Want to be a happy parent? Let go of these 15 things to find joy

Last updated: 08-09-2020

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Want to be a happy parent? Let go of these 15 things to find joy

Want to be a happy parent? Let go of these 15 things to find joy
Carol Tuttle
September 03, 2017
Because parenthood is challenging, we can sometimes forget how to just be happy in the midst of it all.
So I invite you to consider which of these 15 things keeps you from happy parenting. My advice?
Let them go. Allow yourself to be a happy parent for your child—and yourself.
Mama, it is time to let go of the following:
1. “Supposed to"
We were conditioned by our own early family experiences to believe that parenthood or childhood are supposed to look a certain way. But if you hold onto the way things are “supposed" to be, you may miss enjoying how they actually are.
Be willing to question what you prioritize as a parent and why.
2. Keeping score
What does your mental score-card keep track of—Which parent does more? Who's most consistent? Which mom contributes most in your child's class? Keeping score wastes energy. Just do what you feel inspired and able to do.
Don't feel obligated by others' contributions. Don't obligate them to live up to yours.
3. Force
As a parent you have a responsibility to set boundaries. But if a child consistently resists a certain boundary, don't just force them to comply. Ask yourself and your child, “Why?" Think of yourself as your child's trusted and effective guide, not their dictator.
When they experience you this way, they're more likely to listen, which means less struggle and frustration for both of you.
4. Yelling
If you're not a yeller, this one isn't for you. But if you tend to yell when upset, consider this question: Has yelling strengthened your relationship with your child? Yelling usually happens in anger and it often frightens and intimidates children. It destroys trust and a child's feeling of safety.
Pay attention to times and circumstances when you yell and then commit to changing those scenarios in the future.
5. Your need to look perfect
There is no such thing as a perfect parent . Embrace your imperfections. Laugh at yourself. The best parents are willing to always learn, change and improve.
6. Worry
Compulsive worrying doesn't make your child any safer. It doesn't make you any happier. And it teaches your children to live in fear.
Release your worries and cultivate gratitude for your child's safety in the present moment.
7. One-size-fits-all rules
Every child is unique. What works for one won't always work for another. Certain standard rules apply across the board (for example, everyone needs to speak respectfully). But consider the possibility that being a fair parent doesn't mean doing the exact same thing in the exact same way for every child.
8. The food fight
If you demand a certain number of bites from your children, you set yourself up for struggle at the table—and you set your children up for struggles with food later in life.
Guide, direct, encourage, and prepare healthy food . Let your child voice their preferences. Focus on healthy overall patterns, rather than forcing a certain regimen at a specific meal.
9. Your role as events coordinator
If you feel like parenthood is a treadmill you can't keep up with, you may be taking too much responsibility for your children's time. Make plans that are supportive to your children's development, but don't map out every minute for them.
Downtime is supportive to many children. Moments of boredom allow children to take responsibility for their own time. Make resources available and then let your children create the experience they want. You'll all be happier.
10. Unhealthy self-sacrifice
As a parent, you generously give love, time, and attention. But you shouldn't give up your core self just because you're a parent. When you ignore your basic needs, you teach your children that when they grow up, they shouldn't take care of themselves.
11. Guilt
Parents sometimes fall into the self-sacrifice trap because they feel unnecessary guilt. Guilt can be useful if you use it to recognize where you need to make changes. But overwhelming, paralyzing guilt that makes you feel worthless as a person or parent doesn't accomplish anything.
You are enough, just as you are.
12. One-sided decisions
As the parent, you often have the final say. But you and your child will both be happier if it's not the only say. When age-appropriate, involve your child in decisions that will affect them.
By showing children the decision-making process, you'll empower them to make their own good decisions in the future.
13. Negative messages
So many messages are repeated to children: you're too loud, you're too quiet, you ask too many questions, you're exhausting, you're demanding, you're too talkative, you should make more friends, quit moving, speak up, settle down, smile more. You can comment on the exact same behavior in a positive way.
For example, you can see the trait of, “You're too talkative," as “You really make friends easily."
14. Your own childhood story
What did you experience that you most want your children to avoid? Being teased at school? Lack of money? Feeling not-enough? Your fears may actually set up that same pattern to be re-created. Don't trap your children now in your fears of the past. Let them go. Create what you want, not what you don't want.
15. Giving up
I've heard from parents who worry that they've damaged their child, or that they've made a mistake that will last a lifetime. I've said this many times:
It's never too late to be a better parent.
Whether your children are 4 or 40, they respond to genuine love from their parents.
The effects of mistakes may take a little longer to overcome if your child is older, but it's never impossible to show up as the happy, supportive parent that you are meant to be.
Don't give up! You have everything you need to be a good parent.
Okay, deep breath. It's time to let go of whatever keeps you stuck and let the happiness in!
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August 05, 2020
As told to Liz Tenety.
Around the time my husband and I were turning 30, we had a genuine conversation about whether or not we wanted kids. I was the hesitant one because I was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's just hold on. Okay, let's talk about this. Because we love our life. We like traveling. Is this what we want?"
My husband said, "Let's ask our three most pessimistic, crabby friends who have kids whether or not it's worth it."
And every single one of them was like, "Oh, it's unmissable on planet earth."
So when I got pregnant, I was—and I'm not ashamed to say this and I don't think you should be—I was as connected with the baby in my belly as if it were a water bottle. I was like, I don't know you. I don't know what you are, but you can be some gas pain sometimes, but other than that, we're going to have to meet each other and suss this relationship out.
But all the cliches are true that you just know what to do when the baby comes out. Some of the times are hard, some of them are easier, but you just gotta use your gut.
I lived a really full life before I had kids. If we had had kids—my husband and I talk about this often—when we were 23, we would not be very good parents. Because I think timing really is everything.
We would be impatient and we would be thinking about the things we were missing, but we got very lucky to live incredibly full lives and live that out to a degree where we could decide, Okay, maybe we could make this change and live for something else for a bit.
The way we look at what our children have done to our lives is that they have sort of cracked wide open living for something else. As I held my baby in my arms the first couple months, my husband and I would look at each other and think, Oh this is why the human race continues to procreate. These feelings right here that you cannot articulate, but this is why.
What parenthood did for me was that it right-sized all my problems. I was on this hustling hamster wheel of staying relevant and going after my dreams, which is great, but there's a time in your life when you don't meet many grandmas who are hustling. Because there are different stages in your wisdom and your life and it's okay to let those stages happen.
That's what I've grown to learn is that the stages are okay. They all come and, you know, someone in their 20s can hustle. Right now I can be more stationary and be more stable for my kids.
I currently have not been shooting anything, which in my life means I'm not waking up at 5 am and going through hair and makeup and working 'til 10:00 PM. I'm waking up with my kids, driving them to school around 9 am, then I start work on my computer because I produce a couple of things and then I stop at 2:30 pm and I go pick them up.
So for me, that's a great lifestyle for the amount I want to be there for them. And I also admit that I have the privilege of being able to do that, but it's great for the stage they're at because they're 5 and 6, and they need a lot right now. Ninety percent of me is that really stable mom. And then I reserve about 10% for the hustle.
And it works.


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