Let’s face it, parenting is hard. Teaching your kids right from wrong. Getting a balanced diet into them every day. Making sure they learn how to keep a tidy room, pitch in around the house, get their homework done, and grow up into solid citizens ready to contribute to society. Parents have so much on their mental plates – wouldn’t it be nice if we could take a few things OFF?
Good news: we can! Here’s a list of seven things that are better for your kids than you might have thought! So stop worrying about them, and use that freed-up mental space for something more important! (You’re welcome!)
This is a collaboration post. However, please know I stand behind everything written here, and only include links to products/services/resources I’m willing to recommend personally.
1. Solving their own problems
Those days when my 3-year-old would hit my 1-year-old are long gone. (I used to warn the 3-year-old that one day, her younger sister would figure out how to hit back, and then she’d regret having accidentally taught her sister this “skill”!) Nowadays, whenever the girls come to me to mediate their tussles, I tell them to sort it out for themselves.
And this goes for far more than fights with one’s sister. Solving all of your child’s problems might make you feel like a good parent, but it’s better for them to solve their own problems when they can. It encourages creative, independent thinking, and helps your kids build lifelong skills in negotiation and problem-solving. If they’re bored, encourage them to think of their own activity or game. If they want to untie their shoes, encourage them to figure out how to do it themselves. Letting your children solve their own problems for the small, day-to-day stuff will help them build problem-solving skills – and, more priceless, their confidence.
2. Playing (a few) video games, in moderation
Playing video games isn’t all bad! The trick is balance and limits. We have strict rules about tech time in our house:
- homework (including the homework on their school-assigned iPads) must be done first,
- no iPad use unless there’s a parent in the room,
- a max of one hour per day, and
- generally no iPad time on the weekends.
Having said that, a limited amount of tech time (and even gaming time) can help them develop important skills. Monument Valley and Monument Valley II are outstanding options for spatial problem-solving. Minecraft in creative mode is super for imaginative building and creative exploration. And games like http://FinalFantasyXVapp.com can help them to improve their focus, coordination, and more.
3. Allowing them to fail
As I’ve recently written, giving your children the freedom to fail is one of the most important gifts that you can give them.
You can’t teach your kids that failing is bad or that they should avoid it at all costs. You should allow your kids to fail from time to time so that they can learn from it. Praise them for their efforts (“You worked really hard at that!”) rather than on their successes (“You’re so good at that!”), and they will be more likely to try new things and stick with them as they grow up. Kids who are praised on success and intelligence (“You’re so smart!”/”You’re a born athlete!”) often don’t try things because they think something should just come to them naturally. When they do encounter difficulties and challenges, they’re more likely to give up.
4. Ditching your own stress and unhappiness
There’s a reason airlines tell grownups to put on their own oxygen masks first, and THEN help their kids: You can’t take care of others if you yourself can’t breathe! Your own stress levels impact your kids more than you can imagine. If you’re stressed, you can pretty much guarantee that your kids are, too. Plus, they might not even tell you, so as not to burden you. This can weigh heavily on them, and will start to mess with everything from their sleep and appetite to their school performance.
So do your kids a favor and take some time for yourself! Work on the self-care basics first (enough sleep, a balanced diet, moderate exercise). Get out of the house with friends on occasion, and leave the kids home with a co-parent, neighbor, grandparent, friend, or sitter. Set yourself some goals and work toward them. Get yourself a therapist or life coach if you have more to work through than you can manage on your own. Your kids will get a better parent, and you’ll all be happier.
5. Doing chores
Doing everything for your kids doesn’t make you a good parent. Performing chores around the house gives kids a sense of ownership, shared responsibility, and accomplishment. Not to mention, it teaches them basic life skills they’ll need when they (someday!) move out on their own. Deny them that opportunity, and they will grow up without basic life skills, and WITH a reluctance to perform basic tasks.
So get them started on helping out and pitching in from the very start. It’s never too early to have kids “help” you around the house; even babies and toddlers can start to learn how to pitch in, through basic interactions. Not sure where to start? This post gives 21 suggestions for things even the littlest “helpers” can help with.
6. Setting high expectations
Teachers will tell you that people often rise to the level of what’s expected of them. This is especially true for parenting your kids. You don’t want to push your kids beyond what’s reasonable, or be a “helicopter parent.” But having higher expectations for them can help them to aim higher and achieve more. The trick is to make sure that your expectations are realistic and achievable. For example, telling your child that they need to grow up to be an Olympic medalist, or a world-renowned cellist, may not be the way to go.
Instead, start with smaller, more realistic goals of being the best they can be at their activity, through hard work. Then show them higher, achievable goals (such as becoming an All-State musician or athlete in high school) that they can aspire to, IF they continue to work hard and be the best they can. I was an all-state musician in high school, and the girls’ future high school displays photos on the wall of recent students who achieve this honor. When Kimmie went to the high school this past summer for her beginning clarinet lessons, I pointed out the photos on the wall to her and explained what they were – along with the competition trophies on display in the case. She now knows that this is a future option to which she can aspire, if she keeps up with her practice.
7. Going to work
Do you feel guilty about going to work and leaving your child in the care of others? Don’t! By working, you are setting a powerful example for them of what they can become and achieve.
Studies have found that daughters with working mothers earned 23% more than those who had stay-at-home mothers, while sons of working mothers tend to pitch in more and do more chores in studies. The trick, for working fathers as well as working mothers, is to remember to balance work life with family life.
Stressing about these things isn’t good for your kids OR for you. The things listed above will actually help prepare your children to face the outside world head-on. And this, in turn, means you’ll end up with happier, more well-rounded children who can think for themselves.
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