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Parents Are Their Own Worst Enemies

Parents Are Their Own Worst Enemies

The pressure to be a good parent is real. All this pressure comes at us from internal and external sources that converge and make a perfect storm for parents to lose any confidence they had as parents. We, as parents have the power to overcome our own worst enemy, which is ourselves.

Video Summary

As parents, we encounter messages on a daily basis that tell us how we need to do things in a different or better way. We hear messages that we need to expect more of our kids, we need to not be so hard on our kids, we should vaccinate, we shouldn’t vaccinate, we need to be involved with our kids, we shouldn’t be helicopter parents, we need to help our kids with their homework, we need to let our kids do their own homework, and a plethora of other mixed messages. All these messages turn into self talk one way or the other.

Everyone has a running conversation of self talk going on in their own head. As parents, our self talk can revolve around our abilities as parents. Are we doing things the best way for our kids? Are we doing thing that we think are good, but could in fact be harmful? We have so many messages coming at us in all directions that it becomes easy to question every decision we make as parents. Thus, it becomes far to easy to be hard on ourselves as parents.

Parents Are Their Own Worst Critics

Your own worst enemy in life is yourself. Typically there is nobody who will say more negative things to you than you will to yourself. It is the self talk that goes on in your head all day long that provides for the negative commentary to yourself. You need to stop the negative self talk today as it constantly breaking down your confidence as a parent. There are tips further in the article that will help empower you to overcome this negative self talk.

Are we good enough?

As parents, one thing we are constantly asking ourselves mentally is are we good enough and are we doing enough for our kids. Any good parents wonders this from time to time. Self analysis is helpful at time. However, if we are doing it too often, we begin to doubt ourselves and second guess our decisions as parents. Allowing negative self talk that undermines our skills as parents can hinder our confidence as parents. In turn, it makes it more difficult to parent when we are always questioning our capabilities as parents.

Are we doing things the best way possible?

We, as parents, need to let go of perfect. Perfect is unattainable. The pursuit of perfect leads to frustration and defeat. Instead of pursing perfection, we need to chose a good path for parenting that is best for our own family and let of trying to be the best and do the best. Let it go and instead just be present.

Are we comparing our kids and ourselves to others?

We live in a culture where it is extremely easy to compare ourselves to others. You only need a few minutes on social media to compare yourself and your life to hundreds if not thousands of others. The problem is that what is portrayed on social media is not the whole story. Our tendency to compare ourselves to others leads to discontentment. When you feed yourself messages of discontent on a regular basis, you will begin to feel like a defeated individual and parent, as you can never measure up when compared to others.

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If you feel like you or your children will never live up to the level of how others live, then you won’t. The real problem is that you are ignoring your individuality as a family. Each of you is unique, as is your family. Don’t compare yourself to others, because its like comparing apples and oranges.

Be a Confident Parent

The best way to overcome the greatest enemy in your life as a parent is to become a confident parent. Easier said than done of course. However, there are some things that you can do to become more confident in your parenting and the feedback in your head can become more positive and encouraging. Below are some ways that you can create more confidence in yourself regarding your parenting abilities.

1. Become your own encourager through positive self talk

To become more confident, you need to start shutting down that voice in your head that says that you are not good enough or you are doing enough for your child. For some moms, this is the “bad mom syndrome”. It is that voice in your own head that says you are a “bad mom”. It often comes from building a list of all your mommy failures so you feel an overwhelming source of guilt which leads to this “bad mom syndrome”.

Saying this to yourself will not make you a better mom. It will only make you feel like a failure and defeated. You are not defeated. Those discouraging messages are not helpful to you or your child. It is ok to have uncertainty from time to time. However, it is not ok to allow yourself to feel less than adequate for your child. If you truly feel inadequate get some professional help from a counselor. They can help empower you as a parent.

You need to make yourself aware of negative self talk and change the course of the message while it is happening. For example, you may scream and yell at your child for forgetting to turn in their homework. You then start beating yourself up about the yelling because you know you were wrong to react that way. Instead of internally beating yourself up, stop the negative self talk as soon as you know it has started. Look at it as an opportunity to recognize the triggers that led to the outburst, perhaps you had a bad day at work. Then tell yourself you will do better next time. You also take the time to think through how you need to approach your child and apologize for the yelling and then discuss calmly why they didn’t turn in their homework. This method of thinking of solutions and encouraging yourself that things can be worked through is growth as a parent. It is also a way of shutting down the negative self talk and replacing it with solutions and/or positive messages.

