Good parents always strive to play an active role in their children’s lives. But that’s not always easy. Some parents make the mistake of being so “active” that they come across as overbearing.
You’ll doubtlessly find yourself helping your child navigate the first day of school, buy their first kids phone, or mend their first heartbreak. There will be many times when your children will need your guidance and support. Still, it’s important to find a balance between being involved in your children’s lives and being too overbearing.
Here are six tips on how to be an active parent without crossing boundaries.
1. Pay Attention to Their Interests
Being an active parent means getting involved in your children’s lives. If your child loves to paint, take an art class with them. If they love to read, start a book club together. The more you participate in their interests, the more present you’ll be in their lives.
That said, being involved doesn’t mean making decisions for your kids. Don’t choose their interests for them or try to control how they spend their time. If your daughter wants to play soccer, for example, don’t sign her up for volleyball.
As a parent, it’s your job to let your kids figure out who they are and what they like. Let them make up their own minds, and then support them along the way.
2. Be an Active Participant in Their Education
Naturally, you want your children to do well in school. For that to happen, you have to do more than demand they get good grades and punish them when they don’t.
Instead of taking a passive role in your children’s education, be an active participant. Be available for homework assistance and ask questions about what they’re learning. Do your best to make their lessons relatable so they gain a real-world understanding.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should do your kids’ homework for them or keep track of their assignments. It’s important that children learn how to be responsible for their own education. However, you should provide guidance and positive reinforcement so your kids know you’re there to help.
3. Set Up Home Security
There’s nothing wrong with investing in home security to keep a watchful eye over your children. If your kids are ever home alone, you’ll want to know they’re safe. Home security can give you peace of mind with the knowledge that your home is secure.
With a home security system, you can receive notifications if anyone walks in or out of your house. Some systems offer remote access to the camera, so you can view inside your home even when you’re miles away.
If you’re going to set up a home security system, though, make sure your children know all about it. You don’t want your kids to think you’re spying on them or trying to keep track of their every move. Explain your reasoning and answer any questions they might have. If your children don’t feel comfortable with cameras inside their home, limit camera locations or find another compromise.
4. Have Open Conversations
Parenting children in the digital age can be a challenge. According to a Pew Research study, two-thirds of U.S. parents believe it’s more difficult raising kids today than 20 years ago. Why? Because modern digital technologies didn’t exist 20 years ago.
Children weren’t able to text their friends and scroll through social media all day. With so many digital distractions these days, having face-to-face conversations with children can be next to impossible. But it’s incredibly important.
As an adult with your own responsibilities, it might be difficult to find time to connect with your children. And with school, friends, and extracurricular activities, kids lead hectic lives, too. A good way to stay involved is by setting aside time each day for one-on-one conversations with your kids. Whether that’s before bedtime or during dinner, ensure that you’re able to give them your undivided attention.
Talking to your children and listening to what they say will make you an active parent. By maintaining an open line of communication, you enable your kids to come to you with any problems or questions. Just be sure you’re really listening. If you talk over your children or disregard what they say, they’ll stop talking to you. It’s crucial your kids feel like they can have open conversations without judgment.
5. Don’t Forget Discipline
Did I just say you should avoid judging your kids? Yes. Does that mean you should avoid judging their behavior? No.
Disciplining your children is a crucial part of being an active parent. It helps your kids grow. Remember, though, that the goal of discipline isn’t to punish a child for making a mistake. It’s to keep them from making future mistakes. Ensure the punishment fits the crime and that you’re applying the appropriate consequence in a timely manner.
Keep in mind, there’s usually a reason for a child’s misbehavior. Maybe they don’t feel like they’re getting enough attention from you. Or perhaps they don’t quite know how to express themselves. When discipling your kids, you should discuss their behavior with them and try to figure out the root cause.
6. Give Your Children Their Own Space
It’s true: children need boundaries. They also need to be able to make their own mistakes — that’s the only way they’ll really learn. Instead of being involved in every single part of your children’s lives, give them space.
Let your kids close the bedroom door when they’re playing video games with their friends. Don’t stand behind their shoulder while they’re texting. As difficult as it might be, let your children have their own lives. You don’t need to know every single detail of their day or what they’re texting their BFF. Things like a kids messaging app can help.
That’s not to say you should act like you don’t care. Ask your children questions about their day, express an interest in who their friends are, and stay available.
Being an active parent doesn’t have to be difficult — you just have to make time for your kids and work to form solid relationships. Show an interest in their interests and try to be as relatable as possible. The more open and honest you are with your kids, the more open and honest they’ll be with you. And the less likely you’ll have to be the overbearing parent your kids will try to avoid.