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How You Can Be a Better Parent

How You Can Be a Better Parent

“My parents suffered from that ideal of a perfect nuclear family. They found that a difficult pressure, I think.”

—Tim Burton

Most parents worry far too much about being perfect, and they always blame themselves when kids get into trouble or end up with emotional issues. The main reason is that family, school, peer, and media pressure is relentless. So, let us look at practical ways you can be a better parent without tearing your hair out or having a nervous breakdown. Here are 13 ways you can be a better parent.

1. Spend more time with your kids.

No, you don’t want to get away from them; you want to give them some more prime time. In the UK, parents have to work the longest hours in Europe and try to make up for it by buying their kids the latest electronic devices. Not a good idea! Here are ways you can spend more time with your kids:

  • Try to make meal times an event when you can be together. No devices. Just talk and listen to your kids.
  • Organize collecting kids with other friends and neighbours so you have more time for yourself.
  • Get your groceries delivered, organize cleaning the house better by assigning chores to the kids and giving rewards.

2. Stop worrying so much about the kids’ diet.

Healthy eating is a great idea! The only problem is that it takes time to get organized, and then you have to revolutionize everybody’s diet. This can be far too stressful and often expensive too. Just introduce a few healthier eating habits so that you do not have to do all that planning.

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Make sure that junk food is never bought in large quantities. Encourage kids to get into smoothies by asking them to invent them or help you make them. Use nuts, fruit and chocolate as snacks. Banning certain foods in one fell swoop is never a good idea. Just introduce healthy eating on a gradual basis.

3. Forget yelling—there are quieter ways.

When kids are yelled at, screamed at, insulted, and threatened, it has a negative impact on their development—this is bad parenting and is just another form of child abuse. It is shocking to realize that 1 in 8 children are abused at some point before they reach the age of eighteen. That is the US average, and it’s quite scary. One Princeton psychiatrist has noted that the maltreatment of children is swept under the carpet far too often.

There are plenty of methods you can adopt to avoid getting into a yelling match. Here are my favorites:

  • Use time out yourself and walk away.
  • Use a pause button technique and tell the kid you will talk about it later.
  • Know that you don’t have to attend every fight you are invited to.
  • Agree with the child when they protest that something is unfair or far too difficult. Displaying empathy is always a good idea.
  • Establish clear rules on unacceptable insults and name calling.

4. Are your kids doing too much?

Maybe your kids are overscheduled. They are dashing (and you are the taxi driver) from sports, piano lessons and choir practice. If this is the case, you may want to restrict a few of the activities.  You can cut out anything that interferes with eating together, for example. Then you can have the music teacher come to your home instead of you dashing around and polluting the atmosphere with petrol fumes.

5. What example are you setting?

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”

—Robert Fulghum

Time for some difficult questions. Are you likely to curse and swear at stupid drivers in front of your kids? Do you lie for convenience sake when you want to avoid an appointment? If we want our kids to be honest, to show respect for others, and to grow up as balanced, empathetic persons, then we have to make sure that the role we are setting is in line with what we preach.

6. Do fun things together.

Weekends should be dedicated to going out, doing sports and any form of physical exercise or anything which is fun. The great advantage of doing exercise is that you get the benefit of the released endorphins, which will put you in a great mood. In addition, kids are able to concentrate better after doing sports. This is great for getting homework done in record time.

7. Are you spoiling your kids?

Spoiling kids could mean simply that you are continuing to treat them like babies and you are being over-protective. One solution for not spoiling is to actually talk about behavior as they get older. Asking them about why they behave in a certain way can be an eye opener. Also explain that material possessions are far less important than being a caring, honest and tolerant person.

8. Don’t parent like your own parents.

Far too often, parents try to redress the wrongs they suffered during their own upbringing. If they were deprived of material possessions, they tend to lavish gifts on their offspring. At times, this can backfire and the child may see this as invasive and over the top. Other times, being showered with presents can make a child feel entitled to everything they want and is the worst possible lesson on how to approach work and relationships.

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9. Don’t worry too much about peer pressure.

Parents always think that peer pressure is likely to lead to negative behavior. But have you considered how it can also positively affect motivation and a healthy competitive edge in academic and sports achievements? It may not necessarily always be a bad thing.

10. Get social media into perspective.

Yes, it is extremely irritating to see kids and teens texting all the time and being glued to their devices. There are a few simple practical things you can do to limit this. Banning such activity is out of the question.

The best way is to set a good example. When you arrive home, make sure that your own mobile is turned off and that you can give kids your full attention. Also, make sure that during mealtimes, all devices are switched off.

The good news is that teens who text all the time are also likely to be just as socially active in the real world. Australian research on 100,000 teens who were texting all the time found that 80% were following this up with real social interaction.

11. There are no perfect kids either.

Too often, we set our sights too high and we want our children to be well behaved, do well academically, and be great at sports too.  In addition, they have to be polite, kind, and clean! We should lower our standards and be prepared for normal kids who are going to spill things and lose their tempers just like we do at times.

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12. How can you improve?

Ask your kids! That is what the guy who runs Single Dad Laughing website did. He asked the kids how parents could do better. Some fascinating and really funny answers here!  They want to watch TV shows in their underpants, would like apple slices cut straighter and also want him to stop asking questions as the answers will all be posted on his Facebook page!

13. Guide your children

There is far too much emphasis on consequences and punishment and toeing the line. The best way is to guide rather than punish. Parents can spot triggers and avoid situations that are likely to lead to trouble. It is also useful to empathize with kids when they are mad, but point out that verbal communication is what it is all about.

Last but not least, promise yourself that you can easily be a better parent and do not be discouraged by the so-called perfect parents you see at your kids’ school every day. Commit yourself by starting to make small changes every day. Achieving mini goals is what it is all about. When you do, pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that you are going to be a great parent.

Have you set some goals for yourself in the parenting adventure? Tell us about them in the comments below.

Featured photo credit: Happy Family/David Amsler via flickr.com

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More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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