PsychCentral made a great point about self talk and the power we have in ourselves to change these thoughts:[1]

You can test, challenge and change your self-talk. You can change some of the negative aspects of your thinking by challenging the irrational parts and replacing them with more reasonable thoughts.

2. Reduce stress and fatigue in your own life

Parents are better parents when they are less stressed out. When we feel stressed out as parents, we sometimes take it out on the ones who are closest in proximity. If you are at home in the evening with your kids and you have a mile long to-do list along with lots of other external stress going on, it becomes difficult to be kind, calm, and loving to our children. Our children are precious and impressionable. They don’t deserve unkind words or treatment because we are feeling utterly and completely stressed out and overworked.

Research by Your Modern Family looked at what children want most from their parents. The results from their research showed that the number one thing kids want from their parents is for “their parents to be less stressed and less tired”.[2] This is quite telling. It shows that we need to dial back things in life that cause extreme stress and exhaustion. It may be difficult to do this for some, as it can require a major overhaul in your life structure and activities.

For other parents, it can be more simple solutions, as suggested in the Modern Family article including: getting on a schedule, having kids help with chores, getting things ready the night before, waking up before your kids, doing meal plans that work for your family, getting organized, planning ahead, and laughing. Start finding ways to reduce stress in your life and you will see that your children are less stressed and happier as well.

We are all better parents when we are less stressed out. Do what it takes to reduce your stress as it does in fact affect your child’s mental well-being. Kids are smart, intuitive, and sensitive to the emotions of their parents. Don’t go through life pretending not to be stressed. Take action today to reduce stress in your life. Sometimes the solution is saying no and reducing activities. Do it for the sake of your children. It is the one thing children want most- less stress, less tired parents.

3. Simply be present for your kids and let go of perfection

Allowing yourself and your children to be something other than the best can be empowering. It allows you to be present with your children and embrace them for their own uniqueness. It also allows you to accept your circumstances for what they are, which is likely not the best or perfect.

One of the best thing you can do for your kids is simply be there for them. Kids yearn for time with their parents. They may not always say it or express it, but they want their parents. It is difficult to create family memories if you don’t spend time together. Make the time to be with your children. It doesn’t need to be a special occasion or a Disney experience either. Just sitting together to have dinners as family and talking to your kids is what they need for positive memories to be made.

Knowing that their parents are there to talk with them and to listen to them, is a wonderful gift to your children. In our era of busy lives and trying so hard to be the best parents we often overlook the most important factor in parenting, which is simply being present in our child’s life. Sometimes we need to dial back the schedule so that we are spending time together. Taking them from one activity to the next is not quality time together. Allowing for time to be home and interacting with one another, without distractions, is quality time. Be present to allow for open conversations to occur.

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Pscyhology Today discussed the topic of being a parent who is present and gave some specific tips. One of the top tips they provided was to stop multitasking.[3] This article stated,

“The first thing to recognize is that, try as we might, we really can only do one thing at a time, so we ought to do that thing wholeheartedly”

When you want to be present with you children, then don’t text, do other tasks, or work on other projects. Devote your attention solely to you child.

When you allow yourself to be fully present with your child, it becomes easier to appreciate the small things in life. Your child will grow up fast, you hear it from other parents quite often how they grow up too fast. Take the time to appreciate the precious little things in life, such as watching your child become overjoyed because they won at a board game you were playing, or watching your child teach their new puppy how to sit, or watching your child successfully ride a bike for the first time. All of these small things in life end up being the big things in life. Be present with your child so that you can enjoy and appreciate the small things in life.

4. Don’t get pressured into taking bad advice

Everyone has an opinion these days. It doesn’t mean that you need to heed the advice of everyone. You have permission as a parent to disregard the advice of others, including from loved ones including your own parents. Their intentions are good. They want to help you and your child be successful and happy. The problem is that the methods your parents utilized 20 or 30 years ago may be outdated. They didn’t know better. Now we have research on virtually any parenting issue there is out there.

Do your own research, so you have peace of mind that your selected parenting methods are what is best for your child. It is also nice to have this research in your back pocket so when someone questions your methods you have research and data to prove your selected ways are best. It’s hard for someone to argue with science. They can try, but facts and data are truths at the end of the day.

5. Don’t compare yourself to others

Don’t allow yourself get sucked into the comparison game. A lot of this has to do with the self talk in your head. You have the ability to stop the self talk and change its course to something that is more positive. When you start comparing yourself or your children to others, stop and replace that self talk with thoughts about how you are all unique, special, and gifted in different ways than any other family.

