Tips for Less Stressful Parenting – By Laurette Lipman, MA, LLPC, NCC of Embracing Life Counseling, LLC and Oakland County Moms. Parenting can be stressful, but it doesn’t always have to be.
It is important to feel you have control of your household without overexerting yourself, or feeling like you are doing more work than anyone else in your home. Often I have found, that what is actually going on in our lives is less important than the level of control we feel that we have over the situation. Here are seven tips for less stressful parenting that have helped other families I have worked with, and hopefully will make things much easier for you too.
7 TIPS FOR LESS STRESSFUL PARENTING:
Tips for Less Stressful Parenting – 1. Avoid power struggles – Family problems often stem from everyone struggling for power within the household. Parents want to be in control of their children and the choices they make, while children want to be in control of their own choices. Children as young as two years old, are often trying to control the world around them by demanding what they want and when they want it. As children get older into their teenage years, they want to be as independent as possible and treated as adults. Both children and teenagers alike, try really hard to manipulate the little things they can; such as their grades, their friends, what they eat or how much, how they look, the clothes they wear, and how they do their hair. It is crucial to let children feel they have power over some things, so they won’t go out of their way to rebel, participate in dangerous activities or even harm themselves. As parents we have to first be able to recognize the things we can control and accept the things that we cannot control. As a parent, you can control the rules of the home and the consequences if those rules are broken. You can control the nice things that you do for your child such as; cook them foods they like, do their laundry, buy groceries they like, drive them to places they want to go and any other regular favors you do for your child. You can’t control if your child chooses to follow the rules or not. You can’t control how hard your child will work at school, at home or in life. Trying to force your child to do something will make them uncomfortable and is not going to improve their self confidence, however supporting their interests and strengths might! You may not understand, or even like some of your child’s interests, but ultimately your child is going to do what they are motivated to do. Do not put more effort in than your child is willing to give. In the end, you can only control your own actions and not theirs.
Tips for Less Stressful Parenting – 2. Give choices – Giving choices is one of many ways to allow your child to feel they have control when ultimately you have the final say. This can also be really helpful if you want another way to tell your child “no” while also teaching your child how to compromise and problem solve very early on. Come up with 2-3 different options that your child can choose from; this helps them feel like they’ve decided the outcome of a particular situation. Make sure you are fully committed to honoring whichever option your child picks!
Tips for Less Stressful Parenting – 3. Stay consistent but flexible – Sometimes it is so hard to be consistent but if you make rules you need to stick to them. If you don’t stick to the rules your child will notice right away and guess what? The rules will mean absolutely nothing. First as a parent, you will have to decide which rules are the most essential to you, but more importantly choose rules that are going to be easy to stick to. Then have your children sit down with you and decide what some of the rules of the home will be. Children are more likely to follow rules if they feel they have a part in creating them. You could even post the rules up in a place where everyone can see and be reminded of them. Be careful not to forget the rules and make sure everyone follows them, including you as the parent because if you are not following the rules, your children won’t either. Consistency is also crucial when following and enforcing rules outside the home as well. Parents make up rules every day, like when we go shopping we warn our children ahead of time we aren’t going to buy them any toys. We tell them that they have to finish their dinner before they get dessert, or that they cannot go out with their friends until they are done with their homework, etc. These are the things we say that are so easily and so often broken. These are the ways our inconsistency comes back to bite us, teaching our children to not listen to a word we say and we only have ourselves to blame! Don’t say it if you don’t mean it, and if you say it you better make sure you stick to it! That being said, some flexibility is important too.
Tips for Less Stressful Parenting – 4. Don’t be afraid to give explanations! – Giving explanations is another way to really help children learn and also prevent future stress for you as a parent. Your children may not like what you are saying, but it helps them to at least have some understanding behind what it is you are telling them to do (or not do). They deserve to know why and why not, and in some cases the understanding just may make them follow the rules a little more often. The days of “because I told you so” are over. We hated when our parents said it to us so why would we say it to our children? Nothing is learned or understood in that statement, and it makes children feel helpless and less in control. Sometimes when children feel this way they end up acting out in other ways that we don’t like. Parents want respect and the parents that say “because I told you so” are often hoping they will be respected and obeyed. Respect cannot be forced, it has to be taught and earned. The most successful way to teach respect is to be respectful yourself. Instead of saying, “you need to clean up this mess.” Try saying, “I have a really busy day and I would appreciate it if you helped me out by cleaning this up.”
Tips for Less Stressful Parenting – 5. It is okay to let your child make a mistake or even fail sometimes. – It is so hard to see bad things happen to our children. We don’t want to see them fail and we want to rescue them any time we see a problem coming their way. I have worked with parents who do their child’s homework and make sure every answer is correct or are constantly on them about studying for the upcoming test. I have worked with some parents who bail their child out when they get caught stealing or getting in trouble with the law. I understand completely about not wanting our children to get in serious trouble, but if we rescue them all of the time they will never learn from natural consequences or how to do things for themselves. I hear so many parents say “I don’t want him or her to learn the way I did” or “I want them to learn from my mistakes.” Well, they might just need to learn the same way you did! Some people have to learn the hard way or by experience. After all, that is how we learned, right?
Tips for Less Stressful Parenting – 6. Prioritize what is important. – Happiness, health, family, friends, success – the list goes on and on. What do you feel you already have? Are you okay with that, or could things be improved? We often get caught up on the little things that aren’t really important in the big picture. Your child may not like sports, or be good at math. Maybe your child moves at a slower pace or gets distracted from time to time. Maybe your child is really shy or sensitive. Sometimes these things are okay! Every child has their own unique little personality and we should embrace them for who they are without trying to completely change them. Find out what is important to you and to your family. Decide what you can let go of, if it isn’t perfect. No child is perfect just as no parent is perfect. We don’t want our children to be the same as us or the same as every other child. Above all of our discipline and rules, we want to make sure we show our children unconditional love. No matter what our child decides to like or how they behave, (even when they drive us crazy) we love them. The little things won’t matter as long as everyone is happy and healthy. So pick your battles, because there will probably be plenty enough of them in the future anyway.
Tips for Less Stressful Parenting – 7. Take care of yourself too! – Parents feel so guilty taking care of themselves. We feel that we are being selfish and that parenting is only about doing for our children. Yes, of course we have to do a lot for our children because they require a lot of nurturing, teaching and support. However, we can’t take care of them effectively if we can’t take care of ourselves! That is not selfish thinking. Parents need sleep, need exercise, need mental stimulation, need to be involved in social activities, need intimacy with their partners and need proper nutrition. Without these required things, we cannot function at our best.
ABOUT LAURETTE LIPMAN, MA, LLPC, NCC
Laurette Lipman, MA, LLPC, NCC has over 2 years experience as a mental health therapist, and as a graduate of Oakland University, she is currently under supervision of a fully licensed professional counselor.
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