As we’ve been trying to navigate the unchartered waters of parenthood, we’ve been slowly falling into patterns of parenting that we never anticipated. One of these patterns is called As-Needed-Approval-Favoring. And as a parent, you might be experiencing it right now!

In a nutshell, ANAPF means that as your child needs your attention and care, they’ll get it – but only if they’re good.

So if your toddler is having a tantrum, you might feel inclined to calm them by engaging with them, patting them on the back, or giving them a gentle nudge. When they’re not having a tantrum, you might find that they’re content to play by themselves or with a sibling, and you may not feel the urge to interact with them at all. In which case, your toddler may end up feeling ignored or even rejected, especially if you’ve been a consistent and kind parent up to this point.

You might not feel like you’re doing anything wrong. After all, you’re a responsive parent who knows what their kid needs. And it’s true that being a responsive parent is critical – especially in these early days. You want your child to feel secure in their relationships with you and others around them. So if you’re observing your toddler playing with a sibling, you might feel inclined to join the fray, ensure fairness, and give them an “I’m still here!” type of greeting. This is how they’ll learn to associate your presence with something good. Something they want!

There are so many variations of this theme, in fact, that it would be impossible to catalog them all. It could be that your toddler needs food and you give them some, but then notice they’re getting fussy and want your attention. Or perhaps they’re happily playing with a parent or relative while you’ve got your eyes on a separate task, like getting your shoes on for the day. So you go back and forth between the two, wanting one and the other – needing your attention in a way that feels contradictory. Like you want to hold and nourish your child, but you also need to get ready for the day. For better or worse, this is how parenthood works.

A Parent’s Guide to Navigating the Minefield of Feelings

These days, you’d think that being a parent would feel automatic. After all, you and your spouse decided to have children, and now you’re a parent! How much harder could it get?

It’s true that there isn’t a manual or an instruction manual for being a parent. There are just so many things that come together to create a unique and individual experience. (And if you’ve been following along with our blog, then you know that we’re big believers in “don’t try to fit parenting into a box,” because it’s one thing to have a hunch about how you’ll behave as a parent and another to find out for sure.)

That being said, there are a few tried and tested ways to navigate the sometimes treacherous terrain of parenting. And one of the best books in our opinion is called “How to be a Better Parent: The Ultimate Guide to Raising Happy, Healthy Kids.” It was written by Washington Soul Pattinson, a Scottish father of five and the founder of a lifestyle blog called My Own Parenting. He’s also a contributing editor at Men’s Health magazine and the author of several other books about fatherhood and marriage.

The Benefits of Being A Better Parent

If you’re reading this, then you’re probably a parent who wants to be the best parent possible. And that’s the absolute best reaction! We’re all driven to provide our children with a better life than we had, whether that’s materialistically or otherwise. It’s fantastic to see that desire to better ourselves translate into an even better relationship with our kids.

Being a better parent is all about being aware of your kids’ needs and acting on them. In the words of Dr. Robert Patterson, who studies parenting and attachment in his own children, “The more accurately and sensitively a parent responds to their child’s needs and bids, the more the parent will enjoy positive, trusting connections with their children.”

So what specific benefits might you gain from being a better parent?

First of all, you’ll develop a deeper emotional connection with your children. A 2013 study from the United Kingdom found that children whose parents had a greater focus on their feelings and needs as compared to material things had significantly better social skills and fewer behavioral issues. The same study also found that kids who had a high level of parent-child connectedness had fewer behavioral problems as compared to kids with low levels of connection.

One of the best ways to build a strong emotional bond with your child is to regularly read them books, particularly those that are interactive. If you’ve got an iPad or an Android tablet, then you could take advantage of the wide range of reading materials available through apps. There are also special books specifically designed for parents – like Dr. David Gillespie’s wonderful “Parenting with Love and Logic” or the Parenting Book Club series by the same author. The important thing is to find something that your child enjoys and that will help you build a closer bond with them. You can also download My Parenting App, where you can find thousands of books and parenting resources – including some great talks directly with Dr. Patterson himself!

How to be A Better Parent: The Ultimate Guide to Raising Happy, Healthy Kids

We’ve already spoken about the critical role that books and other educational resources can play in shaping your child’s development. But what about the emotional and physical health of the parent themselves? How does being a better parent translate to increased wellness?

Let’s begin with sleep, which is essential for parents to have in order to parent well. While genetics and environmental factors influence our ability to sleep, frequent interruptions and night awakenings put parents under a considerable amount of stress. One study from the United Kingdom revealed that mothers who get less than five hours of sleep a night are at a higher risk of depression. So it’s important that you establish good sleeping habits from the very beginning. Create a bedroom that’s conducive to relaxation and tranquility, and ensure that sleep hygiene is met – no phones, tablets, or other gadgets in the bed. Also, avoid caffeine after 3 pm and avoid stressful situations in the evening, especially if you want your child to sleep through the night.

Then there’s the matter of food, which you’ll want to regulate and keep track of carefully. As a parent, your primary job is to provide your children with a healthy, safe environment in which to grow up. And as a general rule, the healthier the parent, the healthier the kid. Make sure that your diet is chock-full of vegetables and fruits, and minimize your intake of processed foods and meats. Ensure that the food is prepared using only healthy and environmentally responsible methods, and make sure that your child is fed diverse foods. Finally, take regular meals yourself so that you can maintain a healthy weight, which is vital for both your health and that of your children. A child’s nutrition is important at all stages of their development; their body needs the right fuel to grow and develop into healthy adults.

If you want to raise a happy, healthy family, then you need to set a good example as a parent. By acting in a nurturing, warm, and responsive manner toward your children, you’ll help ensure their sense of security and safety, helping to build a solid foundation for good parenting.