I really want to tell everyone that there is no magic pill for you. I want to tell you that hard work is the answer to everything. No matter what the situation, if you put in the effort, you will get results. I would like to explain.
Let’s start with weight. People think that they can buy magic pills to reduce their weight. The magic formula to weight loss is eating a healthy diet and exercising. I was eating six times a day and working out a lot when I was thin. I was putting in daily effort. I wasn’t taking a diet pill every day and expecting to lose a lot of weight. I was putting in the work. I was also watching the clock and eating every 2-3 hours to keep my metabolism going.
Everything is hard. We have to choose what hard we want. Being heavy and unhealthy is hard. It’s harder to walk. It’s harder to play with your kids. It leads to health issues that become hard. Being thin and fit is also hard. It takes a lot of discipline. Every day we choose which hard we want to do. We all need to choose wisely. Which brings me to my next topic.
In my discussions with families, I find that parents tend to be looking for a magic answer. They think that someone is going to tell them something mind blowing that is going to change or explain their situation. I can tell you the magic formula to parenting. It is called authoritative parenting. This involves a lot of love, attention and connection with your children. It also requires rules, clear expectations, consistency, routines, schedules and follow through. My favorite two words for parenting success are consistency and persistence.
I have often said that parenting is not for the weak. I think we are all superheros. Seth walked in the door today after a full day at work and then taking our son to soccer practice. It was almost 7:00 PM and I could feel the glazed over expression that I was showing him. I had put in such a full day. In fact, right before he walked through the door, our daughters were fighting over slime. The kids are all home for the summer. As excited as I am that it’s summertime, I forgot that it’s definitely harder for me. There are often times when I am too tired to parent. We don’t really get that choice. Unless you can hand off to the other parent. I will plead with Seth to take over and walk to the other room. It is 8:00 PM as I type this, and he knows that I am toast. He knows that I need to sit here and type and decompress. I also bet he knows that if the kids come in here asking for things that it is totally and completely his turn to parent. I know how hard it can be. I know how tired you are. I am walking your walk. Do the hand off. Use your supports. We can’t do it all day every day. I don’t think that is humanly possible.
If your child’s behavior is not what you want it to be. If they aren’t socializing. If they tanked their grades. If they are depressed, anxious, not listening, etc. It is hard. It is hard to deal with all these things. It is also hard to fix these issues. Choose your hard. I would rather choose to fix something and put in the effort to do so rather than living with the problem. What about you?
What does it look like to put in the hard work every day as a parent? First, our kids want to know what to expect. What are our expectations? What are our rules? Do they know? They don’t want it to change every day or every week. Kids thrive on consistent rules and consistent routines. They know the chores they have to do. They know that you will check to make sure their homework is done. They know that you will check online to make sure all their assignments are turned in. They know that summer has begun, and you expect them to get a job if they are old enough. They know that they need to go to bed at 9:00 PM every night. Everything is laid out and clear for them and you do the same things every day. I am not going to say that you never let them stay up late. There are always exceptions to things.
Every time you are too tired, and you give in, you are going backwards. Every time you give in or are inconsistent, they learn that they can push and play us and get what they want. I know you are tired. I know that you want to sit down and relax. So do I. I also know that when you put in consistent hard work it may be hard at first, but it gets easier.
I am going to use Lillie’s math homework as an example. Max and Ella do their homework every day and I don’t have to ask them. If I ask them, they say “Of course I did it.” If they haven’t done it yet, they say, “I am going to do it at X time.” I figured out that Lillie wasn’t doing her math homework consistently. If she was doing it, she wasn’t necessarily doing all of it. She kept saying it was done but I figured out that I need to check every day. I would tell Lillie to do her math homework and sometimes she would say no. One day it was so hard for her that she threw it on the ground. I know that math isn’t easy for her right now. She would fight with me and tell me she didn’t want to do it. She would tell me it’s too hard or she didn’t understand it. It was a daily struggle. I made it very clear that she had to do it every day but that we would all help her. The whole family chipped in a lot to help with her daily math homework. It was a daily chore. I didn’t say, “You don’t have to do it today,” because I didn’t feel like it even if I wanted to.
Lillie got in the routine that she knew every day she had to complete her homework. She figured out that my answer would be no to everything else until it was done. It wasn’t easy. In fact, at first it was completely exhausting. Then it got easier. It usually gets easier. Some kids will need you to help and check their homework every single day. Some kids will get the hang of doing it on their own. Some kids will never need you to help them. They will do it on their own without you even asking them. Every child is so different, and every child has different strengths and challenges. As their parents we help them through their challenges. I think of us as their guardian angels to take them through life. We were given our children. They were handed to us to help them find their way.
I couldn’t help Lillie every day with her homework. I don’t like how they teach math now. I also don’t remember how to do a lot of it. Thankfully Seth does math every day at work and my son Max is a math whiz. Ella doesn’t think she is good at math, but she works hard and gets really great grades. She was able to help too. I couldn’t have done it myself. I needed help. There is no magic answer. The answer is daily consistent work. The answer is bringing in your supports to help you.
I want to be a safe place for my children. I know that they aren’t always going to be resourceful. I know they may be sad, or angry, or have tricky emotions that they don’t know how to deal with. I want to stay steady for them and be there for them to help guide them through their struggle. This can be really challenging. If we focus every day on our own state, on staying calm and rational and keeping ourselves in check, it gets easier. If we work every day on skipping the cookies that we want to eat, that also becomes a good habit. My magic answer to you is to put in the work.
There is no magic pill for your marriage either. If you ignore your marriage, you will find that there is nothing left. Any relationship takes work. Give your marriage your time and attention every single day. Have a conversation. Send a text message. Make a phone call. Check in with your spouse through out the day. Go on a date. Have hobbies together. Watch a movie together. Hold hands. Touch your partner. The more effort you put in every day the better your marriage will be. The magic answer to a happily ever after is to make an effort. Your kids want you to have a good marriage. This means leaving your kids with a babysitter and going out. This means putting the kids to bed and sitting down together to talk and watch tv. Talk to each other. Ask each other what is going well and what isn’t going well. Ask your spouse how their marriage is going. I laugh when Seth says, “How is your marriage.” He will say that his marriage is awesome, but he wants to check in and see how I’m feeling. There is his marriage and her marriage, and they don’t always match. She may think there are a lot of problems, and he may think everything is gong great. This brings us to communication. Clear and calm communication in every relationship will improve it. My mother has always taught me that it’s not what we say but how we say it. “Honey, I would love it if you would randomly show up with flowers every so often. That would make me feel so loved.” Instead of saying something like, “You never buy me flowers.” That doesn’t make someone want to do anything for you.
What is the bottom line? I don’t have a magic answer or magic pill for you. I do have magic words for you. Consistency, persistence, rules, routines, schedules, love, connection, effort, time, attention and follow through are some magic words for you. Put in the daily effort and watch your results. It may be hard, but I know you can do it. I also know that you have to choose what kind of hard you want every day. I suggest choosing the hard work of putting in the effort and being happy with your results.
I hope your summer has started off well.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
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