It’s tough being a parent these days. Modern media bombards parents with expectations and instructions for raising children “the right way”.
What does that even mean?
It seems to differ from parent to parent, person to person, culture to culture. And here in America, we have such a mishmash of cultures, that every other family is raising their children according to a different set of standards.
To spank or not to spank? Positive parenting or empathetic parenting? Am I too authoritarian or too permissive?
Instead of giving you an extra set of things you should be doing in order to become the perfect parent (there is no such thing), today I’m offering you five ways to stop stressing out about your parenting and make raising children easier on you.
Sometimes less is more.
Let children eat what you eat
The idea of “kid food” is basically only an American idea. In most parts of the world, kids just eat whatever their parents eat.
Not only does this save you from having to buy specific kiddie snacks and kiddie meals, but it’s actually better for children anyway! Have you thought about most of the things we feed children? Frozen nuggets, boxed macaroni and cheese, crackers and cookies.
What do all of these things have in common? They are pre-processed, and they are unhealthy.
Are you having leftover lasagna for lunch today? Great! The kids can eat that too. Salad? No problem.
Letting kids eat whatever you eat saves you from having to fix extra foods, and it also discourages picky eating.
Sounds like a win-win to me.
Allow unsupervised play
In my post 5 Myths Parents Believe About Child Safety I talked about why letting children play unsupervised actually helps kids learn problem solving, independence, and good judgement.
You don’t have to keep an eye on the kids all the time. Send them to the backyard and let them come up with their own games. Designate a quiet time where they can play in their room for a little while and you can get a nap, or catch up on chores.
All children benefit from alone time, although some are more inclined toward it than others.
At first, it might sound like letting the kids play alone is MORE stressful than watching them. What if they get into something they aren’t supposed to?
Just try it. Give it a few times. You’ll start to enjoy your free time, and so will they.
Don’t try to make everything educational
We have this modern-day parenting idea that is pervasive here in the States:
Children must get a head start to be the smartest kid in school.
We need to calm down a little bit. We’ve got kids listening to Mozart, watching Baby Einstein (which doesn’t have any proven benefits, by the way), and reciting their ABCs before they can walk.
What we don’t realize is that, at their age, everything is a learning experience. When they fall off the couch they are learning about gravity. When they grab at your keys they are learning coordination. When they interact with another child they are learning social skills.
Young kids learn so much every single day. It’s actually incredible to think about.
Research from Cambridge shows that pushing formal education on children too early actually impairs their learning ability.
Young children learn from doing what children do naturally – playing.
There are myriad benefits to playing for children.
- It helps their brain to grow
- It increases their focus and attention
- It improves their language skills
- It develops problem solving
- It lays foundations for academic understanding
- It keeps them active and fit
You can stress less about getting your kids a head start on education. There are a lot of ways they can develop their cognitive skills without having to force educational activities. Let them play.
Worry less about their safety
This is a hard one. You want to keep your children safe, and foresee every possible accident that could befall them.
But by restricting their activities and limiting their play, you can actually cause more harm than good.
Save yourself the headache, and take a tip from the Brits. Children will learn to interact with the environment you put them in. If that environment is a big soft safety bubble, they are not learning how to handle danger or risks.
Let them go up the slide the wrong way.
Show them how to use the scissors correctly, and what they are allowed to cut.
Let them help you cook supper.
Let them try the monkey bars.
By teaching them how to handle risk, you equip them for better future safety. And you no longer have to hover over them, making sure they are safe.
This is a huge point a lot of parents miss, because they get so caught up in the details. Focus on the big picture.
You are a successful parent. Your children will turn out fine.
Whew. Doesn’t that take a load off?
It makes decisions like when to potty train and how to help them sleep through the night seem less significant. If they are potty trained by age 2, great! If they don’t make it out of pull-ups until they’re 4, it’s okay! They are still potty trained.
Tackling day-to-day tasks becomes a lot easier when you believe that, at the end of the day, you are going to be successful.
There will always be good days and bad days, but raising kids doesn’t have to be as stressful as we make it. There are plenty of ways to be a little more hands off and have it actually benefit our kids.
Stop stressing out about your parenting. Have a lemonade instead.