We all make mistakes. It’s the human experience. We are never going to be perfect. The purpose of the topic overcoming parenting mistakes is not to make you feel bad about yourself. It is to empower us to overcome them every day. Every time that we make a mistake, it’s a learning experience. Just try to do better the next time because the universe is wonderful at giving us the chance to try again.
- STOP THINKING THAT SELF CARE IS SELFISH. It took me way too long to figure this one out so let me help you get there sooner. If you take care of yourself, you will be a better parent. Our kids want us to take care of ourselves. They are learning from us. We want them to learn to take care of themselves. I cannot pour from an empty cup. I am a cranky, not nice mom when I don’t take time for myself. Go for the run. Take a bath. Read the book. Go out with your friends. I promise it will make you a better parent.
- STOP THINKING THAT YOU NEED TO ENTERTAIN YOUR CHILDREN. They don’t need to be busy all the time. You don’t need to put them in a ton of activities. You don’t need to run them around all weekend. Children and adults need down time. They need time to decompress. They need time to be creative. You are not a bad parent if your child has down time. Where did we get this idea that we need to keep our children busy?
- STOP THINKING THAT YOUR CHILDREN AREN’T LISTENING TO YOU. They are taking in what you are telling them and what you are showing them. Especially what you are showing them. You may not see results right away. In time, you will see that they heard you. My kids will do or say something that I thought that they blew off that I said. They are listening. They may not respond right away. Let it sink in for them.
- STOP TELLING THEM AND START SHOWING THEM. We tell our kids a lot. If I tell my kids not to yell and then I turn around and yell, how does that make any sense? They are going to model us. If I tell them not to eat junk and then I am sitting there eating cookies then they aren’t going to listen to me. If I want to get results, I need to show them. Lillie sees her dad journaling, so she writes in her journal. Ella and Lillie see Seth and I reading so they read. Show them what you want.
- STOP PARENTING WHEN YOU ARE REACTIVE. Reactivity is a sign that you need to put yourself in time out. I realized how cranky and reactive I was being the other morning. I walked away from my family and started deep breathing. Your children and spouse do not listen to you when you are reactive. This is a sign for you to stop parenting until you can calm down. Calm down and think and then parent. Parent from a place of calm teaching as often as you can. If you take anything away from this, this is the one!
- STOP THINKING THAT YOUR CHILDREN COME FIRST. Your kids want you to be in a good place and they want your marriage to be in a good place. You and your marriage are a strong foundation for your children. It gives them a sense of security and teaches them what to look for in a relationship. Take care of yourself and give your marriage attention. Both make you become a better parent. Take care of yourself, then take care of your marriage and then the kids in that order.
- STOP BUYING THEM PRESENTS AND GIVE THEM MORE OF YOUR PRESENCE. Our children need our attention. They need one on one quality time with us. 15 minutes of quality time alone with us makes them feel loved and important. Create memories with your children. Read a book together. Play a game. Go for coffee. My girls love it when we take them to Starbucks. Ella and I will go get Boba tea together. It doesn’t take a long time and it makes her feel loved and special. Seth just took Max to play pool with him recently. Max just asked Seth when they could go again. Seth loves to play the guitar and chess with Ella. I love that. I remember time with my parents and vacations so much more than I remember the stuff that they bought me.
STOP NAGGING AND TALKING ABOUT PROBLEMS AND ISSUES CONSTANTLY WITH YOUR CHILDREN. I wish I could give her credit, but I don’t remember which therapist taught me this. She did a rendition of us walking through the house talking to our children saying, “Clean this up. Put this away. Did you do your homework? Did you brush your teeth? Don’t forget you have a dentist appointment today.” I wouldn’t want to talk to me either. I sound so annoying. Make an effort to talk to them about normal stuff. Not just issues, problems, cleaning and homework. Talk about what game they are playing. Talk about what book they are reading. Talk about the next family vacation. Find normal easy things to talk to your children about. I would avoid me too if all I brought up were problems and stuff they needed to get done. You want them to talk to you vs. avoid you.
- STOP FEELING GUILTY. Throw guilt out the window. When you are at work you are at work. When you are at home you are at home. When you can’t go on a child’s field trip because you have to work – it is ok. You are providing for your family. When you can’t go to a work meeting because your child has a band concert – it is ok. Focus on your job when you are at work. Do a good job and feel good about what you are doing for yourself and your family. When you come home it is okay to put the work away and focus on your spouse and kids. Be present wherever you are. It will decrease stress and it will decrease guilt. My husband says be wherever you are at that moment. If you are a stay-at-home mom, be happy with that decision that you and your partner made for you to stay home. It is a very important job. Seth says the research says that a stay-at-home mom should be paid $200,000 for all the work that they do. Find reasons to be happy with the decisions that you have made.
- STOP DOING EVERYTHING FOR YOUR CHILDREN. I am guilty of this one. I like to be a caretaker and do for my family. How will they learn if I do everything? It builds their confidence as they learn to do things by themselves. My son will tell me to get out of the kitchen because he wants to cook for himself. He’s building life skills. I can’t be at school with them to handle conflicts. They have to learn to handle things. I can role play and teach them conflict resolution and problem-solving skills. Then they need to go execute it without me.
