We want our kids to be happy, kind and caring people.
And we want them to be able to tolerate and overcome the ups and downs life will throw at them.
Not to mention, if you’re anything like me, you also want to enjoy your children while they’re young, because you know how fast time flies and, before you know it, you’re kids will be all grown up and these crucial years will have passed.
So you do what you can to get it right now, but with the constant, incessant demands of life with kids, it’s hard to enjoy this stage of life, let alone know whether or not you’re hitting the mark.
There’s no perfect formula, after all, to avoid the challenges of parenthood but there are some common mistakes that even good, well intended parents can make that can get in your way of achieving your goals as a parent. But if you know what they are, then you can avoid them and gain more clarity and confidence as you journey the road of parenting.
1. We focus too much on behavior
Almost every parent who seeks my counsel wants to know how they can get their kids to start doing something that they should be doing, or to stop doing something that they shouldn’t be doing. They are frustrated and at a loss, and they just want things to be different – quick! But they mistakenly miss something super important that they need to know: Your kids’ misbehavior is usually a symptom of something else. And just like a physical ailment, if you don’t address the deeper issue, if you don’t connect with your kids’ feelings and subjective experience that lead to the behavior, the misbehavior will persist. So the next time your kid acts up, put your thinking cap on and ask yourself what might be going on for your kid that could be at the root of their misbehavior?
2. We are constantly in autopilot
With the ongoing demands of adult life and raising kids, it’s no wonder that we shut off and go into autopilot. But it’s important to know that when you are in survival mode, you are less likely to recognize and validate your child’s experience, and more likely to overreact, revert to old habits and patterns from your own childhood, and above all, miss opportunities to nurture, support and guide your child. The key to staying calm is to enhance your self-awareness so that you can consciously respond to your kids, instead of losing it on them; to understand what goes on for you when they misbehave so that you can be there for them.
3. We think discipline is about consequences
Maybe it’s because you’re run down and just trying to make it through the day, but all too often parents think that proper discipline is about choosing the most effective punishment for the crime. When in fact, discipline is about teaching our kids to live well in the world. Which means that you need to learn how to set boundaries with that goal in mind, as opposed to focusing solely on your kids’ behaviors.
4. We forget what it was like to be a kid
Sometimes it’s because we’re just too busy, and sometimes it’s simply because we don’t know how (because perhaps in our experience of being parented no one took the time to really get to know us), but for some reason, many parents forget to invest in good quality time with their kids. To play, to have fun, and enjoy getting to know who their kids are. Because developing a close relationship that will shape your child for the future is not restricted to the tough times alone, but to the good times that we create with our children.
5. We always put our kids first
Your selfless commitment to your children is practically unavoidable. In fact, it’s pre-wired in to the circuitry of your brain to put your children’s needs before your own. And so we minimize our own needs to ensure that the needs of our children are met…only to find ourselves drained and exhausted. And of course, like the best of us, when you’re drained and exhausted you are inevitably irritable, impatient, and snappy. So if you think your kids might suffer if you prioritize your own needs, remember that if an army’s general is not fit for battle, the entire infantry will suffer.
6. We are too hard on ourselves
It’s usually the most well-intended and conscious parents who are the hardest on themselves. You really want to get this parenting thing right; but sometimes it makes you think that you have to always get it right. But that’s simply not possible. So give yourself a break. Love and laugh with your kids, listen to them, develop your self-awareness, set clear boundaries and discipline with love and everyone will benefit and thrive.
To learn more about how to develop the skills you need to stay calm when tensions run high, respond thoughtfully to your kids’ misbehavior, and enjoy building loving and lasting relationships with your kids, check out my online course: Enjoy Life with Kids: How to Stay Calm and Get Your Kids to Cooperate, so You Can Yell Less and Enjoy Your Kids More.