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Along with comparing your children includes the topic of managing your expectations. If your child is an average student, then don’t expect them to get into the gifted program at school. Be realistic with your child’s abilities. When you have unrealistic expectations it puts pressure on both you and the child. This pressure is not needed in life, as it will only bring disappointment when the expectations are too high and can never be met. Keep it real, and allow yourself to see that your child may not be the best or the brightest. They are unique and special in their own way, but it doesn’t mean that they are going to be the very best at everything or anything at all. Let them know that its ok because they are loved for exactly who they are and special because of their uniqueness.

If you have friends who like to play the comparison game, then don’t hang out with them. They will not help bring you up as a parent. Their goal is to make comparisons so they can feel better about themselves, their life, and their abilities as a parent. Their goal in no way involves helping you feel better or lifting you up and encouraging you as a parent. Cut the negative thoughts out, especially if they are coming from another person. You are doing yourself and your child a disservice by spending your precious and limited time with someone who is using comparison to bring you down in order to bring themselves up. Life is too short, find someone who wants to be a true friend.

Parenting Is Hard Work, Take Time for Yourself

Parents need a break from time to time. Don’t forget about taking care of yourself while in the midst of your parenting experience. Take time to do things that you enjoyed doing before you had kids. Keep up with hobbies and things that you enjoy doing. Allowing time for your hobbies and taking care of yourself allows you to be more relaxed, less stressed out, and happier in the long run.

Of course, there is moderation for everything. I am not saying leave your family every night to work out at the gym for three hours. Your family takes priority over your hobbies. However, in order to be a well balanced and happy individual you need to schedule time each week for your hobby, whatever that may be. Which is exactly why my kids are at home with a sitter every Friday afternoon and I am sitting at Starbucks right now, sipping my favorite Chai Latte, listening to music on earbuds, and typing this article.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

5 Ways to Improve Your Parenting Skills (Psychology-Backed) 15 Ways to Practice Positive Self-Talk for Success How to Cope with Empty Nest Syndrome and Be Happy Again Is Authoritarian Parenting Good or Bad for Your Child? How to Raise a Boy Right (Backed by Psychology)

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Published on January 24, 2020

5 Ways to Improve Your Parenting Skills (Psychology-Backed)

5 Ways to Improve Your Parenting Skills (Psychology-Backed)

There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Parenting is hard. It takes a great deal of effort to be even a decent parent. My husband and I are raising our three children ages 6, 6, and 7.

Yes, I have my hands full. Twin six-year-old boys and a seven-year-old girl keep me on my parenting toes, so to speak. It is not easy, but I do my best to be a good parent. Having a PhD in psychology is helpful, but I still devour plenty of parenting books and research articles to continually try to do better. I am still a work in progress just like all parents.

    It would be great if we knew exactly what to do and how to do it with our kids. But not all kids are the same and they are not born with a manual that provides us with instructions on how to raise them right. However, we do have research on parenting and psychology that can help us out and point us in the right direction.

    Below I have five tips on how to improve your parenting skills starting today! These tips are backed by research. The first step toward being a great parent is knowing how. It is difficult to be a good parent without knowing first and foremost the how and why.

    1. Practice Loving without Conditions

    Loving unconditionally seems like a given that we all assume we are doing as a parent. However, we may have behaviors or words spoken that undermine our ability for our children to feel unconditionally loved.

    For example, asking our child if he wants another mom when he is acting out is not practicing unconditional love. The message that is being sent to the child is that if they act out or misbehave, they are at risk of losing you as a mother, since you ask “do you want another mom” or “do you want to live somewhere else?”

    If you have ever made these statements, it doesn’t mean you are a terrible parent. However, if we want our child to feel loved unconditionally, then we need to stop saying things that make the child feel like the relationship could ever be severed because of their behavior.

    Another way to look at these threats is comparing them to threatening divorce. If you have ever been married, or lived in a home with married parents, then you know that when one person threatens divorce, it cuts to the core.

    Threatening divorce damages the relationship, because trust is lost. The other person begins to feel that that their relationship may not be forever, and that the relationship can be ended because their spouse is threatening divorce. Even if the person threatening doesn’t really mean what they are saying and they truly love their spouse, the words are damaging none the less.

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    The same principles go for parent and child relationships. If a child has been threatened with loss of their current home life, the parent leaving them, or being placed in foster care, then that child does not feel loved unconditionally. They will believe that love from their parent is contingent on their behavior. It is conditional love which means that they are only loved under certain conditions.

    My son Charlie has recently gotten into the habit of saying “I love you Mom” every time that he gets in trouble. He kicked the dog the other day. Not hard, but nevertheless he kicked our family dog. I was fuming. I yelled at him and he was sent to his room for a long time out (I know the yelling was not a good thing to do). I couldn’t even think of a consequence in the heat of the moment so I said “go to your room, I don’t want to see you right now, I will think about your consequence later.”

