There is no parent in the world that wakes up and says “I’m going to be a terrible parent today”. As a parent you are doing your very best, and sometimes it can seem like doing your best means that your parenting needs to be perfect and you need to have a perfect, happy kid.
Thank goodness that isn’t true! You are human and being human is messy. That means being a parent is messy and so is growing up.
So let’s look at three parenting traps that come up in day to day life, so we can move from trying to be perfect, to being beautifully human.
You want to do everything “right”
Doing things perfectly, with zero mistakes (even if that was possible), doesn’t ultimately serve your child.
What does serve them is you modeling how to navigate mistakes and showing them that you are human.
No child is perfect, and they won’t grow up to be perfect adults, and it’s important that they know that’s okay.
If you’re concerned about doing it perfectly all the time, they will be too. Seeing you handle mistakes and challenges will also reduce defensiveness, help rejecting and lying when they do make mistakes because they already have an attitude of: we can manage mistakes and challenges.
They need to develop skills to repair relationships, take accountability, and manage really challenging emotions, but if they don’t learn that from you, how will they learn it?
If they see you using positive coping skills when you mess up or face a challenging situation, they will internalize that and the focus will not be on the mistake but how you were able to overcome it..
If you allow yourself to be imperfect, you are equipping your kids with valuable life skills they will need as adults. Your child will still love you and be happy, even if you aren’t perfect.
You want your child to be happy
There is a difference between a child being happy in this moment (ah, the best moments are to see a child light up!!) and being happy in the long run. Kids can face disappointments and have unhappy moments and still have a happy childhood.
It’s natural to want to make your child happy, to give them things you didn’t have as a child, especially if you have the resources (time, money, emotional bandwidth) to do it. Parents love seeing their children smile, hearing them laugh and knowing that they have the things that they want.
But, of course, always giving your kids the material things they want or allowing them to do what they want to do when they want to do it, will not produce feelings of true happiness that will fulfill them and last over time.
“No one is happy all the time. Suffering and difficulty are part of the human condition. Some of the richness of life comes from experiencing the highs and the lows. “
(Sarah Rosensweet | Peaceful Parenting | Want to Make Your Kids Happy? Why It’s Okay Not to Try…| https://www.sarahrosensweet.com/make-kids-happy/)
A happy child is one that feels safe, knows how to handle challenges and solve problems, and knows they have unconditional support as they grow.
That requires a blend of having joy and fun in the day to day but also having someone to model the skills needed to be successful. As a parent you know the world and human life are not, as my mother would say, “thrill after thrill”.
You try to make it better when your child is struggling
It’s OK for your child to struggle. By rescuing the struggle all the time, you are sending a message that struggling is not okay or needs to be fixed.
There is value in struggle. Struggling can help your child learn to tolerate frustration, help them feel the push to problem solve independently, learn through natural consequences, regulate emotions, and, most importantly, learn that there is nothing wrong with struggle or difficult feelings.
Thinking that a struggle needs to be soothed immediately can lead to resistance around difficult experiences, not feeling confident to navigate life and developing strategies to avoid necessary life tasks.
“While it can be difficult to watch our kids struggle, they’ll never know the thrill of mastery unless we allow them to risk failure. Few skills are perfected on a first try. It’s through practice that children achieve mastery.” (Parents.com | 7 Secrets to Raising a Happy Child, Marguerite Lamb, April 22, 2008 | https://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/fear/raising-happy-children/)
One tool that I use with younger children is to say, “I’m here if you need support” when I see them struggling with something. This helps them know support is available and to teach them to ask for help after they have tried to make something work themselves.
It takes work to hold back helping them when I know I can help them so easily. But this will foreclose their learning process. Having an awareness of your impulses to fix and holding back on acting on them while they work through something is a crucial part of helping your kids learn.
Parenting can be a challenge and it’s second nature to want to do it perfectly by making your kids happy all the time and fixing all of their problems.
But the reality is, parents are not required to be perfect but they are charged with teaching life skills and providing a safe environment for their kids to grow up.
If you feel like you are falling into one of these 3 parent traps and you need help navigating parenthood, contact us. We are here to help!