As a parent, does it sometimes feel like your to-do list is never-ending?
You have so many responsibilities to fulfill, chores to complete, and errands to run.
Through my work, I interact with lots of parents. Sadly, it seems like many parents are overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of life, and have lost the joy of parenthood.
In this article, I’ll share with you six things to say “no” to as a parent. When you say “no” to these things, I’m confident that you’ll become a happier – and more effective – parent.
Here they are:
1. Say “no” to perfection
Do you strive for perfection?
Some parents hold on to these ideals – and some even try to achieve them all at once:
- They should never lose their temper.
- They should always be cheerful.
- Their home should be neat and clean all the time.
- They should be involved in charity work and in serving the community.
- They should have an active social life.
- Their children should be well-behaved.
- Their children should perform well in school.
- Their children should excel in their co-curricular activities.
Don’t get me wrong. We should set goals in the different areas of our lives. And yes, we should develop ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally.
But we must also accept that we’re not perfect.
Let’s be kind to ourselves. Let’s not hold ourselves to unattainable standards. Let’s say “no” to perfection, and instead say “yes” to progress.
2. Say “no” to over-scheduling your children’s lives
Every parent wants their children to maximize their potential.
Wouldn’t it be a waste if your child had musical or artistic talent, but never took music or art lessons?
But this mindset can become too extreme.
I’ve worked with students who participate in three co-curricular activities, as well as music and dance lessons. This is on top of their other academic enrichment classes.
Talk about being scarily busy!
It’s almost impossible to do this when they’re rushing from lesson to lesson and activity to activity.
What’s more, parents of these children often spend most of their weekends sending their children to the various enrichment classes. As such, these families don’t spend much quality time together.
I’ve worked with some families that don’t even have any regular family time at all.
So I encourage you not to register your children for more than one music-/art-related activity and one sports-related activity. This way, everyone in the home will be happier and less stressed.
3. Say “no” to comparing your children with others
I’m a parent myself, so I know this is easier said than done.
But at some level, we realize that there will always be children who are smarter, more talented, more athletic, and more hardworking than our children.
Of course, you should encourage your children to adopt the right attitude and to cultivate a strong work ethic. But you, too, must do your best not to compare them with other children – especially not in front of them.
Making comparisons will cause your children to feel hurt. They may start to believe that your love for them is conditional.
Your children need to know that you love them the same, no matter how well-behaved they are, no matter what grades they get, and no matter how many awards or medals they win.
To help you say “no” to making comparisons, ask yourself if you’re hanging out with “bad” company. Do your friends (who are also parents) frequently make comparisons? Are they overly competitive? Do they make you feel afraid of losing out?
If your friends aren’t a good influence, minimize your contact with them. Find new friends who will spur you on to become a better, more joyful parent.
4. Say “no” to comparing yourself with other parents
I’m sure you know some parents who seem to have it all.
They have a thriving marriage and career. They have great kids. They’re energetic and cheerful. And they own a nicer house and car than you.
With both envy and curiosity, you wonder: How do they do it?
Comparing yourself with other parents is unhealthy, just as comparing your children with others is unhealthy. By comparing yourself with people who seem to have the perfect life, you’ll begin to feel dissatisfied with your own life.
Envy is the enemy of gratitude. And gratitude is a key factor that leads to long-term happiness and success.
When you make comparisons, you can’t focus on all that you have to be thankful for: your family, your friends, your health, your job, and the many comforts you enjoy on a daily basis.
We must all decide to run our own race. In this race, the aim isn’t to finish first. It’s to finish well.
Finishing well is about serving others, making a contribution, establishing meaningful relationships, and building a home that’s filled with warmth and love.
Finishing well doesn’t require a huge amount of wealth, nor does it require you to have a “perfect” life.
What’s the first step to finishing well? Say “no” to comparing yourself with other parents.
5. Say “no” to being overprotective of your children
I’ve interacted with countless students who don’t understand that choices lead to consequences.
Why don’t they grasp this reality of life?
Because throughout their lives, their parents have sheltered them from negative consequences:
- When they forget to bring their homework to school, their parents drop it off later that day.
- When they get in trouble with their teacher, their parents prevent them from getting punished.
- When they don’t get into the co-curricular activity or club they want, their parents intervene.
- When they wake up late for school, their parents write a note to excuse them.
These are just a few examples of how well-intentioned parents prevent their children from learning responsibility. Overprotective parents raise children who are ill-prepared for the “real world,” where you’re forced to bear the consequences of your actions.
So as parents, let’s allow our children to make mistakes. Let’s allow them to face challenges, to fail, to overcome setbacks. In so doing, they’ll become more independent and resilient.
(Of course, if they’re in physical danger, we should step in.)
It’s heartbreaking to watch our children fall, both in a literal and figurative way. But if we don’t let them fall when they’re kids or teenagers, they might never learn to get up on their own.
And as Victor Kiam once noted, “Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.”
6. Say “no” to putting your own needs last
Without a doubt, parenthood involves sacrifice. A lot of it.
In fact, when I became a first-time parent, my mum told me that parenthood can be summed up in one word: sacrifice.
But it’s unwise to continually put our needs last, because we’ll eventually burn out.
As the saying goes, we can’t give away what we don’t already have. If we want to share joy, happiness, kindness and love with those around us, we must first have those things inside of us.
How do we ensure this?
By taking care of our needs:
- Making time to catch up with close friends
- Having a weekly or fortnightly date with our spouse
- Spending some alone time every day to think and reflect
- Making sleep and exercise a priority
- Asking for help when necessary
When we do these things, we’ll be recharged and re-energized. We’ll be better parents too.
The bottom line
Saying “no” is hard, especially when it comes to the six things mentioned in this article.
But as you intentionally put these tips into practice, you’ll have the time and energy for the truly meaningful things in life.
So start saying “no” today, and watch as you become a happier, more effective parent. 🙂
An earlier version of this article first appeared on Yahoo!.
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