Parenthood is hard. Period. It doesn’t matter what you do or which approach you take, being a parent is not easy.
You can read books about it, you can ask for advice, you can go through trial and error and, most likely, there will be moments when you feel like a complete failure and perhaps you will even blame yourself for something that is going on with your children. Sounds familiar?
I haven’t found the magic formula to be a parent (I am sure I would be rich and famous if I had!) but I have found things that have worked in my experience both as a daughter and as a mom as well as a life coach, and I want to share them with you. Granted, I got it very easy because Kori, my daughter, has always been an easy child… and because I only have one child! but even like that there have been moments when the following has been very helpful:
1 Don’t generalize and please, please, please never compare:
I hated when I was a child and my mom was fed up with one of us. I remember one time my brother was not listening and I asked what was going on. Her answer was something like “you and your brother never listen to what I say”. Granted, there were many times when I didn’t listen (still don’t), but that time I was not the one doing it so hearing “you and your brother” was not cool and created a bigger problem. It also created a little of resentment between siblings. Focus on one child and never generalize.
As in comparing, of course comparing your children with one another is not fair. But, what about when we compare them with someone else? I have heard many times “Sally, see how well Lily is behaving? How come you can’t behave like that?… well Because I am not Sally!!!! I know the intention behind this is good, but comparing is never fair and it creates resentment and tends to damage our kids self esteem.
2 Don’t make it about yourself:
This one I hear a lot and it goes like “When you behave like that you make mommy sad” or “you are embarrassing me”. If you have a sassy child (like I was) in the first case the child can think “well, that’s not my problem, that’s yours” and in the second one “well, too bad for you”. If you don’t have a sassy child then your kid most likely will feel guilty and will start behaving in certain ways to please other people and not because is the right way to behave. In this case it’s better to say “When you behave like that you look bad and probably they won’t let you come back because of your behavior” (or something like that). In the second one you can say “that behavior only embarrasses you and it’s not fair that being so great, you choose to behave like that and show your bad side”
3 Praise the positive
In my 26 years as a teacher I have found that “please walk slowly” or “I love when you walk on the hallway” get better results than when I say “Don’t run on the hallway!”. We all love to be praised. It’s human nature. So choose to praise all the good behavior you want to see in your child instead of pinpointing the bad behavior. Also, remember that a child IS ALWAYS GOOD. ALWAYS. Their behavior can be bad, but the child is good. So instead of saying “you are so bad!” say “I don’t understand why if you are such a good kid you decide to behave badly”. Believe me, the difference in your child will be huge.
And please remember the power of our words. A child will grow up trying to fulfill the expectations we have on them. So if we are always labeling someone as “This is John, he is the smart one, this is Peter, he is the trouble maker” (even if we are trying to be funny and the kids laugh at it) most likely John will grow up thinking he is smart and Peter will try really hard to prove he is a troublemaker
4 Invest quality time
Quality is better than quantity. We know this and yet the time we spend with our kids we spend it browsing on our phone, talking to others, thinking about what we need to do… If you are going to be 5 minutes or 5 hours with your kids, stay focused on them. They notice when you are not paying attention and, well, when they grow up they will do the same to you
5 Pick your battles
Some battles are better to let go. Kori loves fashion and in her effort to show her personality sometimes she pairs combinations that I don’t think go well. Why would I have a fight with her over that? It’s just clothes… choose which battles are worth fighting for. You don’t need to always be in control of everything you child does.
6 Ask questions with the intention to listen
Don’t wait for your child to tell you how was his/her day. Ask questions that will give you answers. I used to ask Kori “How was your day?” and the answer was “Good!”. That’s it. Now I ask, “What was the best part of your school day?” and her answers are more elaborated. Now, the tricky part is to listen to what she is saying and engaging in her story. Sometimes I find out I am hearing what she says but I am thinking about some other stuff or what I am going to say before she finishes. This is not active listening. Listen with the intention of hearing what they say and to hear what is left unsaid as well.
7 Take an interest on what they like
The best parenting advice I have ever gotten was this one. If you want to have a relationship with your child you have to take an interest in what they like instead of expecting them to be interested in what you do or what you like.
I love sports. I am an athlete. I don’t dress up or wear make up. I always want to do things that have to do with physical exertion. Kori, as sporty as she is (which I think she does in part because of what we do), is more into performing, fashion, make up and really girly stuff. I know this and I love her so I take interest in learning about her activities. I am learning about synchronized swimming, I am an expert in knoxing hair and apply show girl make up for her shows (every mother’s dream said no one but the Toddlers and Tiaras people!!) and I am happy to be there for her and to talk about the stuff she likes instead of about running with her. From time to time she asks about my running and I tell her briefly how it’s going, but I immediately change the focus to her. She is my daughter, not my friend.
8 Have zero expectations
Most problems and disappointments in life start when we have expectations. It’s unfair to have expectations on our kids because they have to find their own path. If we have expectations they will always feel like they have to make it up to us and fulfill them so we love them, or they will feel like a disappointment if they don’t.
We generally hide our expectations on our kids by saying “I just want what’s best for them”. Truth is, we don’t know what’s best for them. I would think running and being an athlete is what’s best for Kori since that’s what has worked for me. But that may not be the case. My mom kept telling me I had so much talent to be a business woman but I am very unhappy doing that. If I would have listened or follow the expectations my mom had on me I would probably have more money, a better fashion style and be more well known and respected in the business/politics community. And I would have marry a well known Mexican guy! But I wouldn’t have found Kevin, had Kori and I wouldn’t be as happy as I am. So, as good as our intentions are, we don’t always know what’s best for our children. We need to let them try and make their own mistakes. That’s how we all learn and how we all grow. Have zero expectations on your children other than for them to find their own path and be happy.
9 Living vicariously is a no no
I found myself at a synchro meet. Kori generally does well but in this one she was off. She didn’t win anything. She was clapping for all her teammates who did well and, in my mind, I was worrying about her not being fine. I asked “Are you okay?” and her answer was “of course! my friend won!”. I realized I was projecting my own way of being on my daughter. I was happy I caught myself before I said something else (thank you daily meditation!).
I see parents living through their kids. Trying for their kids to be the swimmer/actress/business persons they were not. I see this very often with athletes (since that’s whom I work with most of the time) and it’s sad. The poor kid doesn’t care that much about swimming but the parents really want him to be an olympian and are putting a lot of pressure on the child by taking him to practice, investing in private lessons, telling him what he needs to do, getting a nutritionist for the kid… and the kid is only 10!!!!
Please stop living through your kids. You had your chance at life (you still have!), now it’s their turn.
10 Remember your goal w them is for them to be happy
When in doubt, just remember all that matters is that your child is happy. If they are the best on their class, the gold medal winner, the most successful at what they do but they are unhappy, that’s not a way to live life. Seeing your child happy is what makes parenthood worth it, so on’t get in the way by trying to achieve this.
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