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Becoming a parent can be an intimidating prospect. We are transformed rapidly from living our lives for ourselves, sometimes with the added support and companionship of a partner, to sacrificing so much of our very being just to keep this little poop machine alive. We suddenly have this enormous responsibility thrown at us, and although often we have made the choice to have a child, the reality of that choice can be a tough pill to swallow. Especially when we feel like we don’t know what we’re doing.
No worries, with a few tips and tricks we can crush this parenthood thing and raise the shit out of our kids. At least, we can do the best job we can and take comfort in knowing they will have the tools we have given them as they approach their own trials and choices.
Having been a parent for almost eight years now, I have come to realize that I have completely figured out not only how to raise my kids, but how to raise yours as well. Just kidding, the only thing I really know is that I don’t really know anything. But I bet you know plenty of people dying to give you advice on how to raise your kids, don’t you? Well, I’m not going to tell you how to raise your kids, but I will give you a few ways to improve your outlook on parenting, and hopefully, your renewed positivity will rub off on your kids.
Your kids have so many experiences they haven’t encountered yet, and the best way they know to prepare themselves is through interactive play. Early in life, to play is mostly trying to eat things and pooping, but as they get older their play will be based more and more on real-world situations as they process their surroundings.
The more you involve yourself in their play, the more they see you and how you interact with these various situations. If the tea party involves a disagreement between Bartleby Bear and Henderson Horse, you can help your child mitigate in such a way that could reduce the chance of a stuffy rumble. Without even trying, you can relay important life lessons while enjoying some quality time with your kids. Win-win.
Our pre-child habits have a tendency to follow us into parenthood, with the symptoms showing up when we least want them. You desperately want to get the raking done, and the kids are doing their best to help you enjoy those big beautiful piles you worked hard making. Before kids, all you had to do was go out and rake up the leaves. Once kids are in the picture, things will be completely different. They realize the available fun factor sitting there idle in the pile, while all you see is the light at the end of a long and arduous chore.
Realizing that your ability to crank through your chore list as before is no longer a reality is a huge step in parenting. The most realistic approach to chores now that kids are here is to focus on doing what you can do with the brief time window you have, but if it doesn’t get done things will still be ok. That leaf pile will be there for you to rake up again next year, but your kids will be one year closer to moving out of your house and ignoring you in public.
If the kids want to jump in the leaf pile, what’s the harm? One arbitrary chore won’t get done? Twenty years from now you won’t remember the leaf pile that got away, but they will remember how they used to jump and play in the leaves and what fun they had with you. Especially if you jump in with them!
I don’t mean run off to the mountains for a year eating nettle soup, I mean take a few minutes every day to clear your mind and allow yourself a brief respite from life. Ten minutes of rest for your brain will give you the mental recharge needed to give your family the patience they deserve.
Along with some time spent clearing your mind, try to find some time every now and then to turn inward and examine your mind. Try to analyze some past instances in which you could have perhaps responded differently. Instead of losing your cool when your kid was freaking out, how could you have handled it in a way that would have resulted in a more positive outcome? What could you have done when you felt your blood pressure rising that would have prevented you blowing up and yelling at your kids? (We all do it sometimes, BTW). Introspection is a powerful tool and one that tends to be grossly underutilized in this hectic life.
Intentional responses to situations will undoubtedly have a more positive impact than knee-jerk reactions. Try to think about your responses during stressful situations rather than succumbing to instinctual aggressive tampering.
Spend time without your kids.
We love our kids, right? Of course, we do, they are an amazing addition to our lives that we wouldn’t give up for anything in the world. One of the best things we can do for them is to get the hell away from them every once in a while.
We are adults, and everyone needs to spend some quality time with their peers in their lives. As adults, small children are not our peers. It’s fun to play cars with a four-year-old, but after a few hours of that I tend to go a little bonkers. That’s why my wife and I make it a point to take a date night at least once a month and hang out with friends. Add to that a few nights here and there with friends stopping by for a few to hang by a fire or for a drink, and I’m starting to feel darn near human again.
Looking at our ridiculous lives as parents with a sense of humor is crucial. The crushing weight of overwhelming responsibility and maniacal logistics would be unbearable without being able to laugh about it occasionally. Remember, we are all at some point in our lives going to find ourselves arguing with a toddler about why they can’t bring home a cigarette butt from the truck stop ashtray, and when you look at it from the outside that’s pretty darn funny.
Young kids experience emotion in an entirely higher level than the rest of us, mainly because they are so new to it. When their ice cream falls on the ground, it is absolutely the worst thing to ever happen to anyone in the history of the world, as far as they’re concerned. When the siblings are fighting over who gets to hold Mom’s phone in the car for some youtube kids near the end of a four-hour drive, both of them are experiencing such incredibly high frustration levels that without external intervention explosion is guaranteed. Introducing humor into high tension moments can be a fantastic diffuser.
The other day my son did something that was outrageously terrifying and offensive to my daughter. Not sure what, but I certainly heard the rebuttal. When I told him he had to make her feel better, he resorted to the only thing he could think of: potty jokes and slapstick humor. And guess what. It worked! Within seconds she was laughing through her tears and less than a minute later they were playing happily together again.
Don’t worry, be happy!
We love to judge other people, especially when it comes to parenting. That judgment can feel tangible if your kids are acting up in a public setting. Here’s a secret tip to help you live a happier life without anxiety: Who cares what other people think of you? They’re not the ones raising your kid. They don’t know that your kid has been raging it on a trampoline for three hours this morning and will be totally cool as soon as you get to the granola bar stashed in your car. They don’t see the hard work you put in every day to make sure your kids have everything they need. All they see is a child acting like a child and an exhausted parent who isn’t doing enough, in their opinion, to stop the offending noises.
As anyone who has or has had small children will tell you, kids do this. It happens to everyone at some point, it’s not a big deal. It’s easy to feel like you’re on stage when you’re parenting in public. The stage, in this case, happens to be far less glamorous and with a worse audience than stages we tend to think of. Imagining the audience is in their underwear can still make it easier, though.
It can be difficult to completely block out the incredible weight of the judgment of strangers. It’s something I struggle with, but as long as you are aware of the fallacy their judgment presents it will be easier to shut them out.
If you take these tips with a bit of humor and introspection, hopefully, they have a positive effect on your daily life. Kids will test you, question every rule, push every boundary, and complain at every meal. That’s their job, they need to find out what is acceptable in life and what is not; these rules are not imprinted in us at birth. Finding the balance between hardline rule maintenance and soft line flexibility can be difficult and frustrating, but in the end, your kids will thank you for it. Not literally, they don’t actually do that. But it’ll show in their choices as they face obstacles and tough situations in their lives.