By Sarah Newton, Hybrid Mom
Happy Parents? Yeah, Whatever! Positive happy parents, is it even possible? I ask the question because if you look around you, how many parents can you see that really look like the happy families we see in magazines? The reality appears more like a washed-out, exhausted looking mom throwing not-so-happy looks at her children. This got me thinking, why is that? How and why are we blocking being happy with our children? What gets in the way of happy parenting?
Here is what I came up with:
Most parents make up some very elaborate story about what something means … for example, I have worked with parents who believe that their child’s messy room means that are going to be unsuccessful, or their inability to organize themselves means they are going to fall into the pits of despair. Even parents who believe that an off-the-cuff comment from their child could mean that they are going to become a drug addict. We judge what our children say so much and make up all kinds of other meanings for what is going on. We cannot, however, judge our children on how we may have behaved, or how someone else we knew behaved. Sometimes things just are! So when you find yourself worrying, here is a simple thing you can do:
Get a piece of paper and split it into half. On one side write the facts of the situation, e.g. Johnny shouted at me this morning. Then write down your feelings on the other side. What you will realize is that most of what is happening you are making up. Then deal with the facts first, as they will make you feel more in control.
Then look at all the feelings and ask yourself, what story are you making up? What significance are you putting on that event? Is that really true? Knowing what you know about your child, would that really happen? What would you do if that happened? Could you and they handle it?
Try and see things from your child’s point of view. What might be the reason they did what they did, other than the fact they are on a road to nowhere … what if it was just something that happened with no significance to it at all? Think of some of the things you say and do — do they mean you are going to end up in prison? Be realistic about the situation in front of you.
2. Trying to change your children
Most parents are unhappy because they spend their entire time trying to get their children to do something they want them to do, and then, of course when it does not happen, they feel dreadfully disappointed. The only person you have control over is yourself, and if you try to change someone else to make you happy, then this results in unhappiness. Instead of asking, how I can get my child to do what I want them to do, ask how can I change my reaction to this? When you know you are in ultimate control of yourself and your reactions, then you are more able to be free and consequently happy.
Make a list now of the top three things in your home that are causing you problems. Be honest and ask yourself if it is because it is not being done your way. What would happen if you could let go and give them more responsibility?
3. Living in the past
Parents judge how their teenager will behave in the future based on what has happened in the past; and while there is some truth in there for some, it is not a great picture. What I prefer to ask parents to do, is to concentrate on future possibilities. Make a space for your child to step into. If you see your child as truthful and honest, then they are more likely to be that. If you see them as distrustful, then you will get more of that! Be careful of the self-fulfilling prophecy that you may be opening yourself up to. How would you rather have someone see you for, your past mistakes or your future possibilities?
What possibilities are available to your child and how could you change your thinking around that?
4. Thinking the grass is greener
There appears to be so much competition around parenting. It is not a race, and partaking in competitive parenting is bound to make you unhappy. There is no such thing as perfection when it comes to parenting. There also appears to be a thought amongst parents that you are the only one having any kind of challenges and that everyone else and everyone else’s children are perfect. Well let me tell you, this is not the case at all. No parent is perfect and they all have challenges.
Where are you striving for perfection and where could you let go a little?
5. Lone Ranger syndrome
Most parents think they need to go it alone and not ask for help or even expect it. It is this that makes our lives so stressful and hectic. Parenting it not something that is supposed to be done alone. Even as little as 30 years ago, parenting was the job of the community, but for some reason, we seem to think that to even ask for help and admit a challenge means we are weak. Parenting is a tough job and we need help and support, so don’t be afraid to ask.
6. Unconscious parenting
I think this can make us dreadfully unhappy. Spontaneous, gut reactions to our child’s behavior without any forethought can make us always in conflict with those we love the most. When we can look at a situation from a non-judgmental viewpoint and take a step back, everything becomes slightly easier and we ease up on ourselves and in turn become happier.
It is your right to be happy and enjoy your children and to do that you may have to look inward first … happiness is a state of mind, not a place to arrive at or eventually reach … the journey should be exciting as the destination itself.
Sarah Newton is one of the world’s leading teen coaches. She enjoys a high profile and is one of the only teen coaches to have hosted her own eight-part TV series, “My Teen’s a Nightmare I’m Moving Out.” Her first book “Help! My Teenager is an Alien — the Everyday Situation Guide for Parents,” was launched in March 2007 by Penguin and rarely drops out of the top-10 parenting teenager books.