Five Ways to be a Better Parent

BetterParentParenting is hard.  It is rewarding, exhausting, fun, heart-breaking…it the best and hardest thing you may ever do.

I often find myself in the thick of it – not necessarily enjoying a lot of what’s going on.  It’s easy to get caught up in the changing diapers, fielding tantrums, and sibling bickering.  When you feel like those are the only things you do, you forget to enjoy the discoveries and the joy of simple things like a first trip to the movies.  We’re all thrown into parenting without a handbook and we all have to learn our own lessons and our own philosophies as parents.  Here are five things I strive to do to enjoy parenting.

  1. Be present.  Set aside worry and rush while you are interacting with your kids.  If they ask for you to read to them while you are in the middle of laundry, let the laundry wait five minutes.  If your child is asking for your attention, they often need it.  They can take part in folding laundry when the book is read and you’ll be demonstrating to them that sometimes we need to put others needs above our own.
  2. Stop yelling.  Ah, yes.  This one, it’s hard for me.  I have a temper and I have to work hard at patience.  Sometimes yelling happens before I even realize I’ve done it.  When you start to feel yourself getting angry, just breath.  Picture your child as the innocent little baby who you brought home from the hospital and realize that whatever it is they have done, it’s probably not that bad.  Calmly explain what they did wrong and why they shouldn’t do it.  Yelling does nothing to improve a situation and much to agitate it.
  3. Don’t make empty threats.  I think most of us do it at one point or another.  “If you don’t stop that by the time I count to three I’m going to….”.  And how often do you follow through?  If you don’t, your child knows there is no real incentive to stop or change behavior.  It’s much the same as yelling as it doesn’t accomplish much.  I have toddlers and have seen demonstration and redirection go further than threats of taking away a toy, TV, or a special trip.  Children are young, sometimes they don’t even comprehend the idea of taking something in the future away.
  4. Teach by doing.  Our children emulate us from very, very early on.  They learn by watching us, not by listening and doing what we say.  Especially if what we say contradicts what we do.  Want your kids to eat healthy?  Eat healthy yourself.  Want them to be polite?  Share?  Kind?  DO IT YOURSELF.  Both of my children love to copy what my spouse and I do.  Sometimes I stand hidden in the doorway of their play room and just watch.  I’ve seen baby dolls being properly diapered and fed.  I’ve seen and overheard superheros sharing toys and asking each other if they need some help.  I’ve had five course play food meals prepared and served to me.  And I have many times witnessed one rough and tumble boy stop to hug his rough and tumble brother who got hurt.  I’ve seen “I’m sorry” unprompted.  And THAT is rewarding and encouraging that we are doing something right.
  5. Have fun.  By far, the most important thing about being a parent.  Have fun and enjoy your children.  Don’t stress out about the money or what you think you’re not doing well enough.  Anytime we enjoy what we do, we’re better at it.  Get down, dirty, and right smack in the middle of parenting.  Make mud pies, cover the living room floor in blocks, get more paint on you than the canvas.  Enjoy them. Have fun with them.  And all the rest just sort of falls into place.
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