Children are a true joy, and any parent knows that they are the light of their lives. That said, parenting has its fair share of ups and downs, and even the most dedicated parents can burn out now and then.
How can you make parenting better for everyone involved?
Here Is How Therapists Explain 10 Ways To Make Parenting More Joyful
1. Don’t Try To Make Your Kids Mini-Yous
It’s cute to think of your kids as tinier versions of you. But that’s far from the case. Your children are unique individuals – they have their own dreams, personalities, likes, and dislikes.
But even when you don’t think you’re trying to raise someone who is basically a mini-you, you still may be doing so inadvertently. You may be using things that worked with you on them and expecting it to work just as well.
According to Access Counseling Group clinical director Irene Little, although your children may seem like they share many similarities to you, they don’t necessarily think in the same way or have the same reactions to things.
Basically, while they may pick up on many of the mannerisms you have, you shouldn’t automatically assume that the things that worked for you as a child will work for them. These things may include:
- Methods of rule enforcement
- Ways to calm them down
- Methods of reward, motivation, or praise
2. Understand That Kids Don’t Share Your Rationality
It’s not that children intentionally want to be irrational – it’s just that it’s all they can be. Sure, kids can be smart, but at a very young age, their capacity for reasoning isn’t quite the same as an adult’s.
Teenagers, too, can lack your methods of thinking, says Warrior Brain mental health therapist Carla Buck. Their brains are continuing to develop and may not be done growing until they turn 25.
By stressing out over the more emotional reactions of your kids and trying to change them, you are actively getting angry at them for now doing something that is just difficult for them to do. Calmly teaching alternative processing methods is preferable, and don’t expect them to pick up on them right away.
3. Be Consistent
Consistency is the key to ensuring that your child learns lessons and follows rules. A lack of consistency can cause confusion, preventing a child from considering any positive lessons serious and permanent.
Hypocrisy is one of the many issues that psychologist Caroline Fleck notices in the parents she works with. This is a bit of a harsh term, but it’s an accurate one. You may unintentionally be hypocritical by:
- Preventing your child from taking devices to the dinner table, but checking your own phone during meals
- Saying they must always reply to you when you speak to them, but not replying to them every time they speak to you
- Enforcing rules against junk food or snacking between meals, but still eating junk food whenever you want
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to never be a hypocrite, ever. But you need to be aware of the possible hypocrisy you are showing your child and how they may be reacting to it. Your child is going to model their behavior after you, so if you do something bad, they won’t understand why they can’t do it.
You should also work to make sure that you never allow bad or difficult behavior, says licensed psychologist Catherine Jackson. When you allow permissive parenting or turn the other cheek with certain types of bad behavior, you’re teaching your child that they can get away with them.
4. Take The Time To Apologize
Many parents feel that they are entitled to making mistakes without consequence. Of course, no parent is perfect, but your authority over your child doesn’t give you the right to make errors and insist that those errors are ignored.
Fleck states that parents should be able to model good post-mistake behavior. Instead of making excuses or demanding that your mistakes be overlooked, you should apologize, teaching your children how to take responsibility in the process. You should also work to repair the damage done to teach your kids accountability.
You’re going to make mistakes when you parent, and you’re never going to be perfect. It doesn’t make you a bad person; it just makes you human.
5. Don’t Neglect Self-Care
Parents often fall into the negative habit of caring for their children only and totally neglecting their own needs. While it’s respectable that parents can be so selfless in putting the needs of their kids first, this isn’t a permanently sustainable option. At some point, you will need a short break from the selflessness.
A lack of self-care, or essentially a lack of considering your own needs too, can lead to an increased risk of depression. Parental depression is associated with poorer relationships between parents and children, less positive parenting methods, and even a slow buildup of resentment.
Marriage and family therapist Vicki Botnick states that downtime is necessary for parenting. If you repeatedly show your children how stressed out you are and how your whole life involves constant business, they are likely to learn these unhealthy patterns from you. So, every once in a while:
- Schedule a self-care day; leave your kids with a babysitter and be by yourself for a day!
