Raising kids is hard. One of the most important and rewarding but also the most challenging jobs you will probably ever have.
But very often we make it harder on ourselves by taking short cuts.
Doing what is easier in the short run is convenient, but in the long run it is guaranteed to come back and bite you in the a$$.
And then you find yourself in the position where you not only have to begin enforcing rules and expectations that were never in place before, but you also have to correct and undo behaviors that affect not only your kids but your entire family.
And undoing stuff and resetting the clock is much more difficult and time consuming at ten or fifteen years old than it is at five years old.
So what can you do to make your job as a parent easier while also helping your children develop those qualities that are important to navigating the real world?
Start with these:
1. Hold off on giving them access to technology for as long as possible.
Yes, handing over your phone or buying your kid an iPad when they are two years old makes life easier immediately. But the magic of the screen either wears off, or, just as humans build up a tolerance to medications and alcohol and pain killers, kids develop a dependence on technology and the only way to get a fix is to have access to it for increasingly longer periods of time.
2. Limit their screen time
Once you pull the trigger, you have to keep that sh*t in check. Because breaking your kid from a technology addiction is not fun. And the more time your kids spend on devices, the worse they will get along with each other, and the worse their attitudes and behavior will become.
3. Limit YOUR screen time.
You cannot expect your kids to understand why there need to be limitations in effect if you are staring at your phone for the majority of their waking hours. Put the phone down. Have face-to-face interactions with your children. Model healthy behaviors. Do stuff outside with them.
4. Take responsibility.
Own your behavior and acknowledge when you f*ck up. And then change your behavior. If you want your kids to learn how to take responsibility for their mistakes, they need someone to model that behavior for them. And just as your kids aren’t perfect and are going to mess up, so will you.
5. Stop yelling.
You cannot teach your kids how to speak respectfully to anyone if you are screaming at them when they aren’t doing what you want them to do. If they aren’t doing what you want them to do, it’s not on them. It’s on you. Yes. IT’S ON YOU. Because you have set up a “routine” for them where they are waiting for the yelling. That is the signal that you are serious.
You wouldn’t accept that behavior from a boss. And your kids, quite honestly, shouldn’t accept if from you. It’s immature and it’s disrespectful.
Exercise gives your brain a reset. Exercise helps you to develop discipline in other areas of your life. Exercise models healthy behaviors for your kids, especially when they are feeling stressed out. Exercise helps you relieve some of that stress that is a part of parenting.
7. Give them responsibility.
Your job is not to cater to your kids. Your job is to guide your kids. To teach them to be responsible. To teach them how to be contributing members of society. To teach them to be independent. Responsibility eases your load so you aren’t constantly taking care of everyone else other than yourself, which inevitably leads to you losing your sh*t. Your kids will never take ownership of their schoolwork or their performance at practice or their belongings when they aren’t taught to take care of those things themselves.
8. Eat meals as a family.
Maybe with lots of kids and sports schedules and whatever, you are never all together as a family for dinner. Then shuffle things around. Eat breakfast as a family. Eat lunch as a family. Find a couple meals each week to eat together as a family. When you don’t come together as a team, you will never function as a team.
9. Hold family meetings.
Classrooms start their days with class meetings. Businesses hold staff meetings. Families benefit from family meetings. These meetings are opportunities for everyone to connect. (If you are really strapped for time, you could hold a family meeting during a meal). Family meetings allow you to make sure everyone is on the same page. The also allow all family members and opportunity to be heard. People who do not feel heard are often the people who act out and have behavior issues.
10. Establish early(er) bed times.
Most kids do not get enough sleep. Sleep is the zamboni for your brain and for your kids’ brains. We have all had those nights where we let the kids stay up late, convinced they will sleep in the next day, only to have them wake up even earlier than they normally do, and then they are complete disasters the next day.
Tired kids have behavior issues. Tired adults have behavior issues! And research shows that kids who go to bed earlier actually sleep MORE every night.
Help your children rest their brains. It will do them — and you — a world of good.
All these things can all be a challenge. And at some point we all bend the rules and make exceptions.
This is expected and it happens. But then we as parents must accept the consequences of allowing those rules to be broken.
Your kids’ behavior will reflect the choices that you — the leader in the household — have made. And if the behavior you are experiencing isn’t what you want for you or for them, it’s up to you to change it. To get back on track. And to be disciplined about it.
It’s not easy.
But one thing I can guarantee is that implementing these things when your kids are two years old isn’t nearly as painful as it is when your kids are twelve.
The best gift you can give your kids, and yourself, is to get on this stuff right away.
Because right now is the easiest it’s ever going to be to get started.