I’m not the first, and won’t be the last, to say this, but I think any of us who have gone through the extremely rewarding process of growing our children into happy adults can be very, very difficult. Whether you’re going through it with a partner or you’re raising your children on your own, parenting is a taxing occupation that reaps the greatest rewards.
But despite the challenges you might face—stressful days, nanny’s who cancel at the wrong times, tantrums, you name it—there are some ways to turn a difficult parenting day into a happy one. Here are some tips I’ve found that work:
Make time to connect with your child. Often, when our children are acting out, they are doing so to attract your attention. An easy way to avoid this is to give them enough attention in the first place. Wake yourself and them up a little earlier to have a sit-down breakfast together. Eat around a table at night instead of in front of a TV. Keep up a conversation with them during carpool. The more your child feels content with your attention on them, the less they’ll feel the need to stress you out by acting out for it.
Stop yourself from yelling. Yes, there are times when it feels like the only way to get through to your children. Yes, you have days when you’re just really frustrated and stressed. No, yelling will not solve the problem. By finding other ways to communicate your disapproval with your child, you’ll not only have a calmer environment in your home, but you’ll also teach your children more appropriate ways to handle their emotions with others.
Prioritize your commitments. You are not Super-Parent. Nobody is Super-Parent. While you might want to volunteer in your child’s class, bake cupcakes for the bake sale, be the carpool every day, and coach their sports team, you can only do so much. It is important to spend time with your children, not to smother them with your presence. It is important to spend time with your children, not to the extent of burning yourself out.
Take care of yourself—without the guilt. Sometimes you need to go for that massage, go out to dinner, see your friends, or go on that date night. It does not make you a bad or neglectful parent to need some time to invest in and rejuvenate yourself. In fact, it’s going to make you a better parent to your children overall. When you’re not stressed out and you’re taken care of, you’ll be in a better position to take care of them.
What do you do when stress gets the best of you? Do you have any tips to add for not letting stress affect the happiness of your children? Let me know in the comments!
Recently I came across a TED Talk entitled, “Do Schools Kill Creativity” by Ken Robinson, and was immediately struck by the importance of his message. If you haven’t had a chance to see this talk yet—though it is the most viewed TED talk on at nearly 40 million views—here it is:
I have been an advocate for children’s creativity since starting this blog. After I discovered how important it was to my son’s education that he be able to read and imagine stories, it became clear to me that creativity is something that, as Robinson points out, “is as important in education as literacy.”
What I enjoyed most about this TED talk is his claim that all education systems across the world value certain components of education more than others: sciences and math first, humanities second, and arts third. Children are told to give up the things they love when they aren’t “practical” enough, or if their passions won’t land them a job. But with so many people educated in those highly employable skills, the demand for workers decreases, and people find that they’ve given up their creative sides and passions only to be left unemployed and dissatisfied.
I think the point of this talk wasn’t to shame schools, it was to show that some children and some people excel in areas outside of what schools encourage. Children who are highly intelligent individuals are told they are mediocre students, and won’t carry out the creative, brilliant things they are capable of after being given up on in the academic atmosphere they grew up in.
My only critique of this talk—though I realize these speakers are limited in time—is that he didn’t address what was to be done about this problem. Yes, creativity needs to be encouraged. Yes, schools only push one form of academia. But how do we fix this? With budget constrictions, and altogether limited resources, how do we allow students to learn everything? To explore their creativity, but still take those science and math courses? Should there be more charter schools aimed at students with “alternative” talents?
I don’t have the answers. But I am certainly glad the question has been raised, and that people are paying attention. Creativity shaped the course of my life as an author and a father, and I think our world would benefit in many ways from encouraging more of it, so that people don’t “grow out of creativity” as Robinson put it, but rather continue to grow in their creativity for their entire lives.
What is your stance on this TED talk? Do you think schools are to blame for not encouraging the arts and humanities? Let me know in the comments!
Last week, I wrote about how necessary forming rituals as a writer can be in order to produce the best work you can as regularly as you can. But then, after I wrote that post, I started thinking about that same principle in terms of parenting. Could forming rituals in your parenting life lead to a more organized, productive form of parenting?
I believe the answer to that question is a firm, “Yes.” Here’s why:
Children depend on routine. There are many studies out there that prove children are more likely to succeed in homes where a routine has been established for them, including this one published by the Washington Post. Wake up at this set time. Eat lunch at this set time. Read with Dad at this set time. Bed at this set time. All of these seemingly insignificant routines provide a child with a sort of security blanket, and lead to fewer fights and tantrums.
Parenting rituals keep you, as a parent, more organized. When you know what times need to be devoted to your child’s needs, and you have them on a set schedule, you can work your schedule around them. This leads to fewer time conflicts, fewer instances of work not getting done on time, and hopefully no instances of forgetting your time for carpool (yes, that has happened to me before).
Rituals in your parenting routines establish a tone for your home. Let’s say that one of your rituals is saying a prayer with your children before dinner—once you do it enough, a quiet, peaceful, and thankful mood will be established in those minutes together. Maybe one of your rituals is having a dance party in the evening, an hour or two before bedtime. This creates a fun, vibrant, energetic tone to your home in the hours you want, and will hopefully lead to a tired, quiet tone again just in time for bed. And hopefully, through all of the routines and rituals you set as a parent, the tone you set for your home will be one of love.
If you haven’t already, see what happens to your home when you start building and incorporating firm rituals into your children’s lives. Hopefully a happy and more manageable future awaits you!
The other day while I was searching through some YouTube videos, I came across this one called, “Kids Perspectives on Dads” as part of The Fatherhood Project. Take a look at it below:
Aside from being a very sweet Father’s Day gift to us fathers across the Internet, I thought this was a great video to remind us just how much our kids notice what we do, and especially what we do with them. The kids in this video talk about playing sports with their dads, watching TV with them, and just spending time together in general; the one thing I sadly found missing was any child talking about their dad reading with them.
If your child notices you watching football games or your favorite TV show, they’re going to want to join in. The same goes for reading—if your child notices you reading a book each night, they’ll want to do it too. You are your child’s biggest inspiration. You are the example in your home. I think we, as parents, need to keep this in mind with every decision we make.
Creating a new generation of kids who love reading starts with us. Introduce your child to the many worlds they can experience through reading, and enrich their lives with literature. Then, maybe, if this Youtube channel makes a video like this again we can say we did it, our children love it when we read with them. They’ll only be better off for it.
What kind of things do you and your child do together? Is reading with them important to you? Let me know in the comments below!