Reduce Your Stress and Build Happier Kids
Parenting can be both the most difficult thing you have ever done and, at the same time, the most rewarding. The whole endeavor would be so much easier if they slid you the “owner’s manual” when you got to take your little bundle of joy home from the hospital. If you misplaced yours, like I did, here are five points that can make your life a lot easier and give your kids the start in life they deserve.
“Your home needs to be a miniature version of how society functions.”
1. Do your best – let go of the rest.
I know this first one sounds kind of cheesy, but it’s actually true. The last thing your kid needs is an uptight mom or dad who’s so afraid to make a mistake that they’re no fun to be around.
Parenting is an extremely important job, but you don’t have to be perfect to be a good at it. Actually, when you screw up you have an opportunity to make your kid stronger while building a better relationship with them—all at the same time.
How it works is like this: when you mess things up (try to change your baby when she’s hungry; misjudge your teen when he’s being honest; etc.) your child’s brain goes into a bit of chaos and the relationship is strained. However, when you take responsibility for messing things up, apologize, and fix it, you actually build trust in you and in the relationship.
Your child’s brain also comes out of chaos and establishes stability at a higher order of organization. This is nature’s way of protecting both you and your kid from the natural screw-ups that all parents do. So the take away here is you can let yourself off the hook. Don’t stress out—just do your best and make it right when you mess up.
2. Have a philosophy and a goal to organize your parenting plan.
Any trip is way easier when you have a good idea about where you’re going. A clear understanding of what you want to accomplish as a parent is like having destination when you’re travelling. The whole point of parenting is to create healthy, happy, successful, responsible members of society before you release them into the wild.
What this means then is that, over the 18 or so years you have them, they have to learn how to look after themselves and figure out how the world works. Your home needs to be a miniature version of how society functions.
That means the positive and negative consequences that happen for you when you’re walking around in life also need to be reflected for your kids in your home. If you don’t want your kids to be rude to their boss and get fired when they are on their own – then you can’t tolerate them being rude to you.
3. Show lots of love and lots of discipline.
Many parents have probably heard that you need to balance between love and discipline in order to be a good parent. Unfortunately, that’s not really how it works. You actually need lots of love AND lots of discipline to be effective.
You need to have unwavering and unconditional acceptance for who your child is (their “being”) regardless of their behavior. At the same time, you also need to have very clear rules and consequences for what they do (their “behavior”). Both these things need to be communicated consistently in your words, actions and attitudes. An example would be, “Little Johnny or Susie, I love you. There’s nothing that you can do to make that change. Because I love you I also have these rules for how you act so that you can learn how to function on your own one day. I also love you enough to always follow through on the consequences we talked about when you don’t follow the rules.”
4. All the adults play (hopefully as a team).
Consistency is extremely important to kids. That means that whatever rules you set up you have to be willing and able to follow through all the time. It also means that all the adults involved with the kids should back each other up as much as possible.
When you “throw your partner under the bus” you undermine their authority but also your own—and you confuse your kids in the process. Except in the case of abuse or other unacceptable behavior, support your partner’s decision in front of kids.
If there’s an issue, go somewhere private and discuss things until you both can agree on a course of action. If something needs to be changed the parents who originally dealt with the kids presents the change to the children.
For example: “We talked it over and we think this is a better way to go” rather than “Your mother doesn’t agree with me, so I guess we’re doing it her way, again” complete with eye rolls. Anyone can all be either too hard or too soft at different times. When you go back you will have a more appropriate response that actually builds the relationship (remember point #1) and your credibility as a parent.
Sometimes it’s not possible for all the adults to be on the same page—like in a shared custody situation. If the parent or parents on the other side don’t support your program you can still provide consistency to your kids when they’re in your home. Let them know that the rules of the other house should be followed when they’re there but the rules in this house need to be followed when they’re here.
When you can support the adults and the other home, even when you don’t agree, you make it much less confusing for the kids and provide them with much needed stability and balance. You also end up being someone they can count on to be reasonable and therefore trustworthy.
5. Remember that you’re the one in charge.
Your kids don’t have to give you the authority or the respect you deserve—it’s already yours. When you remember this and step fully into your leadership role you give your kids the confidence, safety, and happiness they deserve. You end up having more fun too.
Hold On To Your Kids.
Gordon Neufeld and Gabore Mate
(CD). Dr. Ganz Ferrance
Parenting From the Inside out.