If you’re making New Year’s resolutions this year, remember less is more. The key to becoming a better and happier parent in the new year is NOT to add on any expectations of yourself that you can’t be successful meeting. You’ll just feel worse. That does no one any good.
Some parents need to spend more time with their kids and actually do more at home so their kids can have a childhood instead of being expected to run the household. My guess is that most parents reading this blog would do better to subtract from what they are presently doing, let go of some of their assumed obligations, know what they are responsible for and drop the rest, and let their children fight or play more on their own with less parental supervision.
Here are some of the things my Facebook followers would like to drop:
~ feeling less anxious
~ always being in control
~ worrying about what I’m doing wrong
~ trying to get him to be the person I want him to be
~ yelling, dictating, interfering, and catastrophizing
~ so much screentime for all of us
~ more adventures
~ letting her choose and lead more
~ more time thinking about what I’m doing right
~ more empathy
~ being in the moment more
~ slowing down and wrapping my heart in joy
~ being present
~ more outdoors
For those of you who could drop some of your load, here are some important things that need dropping:
- Coming up with the answers. Always having the answer is exhausting and defeating. In most situations, not only do you not have to have the answer, you shouldn’t. When you have all the answers, you pressure your children, undermine their ability to problem solve, create a dependency on you as the fixer or decider. Instead, ask questions like, “What can you do about that?” “How can you make that happen?” “How can you two work this out?” Or simply leave it alone for a bit.
- Taking responsibility for your child’s feelings. Cheering up or denying your children’s feelings robs them of experiencing difficult feelings in a supportive atmosphere. If you feel responsible to stop negative emotions – an impossible and exhausting task — you will get angry at their upsets and tell them not to cry because you don’t know what to do with big feelings. Just let them come.
- Teaching 24/7. Teach less, be more. Listen, watch, observe, follow your child’s lead. Your child is way more capable than you give her credit for. In many areas, she actually does know what is best for herself.
- Assuming you are the only one. Get babysitters, go out with your spouse or friends, take yoga classes, have plenty of adult time so you will be a fuller, happier parent. Children learn from many, and no one person can fulfill all their needs—ever. Find babysitters you trust and your children like. They will look forward to you going out.
- Jumping in. When your child falls, wait to see how he is before scooping him up with worry. Hold back when your kids are fighting to give them the chance to work it out their way. After unacceptable behavior, stop what needs to be stopped, but wait for calm to talk about what went wrong or needs amending. In the meantime, breathe and think.
- Controlling. Let go, choose your battles, lighten up, allow a bit of naughtiness, and trust your children’s developmental process. Don’t expect your child to be at her best all the time. Give her a break. Remember how old she is. The greatest lesson in life is to understand that we cannot control another person, only ourselves.
- Nagging. You don’t like it, your kids don’t like it, so why not stop doing it? Because it means trusting more. Much harder. See how many situations that usually provoke your nagging could afford letting go. Ask yourself, So what? Can I let this one go? What harm will be done in the long run? You may decide it requires intervention, but the asking calms you down.
- Expecting appreciation. It’s not your children’s job to be grateful for all you do. They haven’t had another family they can compare their own with—certainly not the one you came from. They should actually be able to take you for granted—when they’re young. Everything you do for your children is your choice. You provide opportunities because you want your children to have them.
- Doing everything. Your children are not going to remember you for how clean and organized you are. If they do, you’ve neglected a lot—mainly your relationships with them. Cut down on your daily to-do lists and replace those minutes with just being with your kids, being silly or putting your feet up.
- Needing to be the perfect parent. Good enough is good enough. No one wants to live with a perfect parent. If you set expectations too high for yourself you will keep failing. Lower your expectations, stop comparing yourself to others, and accept who you are, what you are capable of and what you’re not. Allow yourself to have fun.
Letting go of what we think we have to do and letting our children find their way through some tough times and simply being their sounding board is the hardest thing for many parents to do. But that is how children learn best. Their favorite memories of childhood will be times when you are having fun together—not when you are teaching lessons.
Remember your relationship with your child is what matters most.