There's no doubt that parenting is full of pressure these days. So many of us feel like we can never do enough for our children. Whether we stay home with them, or work full time, guilt seems to be a thorn in many of our sides.
If there was a perfect way to balance it all, what would our lives look like? I'm not so sure. You have to be careful with the word "perfect." It's really a useless word, isn't it? I mean, really. People can shine for a moment, but for a lifetime? Come on.
I say we remove the word perfect from our inner dictionaries. Let's put Supermom back into the comic book she belongs in and get real.
Is there a way to be a better parent by doing LESS for our children? Rick Ackerly and The Book Chook seem to think so. I do too.
The key as I see it is in the quality, and not the quantity, of the time we spend with our children. Instead of directing every step our children take, why not provide them with the tools and guidance they need and let them do their thing?
So, here's a list of some ways we can make the most out of the time we spend with our children, to help them become the independent thinkers and problem solvers we so want them to be:
- Answer a question with a question: If we want our children to get past the "one right answer" mentality, then we have to help them bring the questions to life. In doing so, our children will learn to challenge assumptions, ponder multiple solutions, and make more informed decisions.
- Give them plenty of time to think and create on their own: There's a lot to be said for taking breaks just to relax and think about nothing - or everything. Children need unstructured time - to play, to wonder, to reflect, and to be bored. Without it, how will they ever solve problems or create anything (even an idea) of their own?
- Praise the effort more so than the outcome: If your child spent 3 hours making cookies for a fundraiser, but they end up looking like hockey pucks, it still doesn't erase the tremendous effort that went into making them. Acknowledge the effort (specific feedback goes a long way), and then brainstorm ways to correct the situation. Our children need to know that it's okay to make mistakes, as long as we learn from them.
- Find a way to way to limit screen time: While advanced technology can be a wonderful thing, it still needs to be used in moderation. It shouldn't be the first thing children turn to for down time, either. If your child asks to go on Facebook, or play video games, why not enforce a 30 minute time limit? If you allow her to spend one or two hours in total each day, then she'll still have time for other types of screen time later on. She'd also be learning how to manage time better.
- Encourage exercise, outdoor activities, healthy eating, and helping out around the house: What we get out of our minds and bodies has a lot to do with what we put into them. If parents model healthy behavior, their children are more likely to join in. When children help with chores, yard work, cooking, and cleaning up, it's really the best of both worlds. It's also the only way for them to learn how to lead a healthy and organized life.
- Help your child to become media savvy: Children and teens need to understand the benefits and dangers that come with sending and receiving information online and through cell phones. They also need to be able to scrutinize commercials and magazine ads in order to avoid making impulsive purchases. I always tell my children that their informed choice is their voice. So, please encourage your child to read the fine print and the labels!
- Read with or alongside your child or teen, and seek out great books together: People of all ages learn so much about themselves and the world through books. The younger children are when parents start reading with them, the more likely it will be that they will develop a love of reading and learning. In this age of endless distractions, it's also the one true activity which is certain to improve attention span.
- Play board or card games often: Just as people have been sharing stories for centuries, they have also been playing games. Not only are they fun for all ages, but they are a great exercise in literacy, numeracy, cooperation, teamwork, organization, and concentration. Want to unplug one evening? Take out a game. I'll be giving you some suggestions for games which can be played alone, and even on a long car ride, in a separate post.
These are just a few ways to get that scale back in balance. We wear so many hats as parents, and sometimes they become so heavy that we practically fall over from the weight of them. So, maybe it's time to go through that closet and toss a few of them. Maybe it'll help you tip that scale just a little bit more in the opposite direction.
It may also help to think about Goldilocks. Sometimes the porridge is too hot. Sometimes it's too cold. And sometimes it's just right. Doesn't it sound a lot like parenting?
Well, the thing is that Goldilocks didn't even make that porridge in the first place! If we don't want our children to enter strange houses and take whatever they want, then we have to gently guide them onto the right path.
Then, they will surely lead the way.
Please feel free to add to my list! And have a wonderful weekend.
Here are some other posts which might be of interest: