Admit it – you do these things, too! And that’s OK. But maybe – just maybe – it’s time to think about changing things up a little bit, for the sake of your sanity, your relationship with your kids, and because life’s too short.
1. Judging other parents. This one’s hard for us all. We’ve all seen that parent, the one yelling at their kids in the Target check-out. The mom who ushers her kids through the McDonalds drive-thru for dinner and the dad who lets his kids stay up past 10 pm on a school night. Yes, sure, fine, you’re right – they could all make better choices, and maybe they should. But instead of focusing your energy on their wrongs, spend more time focusing on what you do that’s right. Every time you have a parenting ‘win,’ give yourself a little credit. Go ahead, revel in your parental awesomeness! You do you, so to speak. Let the rest bother you not.
2. Negative self-talk. Ever say something about yourself that isn’t so flattering? “Ugh, I feel SO FAT today.” “Man, I’m so stupid!” We all have our moments, for sure, but think twice about such negative self-talk – especially when your kids are within earshot. Our kids look up to us, we provide them comfort and safety. So how does it feel to a kid to know their own mom or dad doesn’t think of themselves as particularly smart or awesome, if even for a moment? Not great. And if your kiddo hears these things relatively often, don’t be surprised if they start saying the same about themselves. And we don’t need our own insecurities pawned off to our children, do we? Be kind to yourself!
3. Distraction city: Population, you. When’s the last time you spent a weekend without your cell phone glued to your side or when you weren’t always tapping away on your tablet o’ choice? Ever seen that family in a restaurant lobby and they’re ALL on their phones and gadgets and none of them are talking to each other? This one’s a toughie for most of us these days. We’re all so plugged-in all the time, and it makes sense – we are busier than ever and we’ve become amazing multi-taskers as parents. But all of that tapping and scrolling and surfing can do a number on your relationship with your kids, and even how you feel about yourself. Try putting the gadgets away for a while. Maybe make it a ritual that there’s no tech time after 7 pm. Have conversations. Play a board game. Take a walk. You might be surprised by what you learn – and how much your mood improves – and you’ll feel a lot better about connecting with the ones you love most.
4. Badmouthing people our kids love. Whether it’s your ex, your sibling, your child’s teacher or your in-laws, chances are, someone’s going to do something annoying and you’re going to vent about it. Do yourself a favor and do it without your kids nearby. They don’t need to hear bad things about people they hold dear, regardless of the level of heinousness. Keep it between the adults and give your kids the gift of enjoying their role models without guilt.
5. Trying to control everything. We never want to see our children fail, get hurt, be disappointed. But guess what – all of those things are a part of life and to try to control every little thing they do, say, and experience is an exercise in futility. Being overly-controlling also comes with the added bonus of being a parent to a child who will rebel against you and likely become a major contrarian. And do you really wanna deal with that? Give your kids a little space to make mistakes. Keeping them safe is one thing, but controlling their every thought and move is another. Let ’em learn from their life experiences – it will enrich them in the long term.
6. Photographing everything. Ok, this is going to get me a lot of hate mail, but I’m gonna say it: take fewer pictures. Listen, I’m not suggesting that you leave the camera at home for their birthday party or for their third-grade concert or for that family vacation. Of course, you want to preserve special memories! But sometimes…SOMETIMES…it’s better to put that camera away and just actually experience the moment in the moment. I recently took my son to an event and watched the person in front of us experience the entire thing from behind her giant iPad video camera. I couldn’t help but think, “she’s missing the whole show – she might as well have just sat at home and watched it on YouTube.” We have all become so accustomed to photographing every little thing and posting our pics on social media that I fear we’re not actually experiencing the joy of the moment. Don’t you (and your kids) deserve that?
7. Being the yes man (or woman). It’s so easy to spend $1 and get your kid that Hot Wheel they so covet. Or that app on the app store. Or that extra scoop of ice cream. And YES, these things are all nice to do for your kids. Of course you want them to have the little extras in life that they deserve and that maybe you didn’t get as a kid. But hold up, moms and dads. Don’t make it an everyday occurrence, or soon you’ll have an entitled little one on your hands that can’t take “no” for an answer. Go ahead, splurge every once in a while, but don’t give in to every wish and want, even if it makes you temporarily happy to do so. Set limits and see your kids flourish.
8. Being too comfortable. If you hate roller coasters, you probably don’t ever suggest your kids go on one. If you’re not a fan of sushi, chances are your kids won’t be, either. It’s really easy to get comfortable as parents and to avoid situations that force us to burst out of our own ‘likes.’ But maybe – just maybe – your kid would really love that horrible amusement park. And perhaps your little one has a taste for spicy tuna rolls. Spend a little time trying new things and seeing what your kids gravitate toward – let them explore the world a bit and form their own conclusions, and in doing so, you may even change your mind about a thing or two, too.
9. Faking quality time. You and your kid sit down for movie night. You’re all cuddled up on the couch. The opening credits start and you whip out your phone to check your email or send a text or post on Facebook that you’re having a movie night with your kid. Maybe you take a quick pic of your little one’s adorable little head and post it to Instagram, hashtag: quality time. Sound familiar? Yep, we’ve all been there. But guess what – when you’re not fully engaged in the same activity that you’ve agreed to do with your kids, they feel it. You know when they say, “Mommm, you’re not WATCHING”? They know that you’re not in the moment with them! You’re not going to miss anything so important that it can’t wait for later. Let’s hear it for real quality time and making actual memories rather than just posting about them.
10. Not saying ‘I Love You’. “I love you.” Three little words, that’s all they are. And yet, when they’re something you’re not accustomed to having *heard* for most of your life, they’re not as easy to say for some reason. Knowing that they’re loved is such a precious gift to give your children and yes, that means both in actions and in words. Tell them you love them. Let them hear it. This goes for adult kids, too – it’s never too late. Go ahead and say it; it’ll come back to you and smooch you right in the heart.