Sometimes it feels as though there are two different parenting mindsets.
One can be likened to looking at your sweet child fast asleep in bed at night, the moon reflecting off their cherub-like cheeks, your heart ready to explode with all the love, gratitude and endless possibility that lie within the honor of growing a human being.
The second can be likened to drowning.
No spoiler alert here- parenting is a journey of highs and lows. While many people do function at a superhuman level in the role of parent (yes surviving on 2 hours of sleep does qualify as superhuman), the fact continues to exist that parents are still human, and as a result are pretty well-versed in the habit of making things more difficult than they need to be.
When your child is awake and the weight of the world (and daily routine) is upon you, certain mindsets are going to be much more helpful than others in your parenting. Let's talk about five common mindsets that have a toxic effect on your parenting experience (and your child's well-being) and which ones to replace them with.
We've all heard the quote from Teddy Roosevelt "comparison is the thief of joy", and it holds true in parenting. When parents focus on the behaviors and appearances of other children, it is easy to become disenfranchised, discouraged and downright jealous. There's always going to be a child who is more compliant or does better on long road trips than yours because...breaking news: all children are different.
Not only is comparing your child to others (siblings included) unproductive but it leads to a slew of negative and unfair thoughts on a parents' behalf, that will certainly have an impact on your interactions with your child.
The antidote: Acceptance.
Acceptance neutralizes comparison and challenges you to get to know your child exactly as they are, accepting them fully. This doesn't require you to love every single trait in your child, but it does require making space for the ones you don't.
Humans love themselves some control, or the perception of it, to be more accurate. If human nature, in general, is to control, then parenting nature is to smother and suffocate. When you received this helpless little being it appeared you finally had something to dictate right?
The problem is, just as much as humans love to control, they don't love being controlled (some more than others no doubt!). Once your child is old enough to do so, they will make this abundantly clear.
The antidote: Collaboration.
A much more productive route to take with your child is collaboration. As a parent, there are certain non-negotiable limits that need to be set for your child's health and well-being. As the parent of a child who will hopefully launch out into the world someday, allowing your child to express their thoughts and opinions when appropriate will do your child life-changing favors such as promoting problem-solving and communication skills, just to name a couple.
Decades of research show authoritative (firm but flexible) parenting grows healthier kids than the authoritarian approach (firm and controlling/inflexible) hands down.
Those times your child really gets under your skin? I'd venture to guess there was an unmet expectation lurking beneath the surface.
"We can't have one day out of the house without any whining!" or "It seems like a lot of ungrateful attitudes around here today even though I took you to get ice cream!". Parents often operate reactively of out of their own histories and experiences, and in effect unknowingly place inappropriate and unhelpful expectations on their child.
Here's the thing, little Timmy's is only four years old and isn't developmentally able to understand and practice gratitude or empathy consistently, so don't hold out for him to meet your emotional needs anytime soon (well please don't ever hold out for that actually).
The antidote: Mindfulness.
When you are a mindful parent, you strive to be more aware of your thoughts and actions while interacting with your child. Conscious parenting takes into consideration your child's developmental level, environmental needs (food, sleep, over-stimulation ect) and emotional maturity before blindly reacting to our own triggers.
There is nothing that triggers a person's emotions like their own child. Because of your strong love and connection, your child has the capacity to unearth painful, often buried, experiences and emotions from your subconscious. In addition to this, parenting is like an emotional landmine and for most people, and anger is the emotion that first rises to the surface at an explosion.
The antidote: Empathy.
When you try and understand things from your child's perspective it becomes a lot easier to respond to their frustrating behaviors with love, patience, and guidance. Putting yourself in their shoes in any given situation demystifies a whole lot of things your child does.
In our culture of hustle, it is harder than ever to escape the fallacy that busier is better. When you as a parent are more tuned into what you believe the world thinks you should do (homemade organic cooking, daily workouts, organizing play dates, teaching your 3-year-old to read...) or what your child 'should' be able to do (good grades, club sports, busy social life) it creates a recipe for self-criticism and exhaustion.
The antidote: Gratitude.
When we stop constantly reaching and falling victim to the 'more, more, more' mentality, we can slow down and appreciate what's around us. Gratitude helps us acknowledge the goodness already present in our lives. Conscious acts of gratitude have been shown to increase emotional well-being, improve health, and strengthen relationships.
Our thoughts have power
We can't control how many blowouts junior will have today, or what kind of mood our middle-schooler will be in after school, but we can control our outlook on them. Taking responsibility for your own parenting mindset will go far to increase your parenting confidence and nurture your child's long-term well-being.
At a minimum, it will increase the amount wondrous joy-filled moments in parenting, and be the lifesaver you so desperately need to hold onto, the day's parenthood kinda feels like drowning.
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