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What A Million Kids Have Taught Me About Parenting
March 30, 2020
Raising kids is hard. Joyful, but hard. We (me included) start off as a bit naïve, full of hope and have great intentions of being the best parents possible. And some days we are. Other days leave us wondering if we have what it takes. Yes, even those of us with graduate degrees in mental health. That’s because we don’t know what we don’t know. We haven’t yet experienced first-hand the ups and downs of this amazing, all-encompassing, wonderful and draining and energizing and sometimes scary role.
The result is often a lot of misunderstanding and frustration. Kids are literally and figuratively a moving target. Each child is a unique puzzle of temperament, cognition, emotion and personality that we get to help piece together and guide toward being the best version of who they are meant to become—all while their needs continue to evolve.
"Though hard, the path of raising kids is so joyful."
Adults are also a combination of temperament, life experiences, knowledge and coping skills and use those things to form opinions, guide decisions and control behavior. Sometimes the combination works really, really well. Sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless, it’s imperative we pick ourselves up, learn from the experiences and do better next time.
Though hard, the path of raising kids is so joyful. The funny things children do and say, the sweet tender moments of uninhibited displays of affection, the learning, the wonder, the playful interactions all outweigh the more difficult times.
I’ve learned a lot about children over the past 25 years and from serving more than a million kids nationwide. Too much to share in one post, but for now here are my top three things every parent should consider.
1. Listen to the flight attendant.
You know, the part where they tell you to put on your oxygen mask first before helping others? My point? You can’t effectively care for others if you can’t breathe. The daily duties of being a parent, a spouse, an employee, a friend, a sibling, etc. can be overwhelming if we aren’t careful.
Dedicate some time for yourself to recharge by doing something you enjoy. Even if it’s only for a few minutes a day. Get it in your head that self-care is a necessity, not a luxury, and certainly not selfish. It’s like oxygen, you need it to survive. To be honest, carving out time for myself is one of the most difficult things for me. I’m learning though!
2. Don’t let the tail wag the dog.
Getting caught up in what others want, being afraid of falling behind or being worried about your family’s image can be detrimental to the overall health of your family dynamic. Remember you are the boss of your life (and regardless of what your child may say you most definitely are the boss of them).
Be informed by others but stay true to your values. Whether the tail is your child or society, think before you act and ask yourself does this decision really fit with what works best for my family, my belief system—your sanity?? Or are you making the choice based on some outside influence that shouldn’t really matter?
3. Perfection is a myth.
There is no such thing as the perfect parent. Or the perfect family. Regardless of what social media displays we all have our ups and downs and no one really “wakes up like that.” Parents can easily fall into the trap of curating the perfect online life. But life is messy and ignoring that fact can be harmful and exhausting, especially if you are ignoring the tough stuff. Living authentically is actually pretty liberating. When we embrace life’s ebbs and flows we can more easily relish the great times, understand that life can sometimes be mundane and buckle up during the more difficult times life throws us.
Each situation serves an important purpose and by recognizing the reality of life we learn to truly see our children, our partners, our friends and ourselves. We learn to be present, learn perseverance, gain inner strength and have more grace for others. Best of all when we live authentic lives we find more joy because we can cultivate deeper, more genuine relationships, we aren’t worried about keeping up, being found out or being perfect and we can find the support we need. What a relief.
What topics do you want to hear about? Let us know by commenting below.
Be kind to yourselves and others.
Until next time,
This year has been especially painful. It’s hard to process. As my emotions about our current state of affairs continue to swirl, I find myself thinking even more about how my words and actions impact and influence others. Am I walking my talk or are my words simple platitudes? Do I live out my values? What am I really teaching my kids? Read more.
As our country begins the process of reopening after quarantine, a variety of emotions may also be emerging. Some of us may feel ready to bust out, some may be quite anxious or angry and others are just plain uncertain. As we start to think about re-engaging it might be a good time to plan how we are going to manage the emotions associated with doing so. That includes helping our children manage theirs. Read more.
Chores. Unfortunately, chores are a necessary part of life. Starting your kids off early with age-appropriate jobs helps set the tone for your expectations, creates a family rhythm of getting stuff done, teaches them important life skills and builds a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Read more.