Parenting is a calling, but answering the call isn’t always easy. While moms and dads around the world feel blessed to have their children, they are also honest about how hard it is to be a parent and to feel confident in the decisions we make when raising our kids. Living in a world of Pinterest perfect birthday parties and carefully worded social media humble brags doesn’t make it any easier.
The truth is parenting is the most important job, and none of us want to screw up, but it comes with no manual, no directions, and no do-overs. The hospital sends us home with a tiny person to keep alive, and we have to nurture the relationship until the end of our lives, hopefully creating memories and building character in our children.
There’s no way to be a parent and live a life without regrets. It’s inevitable that a decision we made will end up being the wrong one, or the daily habits we fall into will be exactly what we hoped to avoid. Parenting is about relationships, and relationships aren’t simple. However, there are parents who have gone before us and can attest to what they hope to change, helping new moms and dads possibly avoid these common regrets.
There’s no way to be a perfect parent. Laughing a lot, loving always, and knowing how to say I’m sorry are good practices. It’s also important to know that as parents, we can change and set the example for our children that just because we become stuck in a bad habit doesn’t mean we have to stay stuck.
15 Becoming Their Parents
There are plenty of parents who hope to emulate their own parents’ style of raising children and want to offer their kids the same upbringing they had. However, many moms and dads find that when they are getting ready to have a child, there are at least a few things they want to make sure they don’t do like their parents because they experienced the negative effects.
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, humans are often creatures of habit.
The way our parents raised us is hardwired into our brains, and it takes constant, deliberate effort to change what we know. If our parents handled problems in a passive aggressive manner, that’s what we learned. If our parents yelled at us, then yelling is what we saw and assume is an effective problem solving technique, even if we know better.
Not only is it essential to identify what we don’t want to do, it’s important to figure out what we want to do instead so we have a plan when it’s time to deal with hard situations. It’s a shot at breaking the cycle.
14 Yelling And Screaming
Spanking is largely frowned upon, with countries like France recently outlawing it. The long-term negative effects have been documented, so many parents steer clear of corporal punishment. However, the popular replacement is yelling at children to get their attention and force them to obey.
Unfortunately, the long-term negative effects of the yelling method have also been documented, but this is one of the easiest traps for parents to fall into when trying to discipline their children.
Children who are yelled at learn to model that behavior, and they are also more aggressive both physically and in their own speech. Plus, children who are yelled at are more likely to deal with feelings of low self-esteem and anxiety. Yelling also loses its potency over time, so though it is having negative effects on a child, it doesn’t actually work as a discipline technique.
13 Not Really Listening
We spend a very large portion of children’s lives teaching them to talk only to find out they never shut up. That’s why staying in active listening mode is so hard. Kids have tons of words, and parents only have so much time and patience when hearing them.
That leads to parents only hearing and not listening, sometimes assuming they know what their kids are going to say so it’s not worth the mental investment to give the conversation full attention. The problem parents are finding with this approach is that they don’t know as much about their kids as they though they did, and they are missing out on opportunities to learn more.
Active listeners are not created overnight. Listening is a skill that has to be honed and practiced, but it’s worth parents learning this lost art. They can pass down active listening to their children, and many conflicts in relationships can be avoided when people are doing the work of listening to the words, the tone, the inflections, as well as watching the body language offered with the words.
12 Putting Pressure On Their Kids
Kids are growing up in a high pressure world where parents put their kids on private school waiting lists before they are born and college and career choices are expected to be made and pursued early so children can receive coveted places in the world.
Even sports in certain areas of the country have become highly competitive stress activities as opposed to a chance to just throw the ball and have fun. Many parents regret buying into this lifestyle and passing the strain on to their children.
The good news is parents have the opportunity at any second to pull the plug. Telling kids that no one’s life is average if they follow their talent and desire and that success isn’t measured in money, social status, or college acceptance letters helps kids feel loved for who they are, not what they accomplish.
11 Use Technology More Easily
There are some advantages to growing up in the technological age, and our children can benefit from the flood of information at their fingertips. It’s also a tricky existence, and issues likely technology addiction are real for parents and kids.
