These days, I organize my life with color coded Google spreadsheets but “back in the day”, it was color coded index cards. I found one recently that is just too good not to share. It was a reminder to myself. I was a single mom and sometimes felt overwhelmed by what life was throwing at me.
I often see parenting advice along the lines of “just love your kids; that’s all that really matters” and while that’s true, it’s not always helpful. OF COURSE I loved my daughter. That wasn’t in question. Sure, sometimes that little reminder could rein in my crazy emotions but honestly, the “just give me a checklist” part of my personality wasn’t satisfied by that.
These 5 Simple Ways to be a Better Parent helped me regroup and focus on what was most important.
Be where you are.
Multi-tasking was the constant push back then. I still see it mentioned a lot even now. The problem is that multi-tasking only works for things like listening to a podcast while you dust your living room or catching up on the phone with your best friend while you do the dishes.
When it comes to your kids, most of the time you need to be where you are. If you are at work, think about work. Do your work. If you’re with your child, think about your child. BE with your child.
Sure, there were times I was with my daughter and she was doing her homework or she was playing with her toys independently. I didn’t just sit there and stare at her while she did those things. I’m not talking about those times.
I’m talking about the times when you are consciously spending time with your child. Even my grandson Walter has learned that if he has been playing independently and now wants to come read with me, he might have to get my attention by grabbing the phone from my hand and putting it down. He’s not even 2 yet so putting it down means throwing it on the floor. It gets the message across. Stop working Meemaw. It’s my time now!
Seize the moment.
Oh the time I spent beating myself up for not being able to afford a vacation to Disney World. Then it hit me. You don’t have to go to Disney World to have fun. (No shade there DW! I still love you)
We had fun snuggled up in bed together, watching Gilmore Girls, and noshing on popcorn. Grocery shopping could lead to the kind of laughter that brings tears to your eyes. We FOUND the fun and the joy in nearly everything we did and we embraced the heck out of it.
Accept your own authority.
Discipline wasn’t always easy because a) I am a very laid-back person and b) my daughter rarely saw her father while growing up and I sometimes felt like I needed to “make things up” to her. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that she needed me to be the parent. She needed my authority.
Be consistent. Don’t be afraid to apologize if you make a mistake. Respect your child and don’t get into power struggles. Know when it matters and when it’s okay to let it go. It’s okay to pivot but your child needs to know they can trust that you are going to be the adult in the situation.
I had a friend once tell me that I was too irreverent about my position as a parent. What she meant was that I had too much fun with my daughter. She felt that as a parent I should take my daughter to do fun things but then stand back and watch. It wasn’t appropriate for us to have fun together.
Nope. Nope. Nope. If I thought that was what parenting was all about, I never would have wanted to have kids at all. We had fun TOGETHER. We played TOGETHER. As I said before, we looked for fun all the time, but I also built fun into our schedule. Dedicated time for fun.
Not only that, but we spent time doing what she wanted to do. If she wanted me to build with Lego, we built with Lego. I am not fond of building with Lego and I suck at it, but I did it even if only for short periods of time. If she wanted us to play with her Barbies, we did and I stepped back and let her take control of the scenario.
These times made her feel validated. She knew that I valued her enough to give her that time. She felt in control of something. And, even when it wasn’t something that was my cup of tea, seeing her smile and hearing her laugh made it worth it. It became fun for me too.
Take control of your time.
I’ve always described myself as a free spirit. I tell people that I like to go with the flow. All of that is true – to a degree. I’ve also learned that I am more productive with some structure. I am happier with some structure too. And my daughter? She found security in the structure – she knew what to expect and it made the transitions in our days so much easier.
Taking control of our time didn’t mean that I planned every single second of the day. In fact, I work better with time blocking and routines. We had a morning routine, an after school routine, and a bedtime routine but there was plenty of flexible time in between.
I was also always flexible enough to drop the plan in order to seize something really special. Or because life had just been hard that week and we needed a day of no plans at all. But it gave us a framework and that framework provided some comfort to our lives.
These simple guidelines were great reminders when life got hectic to slow down and go back to basics. They gave us time to do the things we needed to do as well as time to connect with each other and have some fun. Based on the amazing person my daughter is today, I’m going to say that I think it worked for us! What simple things do you do to be a better parent?