[View original article published in Parenting.answers.com  here]

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Whether excited or unsure as to how the year will turn out, parents also need back-to-school “supplies.” This list will help every parent stay on the right track.

Every year as summer winds down, most parents and children are ready for the new school year to start. Some parents may also be apprehensive if there were struggles and challenges with their children the year before. Whether excited or unsure as to how the year will turn out, parents also need back-to-school “supplies.” This list will help every parent stay on the right track.

1. MIRROR – Reflective listening and Validation. When children are happy, parents acknowledge their children’s feelings easily. Sometimes when children get upset, parents try to dismiss their emotions or fix the situation to calm them down. Children, just like adults, need to feel validated in good as well as bad times. As you listen to your children’s words be 100% present. This will let them know you care and understand them. Children often just want to be heard and understood. Parents can reflect (as a mirror) their children’s emotions — then pause. This allows children to expand on their feelings and thoughts. Parents don’t need to make assumptions and try to repair their child’s situation. They just need to be heard.

Words are not enough; parents’ non-verbal cues will also show children how much you care. Parents validate their children when they acknowledge what they are doing, and most importantly when they acknowledge their children’s emotions. Validating doesn’t mean giving in to their wants. It means showing our children we understand and empathize with them.

2. MAGNIFYING GLASS – Praise their effort. When our children do well in school, what do we usually tell them? “You are so smart! Excellent job!” Is that type of praise helpful? Many smart children have bad grades. Reasons vary, but we can help our children understand that it takes more than being smart to get good grades. The most appropriate praise needs to be specific and genuine. As parents consistently praise their children’s efforts, there will always be room for improvement not only academically but in all areas. Parents can use the image of the magnifying glass as a reminder to look for opportunities to notice their child’s efforts and point them out!

3. PENCIL – Example. It’s been said that a pencil when used will always leave its mark. Parents leave a lasting mark in their children’s lives. A mark that will be felt for generations. Parents are their child’s first role models. Children are watching! How do you react to stress and difficulties? Are you aware of the language and tone of voice you use when frustrated? As your children grow older will you be pleased with the example you’ve set?

4. ERASER – Accept mistakes. Someone once said that in a relationship, “What’s most important may not be what you do, but what you do after what you did!” We all make mistakes, but how we handle them makes the difference. Parents need to remember to do their best and stop trying to be perfect. There is no such thing, though sometimes it may appear to be so. Let’s not beat ourselves up if our children or our house are not perfect. We simply don’t know other parents’ circumstances, jobs, health, upbringing, etc. We may judge them based on what is important to us, but we usually don’t know or will not know everything about them! Comparing ourselves with other parents is not fair for us, other parents, and especially our children. Trying to be a perfect parent will actually make us feel guilty and discouraged. Let’s remember that every parent’s situation is different. Let’s stay focused on what’s important, in this case, our children.

5. RULER – Set limits. Children need rules so they can learn to care and respect others and themselves. When they learn to follow rules, they learn to be responsible and to take ownership of their behavior. Children who grow in chaotic homes show insecurity and disorganization. When setting home rules, parents need to remember their children’s emotional, cognitive, and physical abilities. Children need to clearly understand the rules and consequences. Let’s remember that when children are participants in setting them, they’ll be more likely to obey them. Consistency and following through with consequences also teaches them to trust. Maintaining a positive relationship and open communication will also strengthen cooperation. On the other hand, let’s remember not to be too rigid in our parenting.

6. PLAYDOUGH – Flexibility. Just as much as children need rules, they also need to learn about flexibility in their lives. Parents and children are happier when there is less rigidity in the home. Some parents may feel safe with strictness, but it can backfire as children continue to grow and rebel against parents who are too meticulous. There is a fine line but wise parents can learn to maintain the balance. When children misbehave they may be bored, hungry, lonely, angry, sad, or tired. Allow for children to express themselves and help them problem-solve. Model flexibility for them.

7. LIFESAVERS CANDY – Rescuing and Overprotecting. When parents see their children struggle, the tendency is to rescue them from discomfort and pain. Get the Lifesavers out and while you savor them, remember what your goals are for your children. If you wish for them to become independent, courageous, and successful, it’s best if you allow them to learn to problem-solve on their own. When your children are young and need your help, meet them half-way. As they continue to grow, remember to stand back a little each time. There is no greater satisfaction than seeing your child overcome a challenge on their own!

8. DONUT – Yes, focus on the donut, not the hole! Someone has said that in parenting, you need to focus on the relationship, not on the problem. Focus on ways you can strengthen your relationship with your children. Notice their strengths. Are you cultivating yours and their strengths? Are you learning to live in the present? Are you enjoying the moments that really count?

Children grow fast and before you know it, you’ll be wondering where the time has gone. Memories of school projects, car pools, spelling bees, and sleepless nights shall pass. The mark you’ll leave on your children will last for generations of your family. Let’s make it good!

“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children”
-Charles R. Swindoll