1. Enjoy watching your children's joy in doing their sport, not in your children's achievement within it. The six key words for sports parents to say: I love to watch you play.
2. Assess your circle of sports parent friends. Stress is contagious. So decline getting involved in the drama. Remember the proverb: Not my circus, not my monkey. But just as stress is contagious, so is happiness. So hang out with those parents who want to be supportive, constructive members of the community and help spread that positive vibe through the team.
3. Take care of yourself. Parents spend so much time taking care of their families, they often neglect themselves. You need to care for you. It makes for a happier version of you. Instead of watching practice or running errands while your child is working out, treat yourself to a massage. There are many chains and even kiosks in malls that offer affordable options. Or, if money is tight, take a walk, connect with a friend over a cup of tea or read a good book.
4. Leave your expectations behind. Or at least lower them. Researchers found that lower expectation lead to higher level of happiness. If you expect your children to be Olympians or even a state champions or All-Stars, chances are you will be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you do not assign any of your own expectations of their sports achievements you will be calmer and more prepared to be there for them when things get rough emotionally.
5. Stop nagging. Gretchin Rubin's The Happiness Project tells of her resolution to stop nagging. While initially she was concerned that nothing would get accomplished in her home, the opposite happened. And, the bonus was she felt better because she wasn't expending energy badgering her family and feeling like an angry shrew. If your children forget their grips, cleats or ankle brace or whatever, they'll deal.
6. Don't insist that everything needs to be the "best." In the book The Paradox of Choice Barry Schwartz talks about two types of decision makers: satisficers vs. maximizers. Satisificers make their decision once their basic criteria are met, for instance purchasing the shoes that are the right color, fit and price without looking further. Maximizers, driven to make the very best choice, make their decision only after they have exhausted every option within the mall. Satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. The take away: You don't need to exhaust yourself on each and every decision; sometimes good enough is good enough.
7. Spend money on experiences not things. How we spend our money impacts our happiness. It turns out spending money on experiences increases happiness while spending it on things decreases happiness. So instead of buying your children a new leotard or jersey, take them to the movies. It will make you all feel happier.
8. Write a note or email of gratitude to your child's coaches. Not only will it boost their happiness, it will boost your own as well.
9. Learn to say no. You do not have to serve on every last committee, contribute to every bake sale or volunteer at every event. You also do not need to have an excuse for not doing so. No is a complete sentence.
10. Stop complaining for the sake of complaining and let go of criticism. If you want to be happy, let go of the need to complain. The truth is: nobody can "make" you unhappy and no situation can make you miserable unless you allow it to. It's all about how you choose to look at it. There is a form of criticism that can increase your happiness: If you have a problem, take it directly to the person who can help you deal with it. Moaning to others wastes time and energy. While you are at it, let go of criticism. Sure you might not run the sports league that way, use that starting line up or your don't think the way another parent parents is ideal. So what? Reasonable people can disagree. In the last analysis we all want the same things: to be happy, to be loved, to love and to be understood. Extend those things to others instead of criticism. Trust me, you will feel better.
11. Ignore others' expectations. Live your life according to what you think is best for you, not others. If you spend your life living the life others' think you should be living, you will always struggle with happiness. Who cares if Mrs. Smith thinks your daughter shouldn't train 20 hours a week, or if Mr. Jones thinks your son has no business being in the starting line up. That is their problem, not yours. You are the parent of your child, and you get to make the choices in how you parent.
12. Don't give into envy over other children's success. Jealousy and envy because another child is succeeding at a faster rate is a sure fire way to be unhappy. Here are some tips on managing those ugly feelings.
Happy New Year, and here is to a great 2015!