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Ten things you might give up to be a happy parent

 

Special to The Dispatch/Carol Tuttle

 

 

You want to be a happy parent -- but your countless responsibilities make this goal challenging. Don't lose hope just yet. I have a list of things that keep you from happy parenting. Read through them. Be honest with yourself. Then let them go. Allow yourself to be a happy parent for your child, and yourself. 

 

  • Give up "supposed to" -- We were conditioned by our own early family experiences to believe that parenthood or childhood are supposed to look a certain way. But if you hold onto the way things are "supposed" to be, you may miss enjoying how they actually are. Be willing to question what you prioritize as a parent and why. 

     

  • Give up keeping score -- What does your mental scorecard keep track of: which parent does more? Who's most consistent? Which mom contributes most in your child's class? Who's most involved in your homeschool group? 

     

    Keeping score wastes energy. Just do what you feel inspired and able to do. Don't feel obligated by others' contributions. Don't obligate them to live up to yours. 

     

  • Give up force -- As a parent, you have a responsibility to set boundaries. But if a child consistently resists a certain boundary, don't just force them to comply. Ask yourself and your child, "Why?" 

     

    Think of yourself as your child's trusted and effective guide, not their dictator. When they experience you as their guide, they're more likely to listen, which means less struggle and frustration for both of you. 

     

  • Give up yelling -- If you're not a yeller, this one isn't for you. But if you tend to yell when you're feeling upset, consider this question: has yelling strengthened your relationship with your child, or not? 

     

    Yelling usually happens in anger, and it often frightens and intimidates children. It destroys trust and a child's feeling of safety. Pay attention to times and circumstances when you yell and then commit to changing those scenarios in the future. 

     

  • Give up worry -- Compulsive worrying doesn't make your child any safer. It doesn't make you any happier. And it teaches your children to live in fear. Release your worries, and cultivate gratitude for your child's safety in the present moment. 

     

  • Give up the role of events coordinator -- If you feel like parenthood is a treadmill you can't keep up with, you may be taking too much responsibility for your children's time. Make plans that support your children's development, but don't map out every minute for them. 

     

    Downtime is supportive for many children. Moments of boredom allow children to take responsibility for their own time. Make resources available, and then let your children create the experience they want. You'll all be happier. 

     

  • Give up unhealthy self-sacrifice -- As a parent, you generously give love, time and attention. But you shouldn't give up your core self just because you're a parent. When you ignore your basic needs, you teach your children that when they grow up, they shouldn't take care of themselves. 

     

  • Give up guilt -- Parents sometimes fall into the self-sacrifice trap because they feel unnecessary guilt. Guilt can be useful if you use it to recognize where you need to make changes. But overwhelming, paralyzing guilt that makes you feel worthless as a person or parent doesn't accomplish anything. You are enough, just as you are. 

     

  • Give up negative messages -- So many messages are repeated to children: you're too loud, you're too quiet, you ask too many questions, you're exhausting, you're demanding, you're too talkative, you should make more friends, quit moving, speak up, settle down, smile more. 

     

    Try this instead: comment on the exact same behavior in a positive way. For example, you can see the trait of, "You're too talkative," as "You really make friends easily." 

     

  • Give up on giving up -- I've heard from parents who worry that they've damaged their child, or that they've made a mistake that will last a lifetime. I've said this many times: It's never too late to be a better, happier parent. 

     

    Whether your children are 4 or 40, they respond to genuine love from their parents. The effects of mistakes may take a little longer to overcome if your child is older, but it's never impossible to show up as the happy, supportive parent you are meant to be.

     

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