Parenting is hard, but there are some days that I think it’s a lot harder than it used to be. I feel like, in some ways, today’s parents are trying too hard, and putting more pressure on themselves than generations before us, and it’s all making us crazier than we need to be to turn out healthy, happy kids.
Which is why I love this list of things that “happy parents” have just waved goodbye to in the interest of streamlining their life.
13. Boredom is good.
If you feel like parenthood is a treadmill you can’t keep up with, you may be taking too much responsibility for your children’s time. Make plans that support your children’s development, but don’t map out every minute for them. Downtime is supportive for many children.
Moments of boredom allow children to take responsibility for their own time. Make resources available, and then let your children create the experience they want. You’ll all be happier.
12. Don’t worry about what you’re supposed to do.
We were conditioned by our own early family experiences to believe that parenthood or childhood are supposed to look a certain way. But if you hold onto the way things are “supposed” to be, you may miss enjoying how they actually are. Be willing to question what you prioritize as a parent and why.
11. Take care of yourself.
As a parent, you generously give love, time, and attention. But you shouldn’t give up your core self just because you’re a parent. When you ignore your basic needs, you teach your children that when they grow up, they shouldn’t take care of themselves.
10. It’s not a competition between you and other parents.
What does your mental scorecard keep track of: Which parent does more? Who’s most consistent? Which mom or dad contributes most to your child’s class? Who’s most involved in your homeschool group? Keeping score wastes energy. Just do what you feel inspired and able to do. Don’t feel obligated by others’ contributions. Don’t obligate them to live up to yours.
9. Easier said than done but we can work on it.
Parents sometimes fall into the self-sacrifice trap because they feel unnecessary guilt. Guilt can be useful if you use it to recognize where you need to make changes. But overwhelming, paralyzing guilt that makes you feel worthless as a person or parent doesn’t accomplish anything. You are enough, just as you are.
8. Butting heads doesn’t benefit anyone.
As a parent, you have a responsibility to set boundaries. But if a child consistently resists a certain boundary, don’t just force them to comply. Ask yourself and your child, “Why?” Think of yourself as your child’s trusted and effective guide, not their dictator. When they experience you as their guide, they’re more likely to listen, which means less struggle and frustration for both of you.
7. What a novel idea!
As the parent, you often have the final say. But you and your child will both be happier if it’s not the only say. When it’s appropriate to do so, involve your child in decisions that will affect them. By enrolling children in the decision-making process, you’ll empower them to make their own good decisions in the future.
6. Seriously, it doesn’t help you OR them.
If you’re not a yeller, this one isn’t for you. But if you tend to yell when you’re feeling upset, consider this question: Has yelling ever strengthened your relationship with your child. Yelling usually happens in anger, and it often frightens and intimidates children. It destroys trust and a child’s feeling of safety. Pay attention to times and circumstances when you yell and then commit to changing those scenarios in the future.
5. Talk to them how you wish people would have spoken to you.
So many messages are repeated to children: You’re too loud, you’re too quiet, you ask too many questions, you’re exhausting, you’re demanding, you’re too talkative, you should make more friends, quit moving, speak up, settle down, smile more. Try this instead: Comment on the exact same behavior in a positive way. For example, you can see the trait of, “You’re too talkative,” as “You really make friends easily.”
4. Laugh. At. Your. Self.
Hear me now: There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Embrace your imperfections. Laugh at yourself. The best parents are willing to always learn, change, and improve.
3. You can’t fix the past.
What did you experience that you most want your children to avoid? Being teased at school? Lack of money? Feeling “not enough?” Your fears may actually set up that same pattern to be re-created. Don’t trap your children now in your fears of the past. Let them go. Create what you want, not what you don’t want.
2. Seriously this one changed my life.
If you demand a certain number of bites from your children, you set yourself up for a struggle at the table — and you set your children up for struggles with food later in life. Guide, direct, encourage, and prepare healthy food. Let your child voice their preferences. Focus on healthy overall patterns, rather than forcing a certain regimen at a specific meal.
1. Tomorrow really is a new day.
I’ve heard from parents who worry that they’ve damaged their child, or that they’ve made a mistake that will last a lifetime. I’ve said this many times: It’s never too late to be a better, happier parent. Whether your children are 4 or 40, they respond to genuine love from their parents.
The effects of mistakes may take a little longer to overcome if your child is older, but it’s never impossible to show up as the happy, supportive parent that you are meant to be. Don’t give up! You have everything you need to be a good parent.
Maybe getting back to the simple things, and choosing our battles, things like that, really are the answer to being more relaxed in our roles!
What things have you been happier after letting go of as a parent? We need to add more things to this awesome list!