Parenting, in many ways, is the hardest activity to master. Ever.
There are many reasons why parenting is so tricky to get comfortable with. One of the biggest reasons is that no parenting book could possibly cover all of the different personalities that our children come to this world ready to express. So even when we figure out one technique that might work, our child soon changes and grows and needs something different from us.
Another reason is that parenting involves an enormous amount of energy.
Although some days with children may pass like a cool breeze, others feel like they may never end. Of course when you factor in home and job stress, and the fact that many parents come from dysfunctional families, then it’s easy to see how the choices we make as parents may not end up being in the best interests of our children.
Our intentions may be loving, but sometimes our actions fall short.
We can all benefit from practical suggestions for reducing stress, anxiety, and conflict in our homes and within our families. When we parent in a calm home environment, we will be more likely to make decisions that are better for both our children and ourselves.
1. Do not make your children feel responsible for your feelings.
Although making our children feel guilty is one of the oldest parenting tricks in the book, it is not a good idea to make our children feel responsible for how we are feeling. We may feel it’s harmless to say to a child, “If you do this for me, I won’t be sad anymore,” but doing so does not reflect the reality that we ourselves are responsible for feeling sad or happy, not our children.
Guilting our children into acting the way we want them to teaches them they must be on the lookout for how to take care of other people’s feelings — and this may be too heavy a burden to bear as they go on to develop relationships with others.
2. Do not make them feel responsible for your actions.
Just as we should avoid making children feel responsible for our feelings, we should avoid making them feel responsible for our actions. We are adults, after all. When we demonstrate to our children that we have calm in our hearts and are in control of how we speak and behave, children feel safe and develop a feeling of calm within their own hearts.
When we lose control and then say “You made me scream at you,” then our children are forced to imagine themselves as more powerful than they really are. Instead of feeling calm in their hearts, they end up feeling saddled with guilt.
When you feel you have reached your limit, take a few minutes to regain your composure, and then decide how you’d like to explore the issues at hand together with your child.
3. Try to avoid yelling or using physical touch to get your point across or to get your child’s attention.
It is important to help keep your child’s environment as safe and calm as possible. When we speak to our children with a moderate tone and volume, our children are able to listen at their best. When we scream at them, our children can only listen through their own feelings of anxiety, which does not set them up well to absorb information.
When we use our speech rather than our touch to communicate with our children, we allow them to feel safe physically and respected. This also, by the way, helps children learn how to negotiate and to cooperate with their siblings without yelling or touching each other, which does wonders for creating calm at home.
4. Don’t ignore signs that your child may be procrastinating.
If you sense your child is reluctant to get work done or is hesitating to make a choice or a change, use that sense to help your child figure out what is getting in the way. This may be difficult for you as a parent if you tend to procrastinate yourself, but helping your child find a path through difficult experiences will help him or her to avoid the stress of procrastinating.
5. Don’t try to micromanage your child’s life.
Parents use their most loving instincts when they help their children through life’s hurdles. We often try to spare them feelings of disappointment. We also try to ensure they have the best chances for personal success and fulfillment.
These efforts to protect our children from untoward circumstances may have costs themselves, however. When children are over-protected and micromanaged they may:
1. Not have faith in the decisions they make for themselves.
2. Expect success for themselves unreasonably.
3. Become somewhat passive in their actions as they may expect that others will help them to manage their own lives.
Step back as a parent and assist rather than direct. Enjoy the results.
6. Don’t try to purchase your children’s love.
We all can enjoy good food, fun experiences, and new goodies, but we should try to avoid “feeding” our children these things as expressions of our love for them. When we do, our children learn that they are loved for who they are, they don’t need stuff to fill them up with a false feeling of love, and they will find love in themselves and in other people, where it is in great supply.
7. Don’t make yourself miserable in order to keep your children satisfied.
When parents come from dysfunctional families, they may feel powerfully driven to avoid having their own children experience the negative feelings they did when they were young. This is a natural and loving impulse.
What can be problematic is when parents “protect” their children by refusing to allow certain feelings and experiences into the home, for example, anger, conflict, or imperfection. If you find yourself rigidly trying to protect your vision of what your family should look like and you believe your family members might be upset over your plans, consider seeking professional guidance or counseling in order to relieve the stress that might remain from your own childhood.
You’ll be able to parent with much greater clarity and ease once you do.
8. Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
All parents will, at some point, to choose their child’s best interest over their own. However, if this becomes routine, where the parent becomes overly self-sacrificing, stress will likely ensue in the home.
The parent will become stressed, frazzled, and resentful, and that will not be good for anyone in the family system. Show your children that they are important, but also remember to show them that you are important too. Important enough to have good boundaries, good self-care, and good judgment.
Have compassion for yourself as a parent and lend that self-compassion to your children when you are with them. Aim toward calm in the family environment, while understanding that there will be periods where calm may not be possible. Save your touch for warm embraces, congratulatory hugs, and genuine affection.
The intention you put into your parenting will enrich your experience tremendously.
Featured photo credit: Arguing Parents with Upset Little Girl via canva.com