I’m probably asked daily about my top parenting tips. They vary depending on the day but, in summary, they are: do no harm, love unconditionally, and talk less, listen more.
These are all really good tips that will help you have nicer interactions and healthier relationships with your children, but they are NOT the single most important aspect of parenthood. If you want to learn how to be a better parent, the most important piece of advice is this: Parents, get your sh*t together!
Seriously. Please get yourselves healthy in every way possible. Your children are depending on it! Here are 5 fixer-upper areas parents need to address:
1. Fix your relationships or get out of them.
Go for therapy if you need it. Don’t tell me that you can’t afford it because there are agencies in almost every community that offer at least a few free or sliding scale therapy sessions. You want to learn how to be a good parent? Live in a loving and healthy relationship — or, be single and be really good with that.
Stop whining to your kids about your bad-behaving partner and start doing what you need to do to get that relationship in order (or end it). Stop worrying about your kid’s homework so much and do your own work (on yourself and your relationship). I hope this sounds harsh because it’s meant to!
2. Get your finances in order.
Ask for help if you need it. There are many social service agencies that will give you free financial advice and assistance. Don’t complain to your children and worry them about your lack of money.
However, it is perfectly reasonable to talk to them about the importance of budgeting and saying “no” to things that you can’t reasonably afford. Watching you get real about your financial situation and then improving it to the best of your ability will be a far better parenting tactic than giving mind-numbing lectures about the value of money. I promise you, I’m completely right on this.
3. Quit being so negative.
Are you unhappy, frustrated, and filled with complaints and negativity or any other version of misery? Maybe it’s time to figure that crap out, don’t you think? Do you want your kids to learn how to be miserable and cranky their whole lives?
Instead, model for them what gratitude looks like and how to have happiness for the little things (or, at least, strive for less whining about small, minor issues). Can you show them how to get up and keep going after being hurt or disappointed? Can you teach them how to be resilient and flexible?
This alone could save your children thousands of dollars on future therapy and might even motivate them to take care of you in your old age.
4. Learn how to be a grown up.
Are you having trouble setting limits, following through, and managing your temper? Those are your issues, not your kids’. Figure it out. Are you afraid to be the enforcer in your home? Why? Are you hung up on wanting to be the cool parent so you allow things to go on in your home that you know aren’t a good idea?
Again, this is your problem and certainly not your child’s fault. Are you obsessed with your kid’s homework or athletic success? Whose issue is that? Yours! If you are lecturing more than you are reading a good book, you need to clean it up over there.
There’s no such thing as a perfect parent, but there is certainly such a thing as an emotionally healthy and happy parent, and if you aren’t that person, you might want to change that today. The fastest way to healthy and happy kids is to have healthy, happy parents, and you are responsible for that. Don’t put that burden on your child. They can’t clean you up; you have to do it yourself.
Here’s the thing about parenting — it’s a marathon. It’s the hardest work you will ever do and the most important. But if you’re spending your time fussing about your child’s grades, homework, athletic prowess, or musical abilities while you are a big ‘ol mess yourself, you are subtly sabotaging your child, who is modeling what you do, not what you say. Don’t underestimate the example your actions (or lack thereof) are really setting for your child.
Get your stuff together and watch your children become confident, calm, and well-adjusted young people. Your relationship with them will improve, you will be happier, and your family will be more productive and connected.
Parents tend to be over-focused on their children’s attitude and behavior while they let their own lives fall apart. Don’t make this mistake! Using the example of your authentic and consistent health and happiness is the most powerful way to parent your children.