If you’re looking to find the secret to stressing less and enjoying parenting more—guess what? There’s a way to make it happen. Yup, we all know that parenting is both the most rewarding and most difficult job you’ll ever have, and you probably had a few expectations at the start—expectations that should be abandoned early on in the game. Why? Because letting your kids become who they’re meant to be is one of the best (and easiest) ways to enjoy being a parent. Keep reading to see our other favorite tips to becoming a happy parent below.
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1. Resist the urge to compare your kid to anyone else's.
Every parent wants the best for their child and that often means worrying about whether they're kids are meeting milestones or behaving like everyone else. This type of "keeping up with the Joneses" does more harm than its worth, and most ultimately takes away the joy of raising your littles. At the end of the day, raise your family in your own unique style, and don't worry about the rest.
2. Give up your job of being the event planner.
Parenting involves wearing many hats, but being the coordinator of all things fun does not have to be one of them. While we all want to provide fun and learning experiences for our children, that doesn't mean we have to spend all day driving them around to keep them happy. By all means, make those play date plans! But revel in the downtime, days at home and "boredom," too.
3. Realize your kid may not be a total bookworm.
A good way to handle the fact that your kid isn't the voracious reader you are is to stop pushing. The more you push, the more it'll feel like punishment. Then, take the time to figure out what type of reading he likes: graphic novels, magazines, non-fiction, etc.
4. Accept that your kid may not want as many friends as you do.
It's tough when you're an outgoing extrovert, and your little one is quiet and prefers alone time. According to several experts, extroverted parents need to understand that their child may not be the center of attention all the time, and instead, they should nurture their kid's introverted temperament. If this means keeping the social calendar unbooked for a few weekends, so be it.
5. Give up the idea that your preschooler won't make a mess.
How many times have you finished cleaning the kitchen and your kid immediately spills something? Or how about when she spreads her craft supplies over your table for days on end? Face it, clutter and kids are synonymous, and studies show that being messy inspires creativity, so it's probably better to relax on this one and not to expect kids to be neat freaks.
6. Don't get offended that your home cooking may not impress your kids.
Surrender the expectation that your little one will happily eat all your meals. Dina Rose, PhD and author of IT’S NOT ABOUT THE BROCCOLI: Three Habits to Teach Your Kids for a Lifetime of Healthy Eating says, "In a family, everyone has to learn how to “handle” a clunker. Your yuck is someone’s yum. The pickier the child, the harder this lesson is to learn, but it’s no less important. Letting children choose not to eat (and experiencing the hunger that follows) is important, not just because it teaches the consequences of not eating, but because it is empowering and respectful.”
7. Be OK if your kid is not the star athlete you envisioned.
If you were you one of those kids who played soccer, softball and loved P.E., you may have expected your child would be the same. But not every kid (or adult) is athletically inclined. According to Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don't Do, rather than pushing kids to be better than everyone else, a good solution is to focus on helping them become the best versions of themselves, instead.
8. Realize that teaching gratitude is a marathon, not a sprint.
According to The Center for Parenting Education, kids don't automatically know the difference between the things they truly need and the things they would like but can survive without. And, even if you are doing it all right (not over-indulging, providing appropriate consequences, etc.), there's still going to be times when they slip up. Take it in stride and look for the next opportunity to instill gratitude.
9. Be ready for the time comes when your kid won't wear the outfit (or costume) you pick out.
Some parents have kids who will gladly wear any outfit you pick out. But there are others who have their own idea about what they want to wear. If you have one of those kids on your hand, the clothing expectation war is not one you want to fight. Besides, letting them choose their own clothing or costume is a great way to build self-esteem!
10. Don't worry if your kid doesn't need alone time to decompress like you might.
If you're an introvert, you know that things turn very unpleasant if you don't get some quiet "me time." So it's natural to assume your offspring are the same. But if you have little extroverts, alone time is not always what they need. In fact, those extroverts may start going a bit crazy if they don't have interaction. So check your mandatory alone-time expectation at the door.
11. Your kids' rooms may not be spotless––and that's OK.
You may be a neat freak and a believer in the "everything in its place" mantra, but that doesn't mean your kid feels the same way. To keep yourself sane, it's probably best to surrender the fantasy that your kids will live a neat and tidy life. If it's really important to you, focus your expectations on one area, such as having a made bed every day.
12. Don't be surprised when your kid tells a lie.
It doesn't matter how many times you've told them about Pinocchio's growing nose, the reality is every kid is going to lie. Instead of expecting your kiddo will always be honest, talk about the importance of telling the truth.
13. Accept that your kid may not want to eat the food you give them.
Whether you have a six-year-old picky eater or an infant who struggles with breast or bottle-feeding, kids don't always choose the foods we want to give them. The best way to deal with this is to let go of your expectations about what foods to eat, and focus on the larger goal of eating and being fed.
14. Be prepared that your second child may not be like your first one.
Some parents are often surprised that their second child is completely different from the first one, and what worked for baby number one will not work for number two. Like all people, kids and babies have different personalities. No two are alike. It's best to realize you may need a completely different approach to solving problems from one child to the next. Change your expectations to match the kiddos you have.
—Leah R. Singer & Karly Wood
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Feature image: Brittany Simuangco via Unsplash