- DON’T TAKE YOUR CHILDREN’S BEHAVIOR PERSONALLY. Detach your ego from your parenting. They don’t have to behave perfectly for you to be a good parent. Your response to your children is what makes you a good parent. Their behavior is not what makes you a good parent. Keep yourself in check. Don’t go on the rollercoaster with them. Realize that they are kids, and they are learning to deal with a lot of feelings that we as adults still struggle with. Lillie came home from school and was not being nice to me. I ended up in tears. It came up later that night that someone was mean to her at school, and she was taking it out on me. It usually isn’t about us.
- FOCUS ON TEACHING THEM LESSONS VS. BEING PUNITIVE. I am not good with punishments. I’m going to throw myself under the bus. I would rather parent my kids through conversations and having a good relationship with them, where they want to learn, and they want to do better. I’m much better at that than I am at punishing them. You have to figure out what works for your child.
However, the consequence needs to be teaching them something. The goal is not to be punitive. The goal is to teach them. A cell phone could be punitive, and a cell phone could teach them. You’re pissed at them, and you take their cell phone and say, “I’m so angry at you, you’ve lost your cell phone.” You haven’t taught them anything by doing that vs: “I told you that you only had a couple hours on your cell phone. You’ve been on your cell phone too long. You need to do your homework and you have other stuff to do. You’ve lost it for two hours because you’re not listening and because I need you to get your stuff done. I need you to focus. If you can manage your time with your cell phone than you won’t get it taken away next time.” You’re teaching them why you are giving them the consequence. You want to teach them and to connect to whatever the lesson is. I also think our goal is to help teach our kids to do things because they are motivated to and not because they are avoiding a consequence.
- STOP PARENTING ALONE. I’m guilty of this. I’m talking to myself too. I think that I have to do everything. I can’t do everything. I have to use my village. We need our tribe. We need other women. We need them to help us. My friend called me and says, “I’m going on a trip with my husband. I need you to take my daughter home from dance on Thursday and Friday.” I’m helping her and am part of her village. Use your village. We are not supposed to do it alone. We can’t do it alone. I have three kids. I can’t be in three places. My mother is currently on her way to pick up my son. I’m busy here with you. I asked for help. Don’t parent alone.
- DON’T UNDERESTIMATE YOUR CHILDREN. I do this all the time. I was saying, “She’s so young. She’s going to middle school. How is she going to do this?” If you knew the amount of stress that I created for myself because I was underestimating my daughter. Our kids will rise to the occasion. Give them credit. Help them to believe in themselves. They will do it. They are resilient. Lillie is so capable. I have learned this lesson so much this year. My lesson for this year is that my youngest child is capable of so much. My oldest is so capable that he sets the bar so high. It leads to me underestimating my youngest and I’m not going to do that anymore.
- PARENTING IS NOT ABOUT YOU. I’m going to give you a really good example. Our son played soccer for 12 years. He was an amazing goalie. Colleges were already trying to recruit him. We had put so much money and effort into this soccer career. 12 years, tons of money, tons of training all put into soccer. He was in a pre-Olympic program. My husband and I thought that he was going to get a scholarship and go to college with the soccer scholarship. Guess what happened. He told me (because he was probably afraid to tell his father who was even more invested in his soccer career than I was) that he didn’t think he wanted to play soccer anymore. That felt like such a gut punch. I said, “What do you mean, you don’t want to play soccer? I thought you were going to go to college on a soccer scholarship.” He responded with, “I’m just not enjoying it anymore. I really want to try football. Can you please let me try football. It’s what I really want to do.”
I need to parent him with what he needs and not with what I need. Did I want him to go get a college soccer scholarship? Yes, I did. It’s not about me. It’s about him. We all had our childhood. It’s their life. It’s their story. We made our story. I picked my career, I picked my husband, I chose to have children. I have built my life how I want my life to look. Now it’s their turn to build their lives. Let’s help to guide them and not tell them what to do. We want to find out what they want for themselves. We want them to get what they want out of life. Max’s story is that he gave up soccer, chose football, and absolutely loves football. I’m focusing on what he needs, and what he wants, and not what I want.
- ALL OUR KIDS NEED SOMETHING DIFFERENT. My three kids couldn’t be more different. We have to figure out what works best for each child. My son came along, and we figured out how to parent him. Then my daughter came, and she was so different. She needed such different things. Then my third child came, and she couldn’t be more different than the first two. I had to learn a whole new set of skills. We get to parent all of our kids differently.
Definitely don’t compare siblings to each other. They all have their own paths. Don’t compare them to their friends either. That is something that my daughter has yelled at me about. They have their own story and their own lessons. Let’s help our kids find their own paths, be their own people and help them be the best that they can be. One child will easily have patience and calmness and one child will be high strung and temperamental. They both need to learn different skills.
That is a lot of mistakes, but we can overcome all of them. We have the option to become a better parent every day and every moment. We’re one step away. I can make a choice at any point in the day to take a step in a different direction. I hope that you are inspired to be an even better you. I would so love to hear your greatest take away.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
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