There are these days when I tell to myself : you’re doing a great job, Joanna, there is no way you could possibly be a better parent ! It’s usually when I’m drop dead tired and impressed by my resilience. In moments like that, simply feeding them and keeping them safe seems like a great parenting skill to me 😉 .
But most if the times I feel like I could do better. I could be a better parent.
And I ask myself, did I have to get impatient? Why didn’t I play more and is a clean kitchen really important?
But as I try to improve, I see that what makes me a better parent to my kids, is trying to be more present, patient and positive. And since I’ve ditched my hopes for a clean and tidy house, my parenting skills went way up!
So here are my 10 ways to be a better parent. It’s a work in progress, but I’m trying my best. Isn’t that what counts the most?
1. Count to 10 and breathe.
Kids push our buttons. A lot. Ok, one of my children particularly pushes my buttons. But it doesn’t do any good if I get irritated or angry. Actually it usually just aggravates the situation. So practicing my patience is my number one mantra.
2. Read at least 1 book a day.
Back in the days when I had only one child, we used to read books every single day. Now, in between cleaning, baby, tantrums, baby, cooking, baby and cleaning again, it seems like we have no more time for books every day! But I came to realization that reading calms my daughter, helps her concentrate and gives her an opportunity to cuddle. So I’ll just leave that sink dirty, and read to her every day, like we used to.
3. Let it go. Nothing is perfect.
My house doesn’t need to be perfect. Actually there is always a room that looks like a total mess. And I’m fine with that. I’ve read somewhere (on Pinterest I suppose 😉 ) that you can either have a clean house either happy kids. Difficult choice, but after some reflection I opted for happy kids ;).
4. Don’t threaten. Talk consequences.
Oh, the joy of parenting. How many times did you say today : if you don’t stop you’ll ..? Recently I noticed that I’ve been using it way to often. With very poor results. So I try to explain consequences. If you won’t wash your hands, your toys will be all sticky with food, and ants will come to play with them ( I’m not exaggerating here, we did have ants at home this summer, and she didn’t like it at all).
5. Say I love you, and cuddle. Every day.
When my daughter was a baby I would cuddle her all the time. Now, she’s always in movement, and she doesn’t want to stay still. But she still needs cuddles. I think it’s like battery charging for humans. So I take advantage of her being tired and then we cuddle!
6. Set clear rules, and be consistent.
We actually drew our most problematic rules down. And now, when she’s playing with water at the table (read spilling it all over) I just ask her what are the house rules. Most of the time it prevents a disagreement between us (AKA a tantrum).
7. Say: “I’m proud of you because…”
It’s called reinforcing positive behaviour, and it works! So when she’s quiet and calm while I put down the baby to sleep, I tell her how proud of her it makes me feel, to see that she is big, and understands that babies need peace to fall asleep. You should see her smile after that!
8. Pick your battles.
This one is totally new to me. When your kid is a baby you decide. But as soon as they start walking and talking they want to be in control. So I try to give her some control. I won’t even give her choices, because then the answer used to be: no and no. Now I ask her more open question: which shoes you’ll be putting on? And I let her wear whatever she chooses out of the possible options (that are laying in the entry way).
9. Take time out.
Not kid time out, but adult time out. If it means closing yourself in the bathroom for 10 minutes, with your smartphone then be it. I know I need my 10 calm minutes with coffee twice a day. After that I’m ready for life.
10. Don’t take kids seriously. Don’t take anything seriously!
Just laugh at those fake tears, smile when they make a huge mess with Cheerios and remember that it will all pass. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.
So, what do you think about my ways to be a better parent? Would they work with you?
And if you’d like to learn some more about communicating better with your kids check out these great books : How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk and Parenting from the Inside Out 10th Anniversary edition: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive.