Your kids are changing - are you?

Effective parenting requires us to be adaptable at every stage.
Effective parenting requires us to be adaptable at every stage.  Photo: Getty Images

I remember a great time when my daughter was a baby. I had just gotten her into a lovely routine: she seemed to be sleeping, eating and playing in a rhythmic way each day, and I felt on top of things. This parenting gig didn't seem so bad after all!

But of course that didn't last. In fact, I don't think it even lasted a week.

Every time I've felt like I've mastered parenting, my kids have changed. They stop one behaviour then start a new one. It can be frustrating and challenging.

A great feeding baby can become a fussy food toddler.

Those few minutes of peace and quiet in the middle of the day evaporate when your child decides they no longer need a day sleep.

The baby who is happy to goo and gaa at the cat, gets frustrated because they now want to move and explore.

Constantly changing. 

Our kids are growing every minute, and with each developmental stage their behaviour shifts. We can't stop progress so we have to roll with it. That's why one of our best parenting skills is to adapt; be flexible; be open to change. 

But not all of us like change. Many of us stick our heels in the mud if change confronts us. It feels difficult and uncomfortable. Why do we have to change when we had just gotten used to a new status quo?

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Well, probably the most important reason is that we have no choice. 

Our babies don't remain babies. They morph into toddlers, then preschoolers, and then they hit school age, tweens and teenagers. At every stage there are challenges and new behaviours which require new ways of parenting.

The biggest change of course is becoming a parent for the first time. That's when our life changed monumentally. We went from being relatively in control of our lives to having a little tiny bundle influence our every move. And since then, there's been no rest. 

That's why we now know that effective parenting requires us to be adaptable. 'Parent adaptability' is actually a technical term, and it involves the following three factors:

Perceptiveness

  • Are you 'tuned into' your child?
  • Do you know what developmental stage your child is at, and what you can realistically expect from their behaviour?
  • Are you aware of your own behaviour and how it impacts on situations?

Responsiveness

  • Do you respond to your child's changing behaviour?
  • Do you adjust the way you raise your child based on their developmental stage and the situation? 

Flexibility

  • Do you use problem-solving and try new ways of raising your child when the old ways no longer seem to be working?
  • Do you manage your own emotions so you're present and calm?

No one said this gig would be easy, and it can be difficult to constantly have to adjust what we do and how we do it. But the flip side is watching our children grow.

Every time our children change, it's a sign that they have mastered a new skill and gained more knowledge and experience. Yes, that forces us to adjust, but it's also an opportunity for us to feel proud and to celebrate.

Jodie Benveniste is a psychologist, parenting author and the founder of Parent Wellbeing. You can find more parenting inspiration at parentwellbeing.com.