In today’s world, it’s hard to imagine what parents did when they needed a minute to themselves. Now we turn on the TV or offer a handheld device and let technology babysit while we take a minute. Using technology reasonably and responsibly is not the worst thing, but research proves technology use is changing the way our children learn to think.
The good news is we can get in front of this issue and set the rules and teach how to properly interact with technology to our kids. The bad news is many parents admit they don’t. Children using technology is their way out of having to engage in that moment, and they have understandable guilt about letting computers and video games help dictate brain development without their input.
10 One-On-One Time
Quantity time does not always equal quality time, and quality time does not have to be elaborately planned. However, parents are concerned they aren’t spending enough one-on-one quality time with their children.
This problem is especially prevalent in larger families where most of the time is spent as a unit. Creating a positive family dynamic is important, but so is setting apart time for each child. One-on-one time usually allows time for both people to reveal more than they can in groups, and the conversation can flow in different directions without the outside influence of other siblings.
Creating one-on-one time isn’t difficult. It can be a lunch date with one child, or it can be going to see a movie with another. As long as the child feels like the full focus is on them, they are likely to feel more appreciated, and that may positively affect their attitude when the entire family is back together.
9 Creating The Perfect Online Life
If we took our kids out for brunch, to the park, and then ended the day with a movie night, but didn’t put it on Instagram, did it really happen?
I’m joking, kind of. With social media at our fingertips and the delicious possibility for immediate gratification through the comments and approval of other people, parenting has become a spectator sport, even if we didn’t mean for it to. We spend a vast majority of our time chronicling our adventures as opposed to just living them, and we’re passing down the idea that life isn’t real unless posted to our kids.
It’s true that there are advantages to social media. Families living in different parts of the world stay connected through social media, and communities rise up online to encourage each other through the sometimes lonely parenting journey. But this is an area where we have to constantly assess our motives. If in doubt, don’t bring the phone. This is a place where it might be wise to go retro on occasion.
8 Choosing Work Over Home Life
Women today have choices when it comes to working or staying home with a child. Many have decided to work from home or go part-time, but every decision is unique to the person and the situation.
Many parents find they regret putting their work life before their kids. That’s not to say parents regret working. It’s not a bad thing for kids to see their parents follow their passion and make a difference in the world. However, parents regret not drawing lines and putting their children before their job.
Nonstop access to email and work accounts means most jobs don’t have end times. It’s always possible to log in, work on the weekends, and never fully disengage from a job. While we assume our kids either don’t see this or aren’t bothered by it, by saying yes to work when we could be having quality time with our kids, they are hearing us say no to them, even if we don’t say it out loud.
7 Buying Things Instead Of Playing With Them
Not many parents will say they believe the key to their child’s happiness is material possessions. However, parents sometimes live a life that makes it look like that is exactly what they believe. In an effort to keep up with the Joneses, parents shower kids with gifts to show they care.
Children value time more than things, no matter what parents think. Saying no to material possessions is okay, especially when kids are already drowning in a sea of excess. Saying yes to experiences is what matters. Of course, saying yes to experiences can feel much harder.
Sitting on the floor and playing Candy Land for an hour is fun, but for adults it can also be tedious. The truth is this is much better to say yes to letting a kid purchase an app so they can play alone. Saying yes to nature walks, picnics, and the like helps create memories in a way that piles of gifts and money spent never will.
6 Taking An Interest In The Children’s Interests
There are parents who have endured hearing the history of ska music, watching horrible movies on repeat, and playing video games where they weren’t even sure of the objective. They do it in the name of love for their kids, but many parents say they should be doing it more often.
It’s not always easy to be interested in what our kids are into, but it’s in our best interest to try. Having a shared interest is how we connect to others, and it gives us a passageway into our child’s life despite their age or overall feelings about us at the time.
Kids are more likely to reveal the important information to a parent while sharing a hobby with them than they are in the typical after-school-special-deep-talk scenario we see on TV. Plus, it’s always nice to think someone loves us enough to try to like what we do. Even if parents have to fake it till they make it, the effort is what matters.