- Allow exceptions to rules on certain days, framing them as rare and special occasions
- For older kids, you can talk to them about you taking a rest for the day and encourage them to be responsible
6. Show Your Kids Your Hobbies
This goes along a similar vein to having self-care days, but with your kids involved! How sick and tired are you of the same children’s movies and TV shows? Are you bored of only doing children’s activities day in and day out?
Botnick recommends introducing your children to your own kid-friendly hobbies. That way, you can do things that you as an adult enjoy without neglecting your children or sacrificing time you spend with them. For example, you can supervise your kids while showing them the things you love doing, such as:
- Baking, by involving them in the preparation process
- Ice Skating, by getting them the right gear and bringing them to a rink
- Painting, by encouraging them to paint with you
- Biking, by getting them a child-friendly bicycle to use alongside you
There are many more examples of hobbies your kids can get involved in. Even if they don’t end up adopting the hobby themselves as they grow up, your passion for what you love is likely to encourage them to join you for now!
7. Don’t Be Ruled By Your Baggage
Your personal experiences, unconscious motivations, and background in life can often be responsible for how you raise your own children. You may know that your kids have their own emotions, dreams, thoughts, and personalities but still forget not to impose your own on them.
According to psychologist Shuli Sandler, many parents often don’t consider the effects of their own lived experiences on their parenting methods. They may be heavily influenced by their desires, struggles, and own upbringing.
Leftover emotional baggage can also cause parents to feel like their children’s failures or bad behavior are a reflection of them, even though this is not true. This can make them react in a very extreme way to the many ways a child will make mistakes over the years. Your kids will be kids, and they will do things they shouldn’t sometimes – but that doesn’t make you a bad parent.
8. Don’t Use Fear Or Intimidation
If you want your children to learn to hide things from you, lie convincingly, and be too afraid to come to you in emergencies or during serious situations, then intimidate them. But if you want a healthy, trusting relationship with your child, you should throw fear tactics out the window, says licensed mental health counselor Marisa Hendrickson.
A child who is afraid of you doesn’t trust you. They live in fear of you and will likely not be able to speak to you about anything serious, increasing their chances of getting into trouble or bad situations due to a lack of education.
In addition to that, multiple studies over the years have shown that hitting or using severe punishments on children doesn’t help to change or improve behavior. Children and students learn better from positive reinforcement than any kind of negativity, and that’s a scientific fact.
This doesn’t mean you should never scold your children. It just means that using fear to get them to obey you isn’t the best parenting strategy, and it will impact their positive thinking.
9. Don’t Put All Your Focus On School
Yes, studies are important, and academic progress will help your child’s future. But children actually learn more from the act of play than they do from sitting down in one place. Play is also crucial for positive development in kids, and neglecting playtimes to make your child read another revision textbook may do more harm than good.
Your child likely already spends many hours working in school every day, sitting down and learning in a way that is likely monotonous and static, and then they have to do homework at home. Making them do even more work can fill their entire day with what they consider boring.
In addition, a lot of achievements in life have little to no relation to school grades. If your child is doing their best and not flunking out, they can still advance through school years. Fleck recommends maintaining reasonable expectations from your children so that they have a good balance of work and play.
10. Don’t Lie About Promised Rewards
If you promise your child a reward for something, make sure you follow through. Changing your mind about, forgetting about, or dismissing requests for a reward you’ve said you’ll give your child will only make any future reward promises ineffective.
On top of that, this is a surefire way to confuse your child or make them ignore more of what you say because according to New Hope Parenting Solutions therapist Heather Ackley, it’s another form of inconsistency. Consequences, promises, and rewards should always be followed.
Final Thoughts on Making Parenting a More Joyful Experience
A lot of positive thinking, dedication, and unconditional love is needed for effective parenting. But there’s a balance to be struck between authority and kindness, and finding that balance is the key to making parenting more joyful.