By: Cristina Trette, MA, LMFT
What does great parenting look like? Many would say that great parenting involves guidance, structure, and expectations along with love, affection, and warmth. If this concept is explored more deeply, many would also say that great parenting parents leads children to become confident, self-sufficient, kind, self-actualized, and well-adjusted. And depending on the values you may have many other attributes that you would add to this list. Although opinions on what parents want for their kids will differ, hopefully we can all agree that, the way we parent matters.
The challenge is that many parents are too overwhelmed with life to get themselves in a place where they can parent well. The demands placed on modern parents are many. If we are keeping up with the Joneses we will feel overwhelmed. Yet many parents don't relate to that at all and they still find that no matter what they do, it all feels like too much. Whatever the reason, if you are perpetually overwhelmed, something is getting in the way. Keep reading to find your way out.
1. Raise your self-acceptance
When expectations for our own behavior is high, but self-acceptance is low, we will be conflicted. Making mistakes is part of the parenting journey. Even though we may aim to be great parents, there are no perfect parents (or kids). When looking at behavior change, it is very helpful to see our actions accurately but without self-criticism or judgement. Keep this in mind as you read this blog and reflect on your parenting. Commit to self-compassion as you continue reading. It is never too late to begin raising your children the way you really want to. Great learning comes from our mistakes as long as we view our mistakes as opportunities for growth and change.
2. Examine what your parents taught you about raising kids
Some adults today were parented in a manner that included healthy and balanced guidelines, structure, nurturing, love, and respect. Others grew up with authoritarian parenting as their model in which coldness, strictness, punishment, and force was the norm. Whatever you were raised with will likely be the pattern you tend to follow. Or you may swing to the other end of the spectrum. Take some time to reflect on how you were parented. Rather than blindly following the pattern, or reacting to it, find the middle road. There may also be some things you learned from your parents that you will want to hold on to and others you will want to discard. Writing in a journal is a wonderful tool to assist you in parenting.
3. Understand your parents
It will be very healing to try to understand where your parents were coming from. The way we parent is passed down intergenerationally. If your parents were not parented well they likely had a hard time parenting you well. It will not help to get stuck in blaming our parents for our challenges. Instead, we will want to see things as they are and accept the limitations they had. Holding on to the pain of your past, no matter how deep it goes, will not lead you to effective parenting today. In fact, keeping your pain will make it more likely that you will repeat the behaviors that terrified you when you were a child. If you feel that your wounds from childhood are too deep to be forgiven, seek out the support of a therapist. Healing is possible but you may need support to move into this state of being.
4. Find support using technology
When I first set out to parent in a gentle and mindful way, I had a babies home with me 24/7. At that time in my life, I was not interested in attending live parenting classes. My initial introduction to connected parenting came from an online yahoo group! I cannot tell you how much support this groups offered me in those early years. As time went on, I found guidance in online parenting classes and videos. With online groups, classes, podcasts and videos, there are endless ways to find support.
5. Reach out to an individual
If you are having a very difficult time parenting, I encourage you to reach out. Sometimes just talking about things and sharing the difficulties you are experiencing is enough to create change. Meet a friend for coffee and open up about how hard parenting can be. There is so much value in being heard and knowing that you are not alone! Set up weekly phone dates that are rooted in understanding and support with another parent.
6. Allow yourself to feel
There is nothing wrong with feeling sad, angry, hurt, or afraid. If you want to parent more effectively it is important that you allow yourself to feel. There will be many parenting moments that put you to the test. The goal is not to avoid feeling. Emotions are a part of you. The goal is to move yourself into a space where you can feel your feelings without expressing it in a way that will hurt yourself or another person. Your own emotional regulation, and co-regulation, is the greatest tool you have in offering your children guidance in being able to understand, and handle, feeling their feelings.
7. Consider how you want your grandchildren to be raised
Every single day you are teaching your children what raising kids looks like. Know that when you choose to take on a philosophy of love, kindness, and respect you will be teaching all of these qualities to your children who will then teach these qualities to their own children. By instilling peace into your home now, you have the potential to impact the well-being of future generations to come.
Have you been able to overcome overwhelmed parenting? If so, I would love to hear what you did to create change in your family. Leave a comment in the box below!
Hello! I am Cristina Trette. I am a Couples Therapist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Certified in Perinatal Mental Health. I write on all things related to relationships, parenthood, and connection.