Kids are under a lot of pressure to be perfect these days, and the same unrealistic standard applies for parents. Advice comes in many forms and from all sides: grandparents, teachers, friends, coaches, blogs, articles, podcasts, and the Internet. Moms and dads often feel overwhelmed, and at the end of most days, like failures. My best parenting tip for 2017: “Just don’t suck at it!”
The following are the top 8 ways to not blow it this year, and all that’s at stake is the ruination of your precious children.
- Don’t give in: Make agreements where everyone has say-so, but when push comes to shove, never give in. Kids have got to learn that you mean what you say, and to internalize accountability.
- Stop pressuring kids for straight A’s: You weren’t “working to your full potential” when you were a kid, so why do you insist that your kids should? Have your daughter create realistic expectations for her own schoolwork, and become a support, not a nag.
- Don’t overvalue externals: Don’t condition kids with the destructive mantra that defines the whole purpose of their childhood as getting good grades, attending a top tier college, attaining a great job, and earning a ton of money. People driven by externals like getting rich or famous end up miserable and unfulfilled.
- Set your own course: Stop trying to “keep up with the Jones’s kids”. Your job is not to give your kids a leg up or an edge on their peers. Decide what’s important and what you value and let that guide decisions, not what other people are doing.
- Bring back nursery rhymes: Turn off phones, TV’s, and pads during all meals, car rides, walks, outdoor and indoor play times. Instead, talk, share, debate, joke around, and sing nursery rhymes. These connections are the building blocks for reading skills, critical thinking, people skills, healthy friendships, and closeness.
- Do less and live slower: Let go of the cultural imperative that more and faster is better. Be more mindful, and be fully present in each moment and with each person you are with.
- Make parenting easier: Let go of the responsibility for your children’s boredom, success, and happiness. Don’t take their friendship problems, their performances, and their failures personally. Allow them to make their own mistakes in their own way and in their own time to receive maximum benefit from them. It’s their life, not yours.
- Let go early and often: My wife and I consciously let go of our three children all along the way: self-soothing at bedtime; solving conflicts with siblings; advocating for themselves at family meetings and then with teachers and coaches; turning over responsibility for their schoolwork, boredom, problem-solving, and motivation at an early age. Perhaps the best thing I did as a parent was to get out of their way and let go of knowing what’s best for them so that they could pick up the ball and run with it. Each child has their own unique path and destiny, and they need the freedom to discover it for themselves.
These suggestions are meant to take some of the load and pressure off of you. The truth is that most of us don’t really suck at our parenting job; sometimes it just feels that way. I’ll leave you with a quote from the eminent Pediatrician Dr. Spock:
“Relax parents, you’re probably doing a better job of parenting than you think you are.” Just don’t blow it!