea difference for generations, yet there are many who just stumble. “Our parents never took classes on parenting, and we turned out okay,” we say to ourselves. Sure we did. But we grew up in a different world where life wasn’t as fast-paced, as complex, or as confusing.

As parents, it is our job to guide our children and to find the proper balance between discipline and care. There are many who think that loving our children means giving them everything they want, and so they allow them to enjoy unlimited freedom. When these children encounter rejection or restrictions from an outside source, they fall apart.

How do we maintain the correct balance? How can we be firm without being unnecessarily strict? How do we communicate our unconditional love without smothering them with permissiveness?

Many pediatricians emphasize
the importance of GEMS – Genuine Encounter Moments.  Studies show that your child’s self-esteem is greatly influenced by the quality of time you spend with him. With our busy lives, we are often preoccupied. Even while we are with our child, we are probably thinking about the next thing that we have to do, instead of focusing 100 percent of our attention on what our child is saying to us. We often pretend to listen or ignore our child’s attempts to communicate
with us.

Sounds familiar? Speaking on the cellphone while walking them home from school? Leaving to a wedding when they’re desperate to tell us about the bully who is teasing them? Kids know intuitively when we are really tuned in to them and when we’re faking it. It takes effort, but as soon as we learn to really listen, we earn their trust, love, and friendship.

Dr. Marianne Neifert, a well-known pediatrician, speaker and author, shares the following tips:

Provide unconditional love and encouragement.Saying, “I love you” is part of it, but it’s more than that. Show love by giving your time and attention. Play games together, read stories, share experiences. Every child needs to feel their parents are their best cheerleader.

When you discipline, do it with consistency.
At the end of a hard day, it’s much easier to allow your daughter to watch a video instead of studying for her math test. Especially if she’s whining and dinner isn’t ready yet and the baby will be getting up for a feeding any minute. If you cave in on an issue that you set rules for in the past, you’re confusing your child, and sending mixed signals. You are teaching her that rules are made to be broken.

Strengthen your team.

Consistency means both mother and father are on the same page. According to
Dr. Neifert, “Parents discuss together important decisions that need to be made concerning the children and family.”

Teach responsibility.Depending on age and circumstances, children should be taught to make their own beds, set and clear the table, help clean the house for Shabbat, and help care for younger siblings. Children who learn to take on chores will have an easier time coping with many responsibilities thrown their way in the future.

Finally, don’t ever be discouraged. Parenting is an evolving and challenging mission, and inevitably we all are going to make mistakes. As our children grow up, we often have to modify our parenting skills and techniques accordingly. The main thing is to learn from our experiences and continuously strive to grow in our parenting abilities.

Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld, founder and director of the SOS program, is an educator and educational consultant with specialization as a keriah and reading coach. Serving the Jewish community for close to 30 years, she has experience providing evaluations, G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness.