I do not take parenting lightly. Teaching my five children to be respectable members of society is a massive undertaking, and I feel the tremendous weight of that responsibility on a daily basis.
However, I am an entirely different parent than I was 18 years ago when the nurse placed my first baby in my arms. At merely 21 years old, I was young and clueless, with stars in my eyes about raising a perfect family.
My dreams of perfection only lasted a few hours before I realized I had no idea what I was doing. Since then, I have learned a little bit about raising children, thanks to the classroom of experience.
While I sometimes still feel like I am making it up as I go and do not claim parental perfection in any way, I am convinced that I am better off now that I no longer do these four things:
I am a natural micromanager, and that is not a good thing. I have high standards and want things to be done properly, which sometimes leads me to attempt to control the details and the process so that I can control the outcome.
That is not a good idea when other people are involved. People want to know that they are needed, capable, valuable, and trustworthy.
Micromanaging undermines all of that. It communicates to a person that they are incapable of completing a task without somebody looking over their shoulder. That is the last thing that I want my kids to believe about themselves.
While I sometimes slip into old habits, I am heads and tails ahead of where I used to be, and we are all happier because of it.
2. Take My Kids’ Bad Choices Personally
Making bad decisions is part of being a kid. And, let’s be honest, it doesn’t stop with the arrival of adulthood.
I used to believe that my kids’ poor choices were a reflection of my poor parenting. Now I realize that it is not quite that simple.
Yes, parents have an enormous influence on their children. Kids learn a great deal about how to behave by watching and listening to their parents. All parents, therefore, should teach their children to the best of their abilities.
However, there is this thing called agency that we, as parents, cannot control. We can teach until we are blue in the face, but our kids will ultimately choose whether to follow our council or take a different path.
With that in mind, I now allow my kids to take full responsibility for their choices. I give them the lovely opportunity of feeling sorry for their mistakes, so I don’t have to. That way, they (hopefully) learn from their poor choices, and I can breathe easier, without the guilt.
It is a win/win; I tell you.
3. Stress About Doing Things “Right”
There is so much information out there about how to be a good parent and it is easy to get caught up in trying to do it “right.” One thing I have realized over the years is that there is not one right way to raise kids.
Research has shown that authoritative parents (those who are highly responsive to their children but also demand much of them) generally have kids who are more likely to become independent, self-reliant, socially accepted, academically successful, and well-behaved. (Read more about that here) However, there is a wide range of ways in which parents can teach their kids those values and others like them.
Over the years, I have learned to raise my children in a way that feels right to me, regardless of what others are doing (or telling me to do). What is right for my family may not be right for another family for a variety of reasons, and vice versa.
So I put my parental blinders on, pay very little attention to what others are doing, and approach parenting in the way that I think is best. While I do not claim to be a model parent, I have found that approach to be incredibly freeing.
4. Worry About My Children Liking Me
There was a time when I worried a great deal about my children liking me. Then I realized that making good parental decisions and trying to be friends with my kids didn’t always go hand in hand. In fact, those two mindsets were at odds most of the time.
As a mom, my job is to provide my kids with leadership and direction. When I am worried about them liking me, I cannot effectively lead.
Good leadership is my goal, which means that I cannot be afraid to make tough parental calls. I made a decision many years ago that my kids needed me to be their mom much more than they needed me to be their friend.
Consequently, I often make decisions that they do not like (umm…no social media until age 16…no video games…). Sometimes they scream, yell, and carry on about how mean I am. They have been known to tell me that they hate me with all manner of eye rolling, door slamming, and drama.
But, when all is said and done, all five of them come to me when they need love and support. They openly talk to me about a variety of tough subjects without much prodding. All things considered, they must not hate me too much.
So I will continue to be a mean mom, for their good.
I am still learning what it means to be an effective parent. I make mistakes every single day. I try things, and they fail. I sometimes lose my cool and act like a crazy woman.
But now that I no longer micromanage, take my kids’ bad choices personally, stress about doing things right, or worry about my kids liking me, I am more confident in my parental stride. And confidence is a good place to start.
What parental tactics work or don’t work for you? Please share in the comments section below so we can all learn from each other.