EQtainment mom reading to kidsRemember as a kid your parents doing something you swore you’d never do if you ever had children someday? Only you just did that exact thing 20 minutes ago? Good times, those naive pre-parenting days, weren’t they?

Your default reactions — which are probably to parent how your parents did — are not necessarily your pinnacle of parenting. But how can you do it differently and be the parent you want to be?

Set positive goals. 

You have to know what your goals are to reach them. What do you want to work on? Whatever’s on your agenda, keep it positive. In other words, translate “yell at my kids less” to “be more calm and collected.” Tip: Think about qualities you’d like to foster in your kids (kinder? more patient?) and work on those qualities in yourself. After all, you’re their biggest influence.

Look for role models. 

Think about parents you admire. Watch what they do; ask them for advice. That said: Keep in mind that your child is an individual, and parenting is part trial and error. With time, you’ll figure out what works for your kid, yourself and your family, and adjust your approach accordingly.

Put your own oxygen mask on first. 

Take care of yourself, including taking time for yourself (go running in the morning before school, plan a weekly date night, have an evening out with friends a couple of times a month). Not only does honoring your own needs give you the strength to be there for your kids, but it also shows your kids that taking care of yourself is important.

Practice taking a break — and narrate what you’re doing. 

Kids pushing your buttons? Take a breather, literally: Stop and take some deep breaths; walk away for a few minutes if you need to. Either way, talk about what you’re doing so your child notices and can learn some healthy coping mechanisms for the next time they flip their wig.

Be gentle with yourself. 

Forgive yourself when you don’t do it perfectly every time. And don’t be afraid to apologize when you mess up. Really apologize (as opposed to the yelled or sing-songy “SOR-RY!” kids tend to trot out when their parents make them say it) and your kid gets to see a positive way to respect others and deal with mistakes.