Parenting is a role where even the most conscientious and intentional people can lose perspective. No matter how much you prepare, things rarely go according to plan, especially when those plans involve kids.
Luckily, children are the greatest teachers of detachment, if you allow yourself to learn from them. Once you release the need to control their behavior and just model the way you want them to speak, eat, and feel, you remove the power struggle from the parent/child relationship and open yourself up to the joy of each day.
Become a happier parent with these tricks of the trade.
When parenting is stressful, it’s usually caused by the “what if” questions you ask yourself: “What if he isn’t toilet trained in time for pre-school?” “What if there is drinking at the party?”
Instead of imagining all the things that could go wrong, plan for things to go right. Find joy in each moment of each day. Everyone says, “it goes by quickly” but if you spend time really being present—listening, making eye contact, and spending focused time with your child—the speed might feel a little less hurried.
Separate Their Success From Your Role as a Parent
Children come from us but they are not ours to keep. We are blessed with the role of caregiver but the balance is sometimes lost because of how much we want to protect them. We have to find the courage to let children try and even fail on their own. Kids who never get the chance to make mistakes or take responsibility are denied the opportunity to develop resilience.
Children lack the pre-frontal cortex development to successfully negotiate the complexities of their world. Much like building a muscle, if we don’t let them make some choices under our guidance, their muscle won’t strengthen and they won’t get better at decision-making.
As they grow and make more decisions on their own, it becomes increasingly important that you separate your markers of success from them. All you can do is give them the tools to make good decisions. What they do with those tools is up to them.
Talk to Them Not at Them
Children are great teachers. They think differently and have a level of connection to the true Self that is sometimes educated out of us by the time we are adults. Celebrate that by giving them a voice. When you set rules and boundaries, let them be a part of the conversation.
Children learn as much from what you do as what you say. If your actions are inflexible and controlling, it’s likely that their teen years will be spent not listening and not communicating with you.
Praise Them Regularly
The chemicals released during stress, anxiety, and fear pack a much bigger wallop than those released during serenity and happiness. What this means for parents is that our children remember all the things they do wrong more easily than the things they do right.
To counteract this phenomenon, praise them generously and practice gratitude daily. I like to have everyone in our family tell us their best moment of the day and one thing they are grateful for very time we sit down to dinner.
Let Go of Mistakes (Yours and Theirs)
Mistakes are a chance to teach resilience. If you show your children that life is a series of experiments—some successful, some more educational—you will help boost their confidence and help them to adopt an attitude of self-compassion. When things don’t work out the way you or they planned, help them to explore what could have been done to get a different result.
Plan Play Time
Children need play for brain development but they also need time that’s dedicated to pure joy. What we sometimes forget is that adults need play too. Make sure you schedule some time every week to have unscripted fun. Choose something that feels playful to everyone like building a fort, throwing a ball around, or skipping stones into a pond. Let the children lead with their imaginations.
Modeling how to give and receive love is an important job. Your children watch how you interact with them, with their siblings, with your partner, and with friends and colleagues. Spend some time focused on how you want to be seen and then check your behavior to see if it matches with your goals. Many parents are great at giving love but not really comfortable receiving. Some parents show a ton of physical affection to toddlers but stop hugging and saying, “I love you” to their teens. Put love in all your interactions, no matter how old or young your children are.
As Mother Teresa said, “It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
Parents tend to have a list of beliefs about what they think constitutes good parenting, and their happiness is tied to how well they measure up to that list. Take time to examine where your beliefs about parenting came from and don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Children don’t come with a manual, but when you prioritize happy parenting you show them that you value their happiness as well as your own.