5 Teaching Spirituality
Most parents, whether they are religious or not, want to teach their kids about being spiritual on some level. However, even parents who are committed to a religion can find it difficult, let alone the ones who aren’t sure exactly what they want to pass on spiritually. Parents regret not teaching their children more about the spiritual side of their existence, yet many still find it hard to start.
There doesn’t have to be a master plan on how to do this. Parents can point out the sublime on a normal day or answer questions honestly when asked about life, death, and our souls. They can read from religious text together. Though children are free to choose for themselves what to believe, parents talking about spiritual issues gives kids permission to ask questions without worrying about making anyone uncomfortable.
Setting aside time for spiritual discussions is also an option and may work well for those who feel like time is the problem. Putting something on the calendar makes it more official and can help keep mom and dad stay on track in this department.
4 Do Better At Creating Community
Social media sometimes gives us the illusion that we are living lives in community. The fast pace of life can also make it feel like the quick hellos we wave to other moms during a pick up or drop off equals a relationship, but these encounters don’t actually build a tribe or community for our kids.
Children of the 1970s and 1980s probably remember riding bikes through the neighborhood and eventually landing at a friend’s house for food. There was security and comfort for parents knowing each mom knew the kids and who they belonged to. This day in age, it’s harder to create that feeling or that kind of life.
Moms often describe parenthood as lonely. Because of this women are wishing they had started building a real, physical tribe for their children early on. Making mom friends is not always easy, and being reliable is a challenge when life revolves around a child’s nap schedule and whether or not they have a contagious virus that can contaminate other children.
However, it’s worth the effort, and it’s never too late to start. Modeling positive friendships for our kids and providing them with a community of trusted adults is one of the best gifts we have to offer.
3 Consistency In The Household
Almost every parenting book on the market will hammer home the importance of consistency. Whether it’s being consistent with affection or discipline, helping kids know what to expect and following through is key to building stable relationships. So why do so many parents say they have trouble being consistent with their kids?
The short answer is because it’s hard. Despite our best intentions, not every day is going to run the same as the one before, and unique challenges arise that force us to make decisions quickly. We don’t always choose well and then decide to try a new approach next time, leaving our kids wondering what the norm is.
The key with consistency is for mom to start where she is with one item on her list, then slowly move forward. Offering consistent responses to disobedience will help children see a pattern and know they will suffer a consequence, hopefully helping them think before they act. Keeping our promises consistently helps our kids trust us.
2 Know The Little Things Are The Big Things
Kids see the beauty in the small things, and they pay attention to the details adults have learned to ignore. They also tend to have big feelings that make seemingly small slights monumental and simple joys what life is made of.
The hard part is seeing life through our kids’ eyes, because as parents we are removed from that age and time of life. It’s easy to treat a child’s hurt feelings as no big deal, even if their hearts are breaking, because we see the bigger picture and know this is not life altering in the big scheme of things. It’s also easy to dismiss joy and skip celebrating with a child if we see the reason as not relevant.
Parents don’t set out to do this on purpose. The common culprit is distraction, giving our kids a piece of our attention while we continue on with the tasks of life. The problem is when we start ignoring the small things, kids won’t come to us with the big ones.
1 Dealing With Self-Doubt About Our Parenting
At the end of the day, we’re not always going to be the parents we hoped, but we are parents who try. However, self-doubt causes us to replay every misstep, stress over every decision, and essentially rips the joy out of parenting. Instead of laughing with our kids, we’re researching our next move to make sure we don’t land them in therapy.
Instead of living a moment, we’re documenting it to see if others find us worthy as parents. Self-doubt takes us out of the moment and away from our children.
That’s why many parents are calling for moms and dads to drop the guilt. The fact that parents are assessing their behavior and always looking for ways to improve is a pretty good sign they are doing a good job. The key is not to let self-doubt paralyze and take us away from the everyday experience of raising a child.
Long-term stress is not conducive to joy, and our kids know that. Instead of regretting every decision we make or worry about the past or the future, let’s live in the present, fully focused on our kids.