You’re doing all the right things, right? Organic lunches, team sports, happy family.
Unfortunately, seemingly perfect parenting can cause problems for your kids and your own sanity. Give yourself a break from the parenting rat race by ditching these “perfect” habits so that you can enjoy your relationship with your kids again.
1. Shielding children from emotions
Everyone loves a happy family. The problem, however, is that even happy families are also sad, angry, frustrated and disappointed from time to time. Allow your child to see your genuine emotions so he can learn emotional regulation and coping skills.
2. Choosing the best of the best activities
Your child doesn’t deserve the best of the best. She deserves to have fun, and she deserves to not stress about how much money and emotional energy you’ve invested in her activities.
3. Not using a babysitter
A dad once “man-splained” to me that he and his ex never used a babysitter before their kids were ten, because they didn’t want to trust their kids to someone else. I thought, “Wait, didn’t you guys end up divorced?” Right. If you don’t have family nearby, you simply must hire a babysitter to give yourself a break and to teach your children that there are other trustworthy adults in the world.
4. Demanding straight A’s
When you demand for your child to earn perfect grades, it may work for a while. It won’t, however, create a love of learning. If what you’re really after is your child’s love of learning rather than your love of raising a genius child, find ways to reward your little scholar that have nothing to do with the report card.
5. Purchasing only healthy foods
My mom bought only healthy stuff when I was growing up, and that translated into a lot of binge eating when I went to college. You can stick with mostly healthy foods in your house, but a few unhealthy options can teach your child the art of moderation before leaving home.
6. Using “shoulds” to control behavior
“Should” is a nasty little word that can generate both good behavior and a lot of shame. If you have a rule for your house, insist on it. But don’t introduce “should” into your parenting language to control behavior.
Consider, for instance, the difference between these two mantras I often hear from women: “I should lose ten pounds,” versus, “I want to lose ten pounds.” Which one is dripping in shame, and which one enhances power and self-control?
Step away from the day planner. Packing your kid’s schedule with activities is a recipe for burnout, so just pick one activity at a time. Remember that your child’s downtime is when he learns to self-regulate, ponder and relax, which are hugely important (and disappearing) skills for the real world.
8. Building a reputation together
Repeat after me: “My child does not reflect on me.” I know it’s tempting to think he does, but enmeshing your reputation with your child’s is a good way to destroy the relationship as he grows older and becomes his own person.
9. Satisfying your kid’s every desire
It’s impossible, so don’t even try it. Children are remarkably resilient, so you don’t need to worry about long-term damage if you can’t get your kid everything she wants. You may even teach some virtues that are in short supply these days: diligence, patience and gratitude.
10. Believing that perfect parenting is the answer
You’re going to mess up. Your child will be mad at you, and she may even have some fodder for therapy when she grows older. But the only way to really mess this thing up is by insisting that you can’t and won’t.