The key to becoming a better and happier parent is NOT to add on more to-dos. Especially expectations of yourself and your kids none of you can be successful meeting. You’ll all feel worse. You may want to do things better, but I promise that most likely means doing less—worrying less, fearing less, nagging and shouting less.
We are doing so much more “parenting” than in past generations, and then giving ourselves grief about all we’re not doing. Think about all that stuff in your head telling you what is going wrong, why your child is a rotten monster, and why you are a terrible parent. That’s the stuff I’m talking about. This is what exhausts you and what you would do better leaving behind. Easier said than done, I know.
Here are some of the things my Facebook followers want 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
Some additional things that can be dropped:
Coming up with the answers. Having to have the answer is exhausting and defeating. When you do, you pressure your children, undermine their ability to problem solve, and create a dependency on you as the fixer or decider. In most situations, you shouldn’t have the answer. 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 their feelings by saying i.e. there’s nothing to cry about robs them of experiencing difficult feelings in a supportive atmosphere. If you feel responsible to stop negative emotions – another exhausting and impossible task — it may mean you don’t know how to handle big feelings. Just let them come and let them know you understand.
Teaching 24/7. Teach less, be more. Show up: 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 to fill your cup. Children learn from many, and no one person can fulfill all their needs—even you.
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.
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. Remember how old she is. The greatest lesson in life is understanding 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 nagging situations in a day you could afford letting go of. Ask yourself, So what? Who cares? What harm will be done in the long run? You may decide it requires intervention, but the asking keeps it real.
Expecting appreciation. It’s not your child’s job to be grateful for all you do. They haven’t had another family to compare their own with—certainly not the one you came from. They should actually be able to take you for granted. Everything you do for your children is your choice.
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. And enlist them in helping out with household jobs. They will feel better about themselves even though they grump about it.
Needing to be perfect. No one wants to live with a perfect parent. If you set expectations too high for yourself, you will keep failing. Adjust your expectations, stop comparing yourself to others (nobody cares about you that much!), and accept who you are including your limitations.
Letting go of what you think you have to do, be, think, teach, and letting your children find their way through some tough times and simply being their sounding board is the hardest thing for most parents only because it’s hard to let go of controlling. Once you get there, you will be surprised at how much easier it can be.
Children learn best when they figure things out, bounce back from tough times, have support, understanding, and your modeling of the type of person you want them to become (hint: not a nagger, control freak, yeller, blamer). Your relationship with your child is what matters most. Their favorite memories of childhood will be times you are having fun together—make more of them.
We punish our children in an attempt to keep them from pushing our buttons, often escalating the original problem into a cycle of anger and blame. When Your Kids Push Your Buttons is not about what to do to your kids to get them to stop pushing your buttons. This book is about how to be the parent you wish you could be-the parent that only you are holding yourself back from.