Let’s face it—parenting is hard. Here are some of the small changes you can make today to make life easier for yourself and your children. Each and every parent has their own ideas of what’s best for their children, even if they sometimes question whether or not their way really is best. Believe it or not, those feelings of doubt are actually a good thing, because it means that parents are thinking about how their actions now will affect the people their children become later in life. Here are the things all parents should reconsider when it comes to their kids, and why.
Being Their Problem Solver
No parent enjoys seeing their child struggling through something, and the natural inclination is to get involved and help them out. While there’s nothing wrong with lending a helping hand from time to time, do it too much and your child isn’t going to learn anything about problem solving because they never have to think about it.
Most parents might even be surprised at what kids can work out for themselves if they’re just given the chance to do it. The next time they’re trying to peel an orange or pick up their own food on a fork, give them some time to give it a genuine shot before you step in.
These days, it seems like every parent has their own reward system when it comes to their kids, whether it’s cash, stickers, toys, or something else. Sure, it can be a great motivational tool for getting kids to do chores or behave while they’re in the store, but this system has one huge problem—it teaches kids that motivation should come when they’re offered something. As adults, we all know that praise doesn’t come after each and every thing we do, and we’re not offered treats just for using the toilet or keeping our homes clean.
To motivate your child without physical rewards, present tasks to them in a way that either makes them fun or sound like a challenge and you’ll likely find that their desire to complete them starts to come from within. Of course, you don’t have to do away with rewards for your child entirely—just try to make it a random thing as opposed to something that happens for each and every thing they do.
Pushing Emotions Down
Emotions aren’t always fun or convenient, whether they’re your child’s or yours. When it comes to kids, they often get upset about small things that truly aren’t a big deal, like only being allowed to pick out one type of cereal instead of five, and parents do their best to minimize these feelings when they pop up. The danger here, though, is that it can become habit for parents to dismiss their child’s feeling without actually listening to them, distracting them so that they can quickly move on from their latest “silly” outburst.
While it may seem silly to you, young children are still learning about their emotions and how to process them, and even small things can still feel pretty overwhelming to them—the best way for them to learn how to handle them is to acknowledge how they’re feeling. After you talk it out, you can also offer up different solutions so they might be better prepared to handle things next time.
Keeping Kids Busy
As a parent, it can be easy to feel like you should give your kids something to do at all times, not letting one moment go unwasted. The thing, though, is that this type of thinking is exhausting for both you and your child. Being a parent doesn’t have to mean making sure your child is occupied all day long until they go to sleep, and it’s actually important to make sure that they have the opportunity to decide how they want to spend their time and play independently. They’ll probably feel less bored because they’re doing something they actually want to, and leaving them to their own devices can help them develop many different skills on their own.
Seriously, just sit down with the beverage of your choice and enjoy a little bit of free time. Obviously, you’ll need to keep track of what they’re doing to avoid any bad ideas but, for the most part, just let your child call their own shots and see where it takes them.
Striving For Perfection
You are your family members are human beings just like the rest of us, and you are not perfect—you won’t convince us otherwise, not even if you take the most perfect Instagram photo of all time. Seriously, though, being a parent isn’t easy and every single parent out there will make a mistake from time to time.
It’s important to let your kids know that making mistakes is just a part of life and that everyone does it, even their mom and dad. If a child sees that you can make a mistake and then push forward afterwards, they’ll be much better prepared to face their own mistakes they will inevitably make in their lives. Parents should also make an effort to be present in their children’s lives, truly enjoying the moment with them instead of trying to capture the moment to review later—a well-staged Instagram photo means nothing if you don’t actually have a memory to go along with it.
Raising your voice at your kids doesn’t work, and it’s likely that you already know this. Why, then, do so many parents still choose to do it? Of course, it’s because you’re probably aggravated at something your child is or isn’t doing, but shouting at them isn’t what’s going to change anything. When you yell, kids are more likely to pay attention to the fact that you’re speaking, but they probably won’t actually hear what you say. As we all know, being yelled at can be pretty intimidating and even scary, and all it’s good for is instilling fear.
The next time you feel tempted to yell at your kids, take a second and just breathe. Think about what specifically you would like them to do or stop doing, and calmly address their behavior. Keep your voice steady and stern, but try not to be sarcastic, blunt, or mean. Make sure you give your child specific instructions for what to do next, and follow through with any consequences you lay out for them.
Stressing Over Food
Mealtime can be a big source of stress for parents, as many kids can be picky eaters who demand what they want and expect it when they want it. It can be easy to feel like a full-time chef making meal after meal, snack after snack, only to have your child turn their nose up to the very food they just requested. They may also decide they’re not hungry after you’ve lovingly crafted their dinner, then decide they want to eat after you’ve just finished packing up leftovers.
Provide your child with plenty of healthy foods and leave the rest up to them. If they eat a few bites of food, those few bites were nourishing to them and, if they eat the entire plate, even better. If you have a picky eater, try having them help in the shopping process. By allowing them to pick out things that look good to them, it’s more likely that they’ll actually want to try those new foods.
Behaving Badly Yourself
Every parent does things they immediately regret, like yelling at their child, snapping at their kids or partner, or just generally being kind of mean to the people around them. We get it—parenting is a stressful gig and, like we said before, the pressure to be perfect is real. When these moments happen, though, it’s important to acknowledge that you’re not perfect and handle your own bad behavior in the right way.
Just like you would tell your child when they’ve done something wrong, you need to call attention to your own actions when they’re mean or inappropriate. Apologize to your child or partner for lashing out or raising your voice, and talk it out with them. You’ll not only feel better about the way you acted, but it’ll also help repair any damage done to your relationship in that moment. You may eventually notice your kids echoing your behavior, owning up to their mistakes on their own when they know they’ve done something wrong.