    He cried, and as he was running up the stairs and he was saying “I love you Mommy, I love you Mommy, I love you Mommy.” Why was he saying that? Because in his six-year-old mind, he is worried that I will stop loving him if he has bad behavior.

    Kids don’t know that we love them unconditionally. They are learning though and we must teach them that we do. My response in this situation and always is to say “I love you too.” I then usually follow it up with “I don’t like your behavior right now, but I will always love you.”

    Kids need to be told that they are loved regardless of their behavior. It needs to be ingrained that they are loved even if they act out, break the rules, or misbehave.

    An article by Elite Daily examined several research studies on unconditional love.[1] The findings from these studies showed that children become more well-adjusted, emotionally healthy, and physically healthy adults when they experience unconditional love in childhood. When children are exposed to conditional love in their parent-child relationship, the research showed that, children have higher levels of anxiety which in turn negatively affects their long-range health, such as heart health.

    Loving unconditionally means loving without conditions. Unconditional love is loving someone just the way that they are, flaws and all. Tell your children that you love them, even when they break the rules, misbehave, or they tell you that they hate you (most kids say this to their parents at some point in time).

    You must always respond with “I love you regardless of your behavior.” It doesn’t mean that you are accepting or allowing the bad behavior. There should always be reasonable consequences to match the behavior. However, they shouldn’t ever be made to feel that the love of their parent can be revoked because of bad behaviors.

    2. Develop a Bond That Will Last a Lifetime by Creating Memories

    You need to spend time with your kids in order to create a bond. Quality time matters, but so does quantity time.

    Kids want to be with their parents. Spend time together as a family. For example, make it a point to have dinner at the kitchen or dining room table at least a few nights a week. Make a rule that no technology is allowed at the table during that time, so that you can talk and spend time together.

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    Before you know it, that child will be grown and out of your home. Take the time to spend meal times together, talking and truly getting to know your child before they leave your home as an adult.

    Barking Up the Wrong Tree looked at research on how to create happy memories that last a lifetime. Some of the things discovered in the research included:[2]

    • Memories are made when our senses and emotions are elevated.
    • If we are pulling out the camera phone, it is likely an elevated experience that you want to remember.
    • Celebrating milestones and praiseworthy moments (graduations, winning seasons, etc.) helps to create positive lasting memories.
    • Struggling together creates a bond. If you have worked through conflict in your relationship and made it better in the process then you have created a bond. Fraternities haze, soldier fight together, and families overcome struggles together. These all make for lasting bonds. When you struggle together as a family, celebrate the success at the end of your victory, once you have overcome the challenge together.

    Take the time to make memories with your children. They are only little once. Go on those vacations, hike to the top of a mountain together, sail across an ocean, go camping, or teach them to ice-skate.

    Do anything and everything that will help create memories, bonds, and experiences that will last a lifetime in their memory. Those memories are what will carry them into old age with happiness in their heart.

    3. Stop the Yelling

    Yelling at our kids is not good parenting. Yet it is still happening on regular basis in most homes. I admit, I am still continually working on this one. I think this quote summarizes the situation.

      However, I know I need to continually work to not yell or raise my voice, as I would prefer a household with zero voices ever raised.

      Yelling causes our children to become anxious. It also affects them emotionally and mentally in a negative manner. If you have ever been yelled at by a boss or superior, you probably remember it and it is not a fond memory. It made you feel bad. It is hard enough to be reprimanded in a calm voice.

      When someone, whether adult or child, is yelled at while being reprimanded it causes anxiety, stress, and negative emotions to abound. When the yelling involves name calling or insults it becomes emotional abuse.

      Heathline Parenthood examined research on the topic of yelling and found that parents who yell at their kids end up with children who are more aggressive verbally and physically.[3] Children learn from their parents’ example. If yelling is a regular occurrence in your household, then your child is learning that when dealing with behavior or situations that they don’t like, it is appropriate to yell. None of us want to teach that to our children, so we must take action to stop the yelling.

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      Healthline provides some tips on how to stop yelling:

      • Know what triggers the yelling. What are the behaviors occurring or situations where you find yourself yelling at your children?
      • When you feel that you are going to yell, give yourself a time out or count to ten.
      • Practice responding in a calm, even tone. Practice makes the action a habit.
      • If you do yell, then admit the mistake and apologize to your child. They will then learn that it is not an acceptable behavior and that they too should apologize if they make a mistake and end up yelling. (Yes, I apologized to Charlie for yelling and he had to apologize to our dog Max.)

