Managing Yourself: That Vital Step Towards being a Better Parent
Parenting is a tough job. More so in today’s environment where children have so much exposure and are bombarded with messaging from just about every quarter. Add to this, the demands on your time on account of the multiple roles that you have to juggle and there are bound to be days when you look heavenwards for encouragement. Wondering where to begin? The fact is that the journey to becoming a more inspired parent has to begin with oneself. Here are some handy parenting tips:
The importance of self-care for parents cannot be overemphasized. It may sound like a bit of a cliché, but your own oxygen mask needs to be firmly in place before you can help your child. It may sound counterintuitive to take some time out for yourself when you are hard-pressed for time, but it is anything but that! In fact, if you are well-rested and devote some time to your hobbies and passion, you would take to your parenting role with a renewed zest. Now those are vibes your child will relish! On the other hand, it stands to reason, that if you are tired or stressed, you tend to be on the edge when it comes to interacting with children. Angry words or behavior that may not leave you feeling proud of yourself may, therefore, become the order of the day in your high-strung state.
It is imperative, therefore, that you make choices to simplify your life. Taking on a frenzy of activity in the bid to be a super parent, therefore is a strict no-no. What you need to learn, instead, are rhythms that work best for you and your family. Investing time and energy into your own life will mean that you will have enough in your cup to be able to give. Also with a self-care routine, you will present a healthy role model to the child, who will grow up realizing its value. Now that is a lifelong gift you are giving to the child!
There are enough and more advantages that you will witness yourself as you start to practice some self-care strategies for parents. In fact, self-care and parenting need to work absolutely hand-in-hand. Listen to music, go out for a walk, meditate….the options are endless. Another thing that works well is to maintain a gratitude journal. All you need to do, at the end of the day is to write down things that you are thankful for! Now, these need not be any big markers; simple things like a lovely sunny day may make the cut as well. The advantage of keeping a gratitude journal is that soon your mind will be trained to look at the positives. Research also shows that people who keep a gratitude journal, sleep well. Now that is a great perk for any parent!
Be in the moment
While you may rue the fact that you do not get to spend enough time with the child, introspect and you will see how the time that you have, is often spent worrying about gazillion things. Instead, use the time that you have to be completely focused on the child. Hug the child, laugh and listen to him. The connection thus established will transcend the lack of time and distance. Children, in fact, thrive on short bursts of undivided attention as opposed to large chunks of time where you may be multi-tasking. Therefore, keep the guilt at bay and enjoy your time together. As a mindful parent, you will take time to see, hear and understand the child, which will go a long way in building his or her self-esteem as well. If there is one positive parenting tip you want to follow, it has to be this one!
Manage your own emotions
If there is a single skill that can enhance positive parenting, it has to be self-awareness. It is imperative therefore that you tune in to your emotions, recognize your triggers and above everything accept yourself unconditionally. It is this unconditional love for your own self that will impact your reactions to situations and will, in turn, impact the child’s ability to handle and manage their emotions. Controlling anger as a parent is the biggest lesson in anger management that you can offer to the child.
In times where you do land up reacting unfavorably to situations, remember to apologize to the child as also talk to him or her about what you could have done to handle the situation better. Sure enough the child will internalize these aspects and will have a far easier time managing and dealing with his or her own emotions. No marks for guessing that the child will also learn the ever so important lesson of the importance of a genuine apology and that it is above any rank or station in life.
Above everything, remember that what the child sees has a far greater impact on him that what you tell him. Your responses, therefore, impact his ability to learn good coping skills. Come to think of it, most of our adult issues emanate from the fact that we aren’t able to regulate our emotions. We often land up reacting instead of responding to situations. Instead, if we take the time to calm down in the moment and make conscious choices, we are less likely to regret our decision later. The same goes for parenting. Besides, by role modeling mindfulness, you are teaching the child that while it is okay to feel what they do, their responses need to be measured. Now, this is a lesson that will stand them in good stead throughout life.
One aspect that adds to our stress as parents is time management. In fact, time is one thing that we always seem to not have enough of. Especially if you are raising toddlers, remember to add in some buffer time while planning any activity. If you think you could have the child fed in a half-hour before you leave, ideally keep 45 minutes. A seemingly simple parenting tip, it will go a long way in not just managing time but importantly also the emotions and frustration that come with running against time.
With grown-up children, you could also call for family meetings where you lay down the fact that having to do too much stuff yourself is adding to your stress. You would be amazed to see children come up with solutions and take up responsibility. Among the most useful time management tips for parents is also the art of delegation. Give children age-appropriate roles and responsibilities. It tends to work far better than repeatedly asking them to do something.
In parenting, as in life, it is important to choose your battles with care. The thumb rule clearly needs to be to focus on things that matter. You could, for example, have a meltdown over the fact that the child does not keep his or her room clean, while totally ignoring how compassionate the child is with his or her siblings.
The only thing that can make us a bad parent is to believe that we are one. Be mindful, therefore, of that self-talk that goes on inside your head. Resist from telling yourself that you are a bad mom when all you are having is a bad day. Above all, it is important to remember that kids will make mistakes. In fact, so will you, as parents. Instead of beating yourself up individually and as a family, remember to keep the embrace of love, which will help everyone thrive. Instead of holding yourself to too high a standard, it will be wise to embrace “good-enough” parenting. This simply means acknowledging the fact that despite your best efforts there could be moments of imperfection and that is fine. Accepting this fact will free you from the self-limiting beliefs that emanate from the need to be a perfectionist.
It is also common to get into a “doing” mode rather than a “ being mode”, as parenting responsibilities consume you. Remember that the answer to how to be a more positive parent simply lies in recognizing this difference and working towards it. The fallacy lies in believing that we need to “do” something, which will enable us to “get” something and that will, in turn, help us to “be” happy. You need to simply reverse this equation and “be” happy while everything else follows.