      My article about yelling less at your kids less is also helpful: The Only Effective Way to Talk With Children When They Are Acting Out. This article outlines the steps to use the “one-ask” parenting approach. This approach is used to help parents follow up with consequences more quickly so that situations don’t escalate to worse behavior by the children and yelling from the parents. Some tips from this article on talking to your children without yelling include the following.

      • Get on their level, talking face to face in a calm voice.
      • Don’t make repeated threats about a consequence that is coming to them and wait for the situation to become more heated.
      • Follow through with the consequence (i.e. loss of playtime or time-out) immediately after they violate your warning. Don’t wait for them to repeat the bad behavior several more times. One warning is all that is needed. Then, if they break the rule or don’t obey, the consequence should be immediately implemented.

      If you find that your yelling is so entrenched in your daily behaviors that you have a hard time kicking the habit and you need more support, then buy, or find at your local library, the book Triggers by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake. Their tips were even featured on the Focus on the Family national radio program and were rated as a number one show for 2019. Their gentle parenting methods simply work.

      A quote from the book:

      “Peacemaking moms produce peacemaking kids.”

      Wendy and Amber also have a Facebook group that is free to join. It is Gentle Parenting with Amber and Wendy. In this group, you will find thousands of other parents looking for support to yell less in their homes. Check out the group if you want more connected support to stop yelling at your kids. I am a member of this group too. Nobody is perfect, but we can do better as parents by yelling less starting today.

      4. Provide Experiences Over Toys

      Toys are fun. But our kids don’t need an excess of overcomplicated, electronic, and expensive toys in order to be happy or develop in a healthy manner. Focusing on experiences over toys is a way to improve as a parent now.

      The next holiday or birthday that comes up, think about gifting your child an experience, for example, a year membership to the children’s museum or zoo. Another experience is a trip to someplace interesting such as a National Park. These experiences help to create memories. They also help to make your child a more well rounded individual as they are out in the world experiencing activities rather than sitting in their room playing the newest video game.

      Motherly posted a recent article that delved into the science that experiences are better for our kids than toys. Here is a quote from that article that is worth noting.[4]

      And if we need one more reason to cool it on the toy giving, researchers have discovered that gratitude and generosity increase when experiences are given instead of objects. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, conducted many studies over many decades and found that happiness is derived from experiences, not things. Bottom line: The happiness derived from a childhood experience is far more significant than the fleeting excitement of toys under the Christmas tree. Giving experiences that involve spending time together instead of gifting toys brings greater and longer-lasting joy. Don’t stress about the number of toys, mama. Focus on making memories.

      Creating family experiences and making memories go hand-in-hand. Our money and resources get more bang for their buck when they are used on experiences for the family instead of things. The research from the Motherly article shows that families are happier overall when they have more experiences together and less toys.

      5. Let Them Play and Be a Child

      Play and childhood development go hand-in-hand. However, the amount of playtime our children are getting has been diminishing in recent decades.

      We are so intent on our children learning, that we take away from their playtime. Play is learning. We need to get our children back to basic playtime so they can develop and learn in a natural way.

      Increase their playtime and limit the electronics. Research by Very Well Family found that too much technology is damaging to our children.[5] When children get too much time on electronic devices, their research found that children have sleep issues, obesity, behavior problems, academic problems, and emotional issues. Limit your children’s time on technology.

      According to We Can, we need to aim for less than two of screen time per day for our school aged children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends far less time for children under the age of five. We Can offers a free screen time chart so you can track your child’s time on digital devices.

      The goal is to get children playing and off the technology. Playing will help them developmentally. In my book Let Them Play, I explain the importance of play and provide 100 child developmental play activities. Some great play activities that promote development and learning that are listed in the book including Play Doh, magnet blocks, Legos, puppet shows, and hopscotch.

      Parents can teach their children different play activities while they actively play with their children. Fifteen or twenty minutes of playtime together can help to create bonding time between parent and child. Then the parent can allow their children to continue playing the activity on their own. This play time is crucial to the child’s healthy social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.

      They are only little once. Let them be a child when they are little. Two-year-old children aren’t meant to sit at desks for hours completing school work. They were made to play, explore, and be active physically. This is how they learn and develop best.

      Final Thoughts

      These are not the only ways to improve as a parent. However, these are five ways that you can begin improving as a parent starting today.

      Nobody is a perfect parent, which means we all have room for improvement. Look at your own parenting methods objectively and decide where you can improve. Then do something about it.

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      Featured photo credit: Jonathan Daniels via unsplash.com

      Reference

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