How to be a happier parent: Six Don’ts

Last week I posted six tips to help you be a happier parent. This week, I am going to talk about what NOT to do.

1. Don’t Compare the Kids

I don’t mean avoid talking about it out loud, I think we should stop comparing the kids period, including mentally in our own heads. Perhaps it is the way I was raised, this one is really hard to do. First time moms tend to compare the time babies reach developmental milestones such as rolling over, walking, talking etc. Experienced moms tend to be sucked into the ‘how well your kids behave vs. mine’ kind of thing.

We’ve got to stop this, at least try to, for our own sake! Every baby develops differently and every kid has his own personality. Comparing does not change the kid we have (this goes to the Accept The Child You Have point in last week’s blog), and if your child cannot even recognize his own name while your neighbour’s younger little girl is already reading Greek Mythology, it will only make you feel bad by comparing. And this does not mean that your child will forever be 3 grades behind your neighbours!

I admit at some point, there will be competition in life (please don’t tell me there isn’t because some aspects of real life inevitably will be). Before that point, let the kids take their time getting there and let us parents try to enjoy them just the way they are!

2. Don’t Compare with Other Parents

Just like we don’t need to be perfect, we do not need to compare ourselves with others either. Two weeks ago, my son brought home the dreaded stomach flu and all of our family got a fair share of it. Finally when everyone was perfectly fine and went back to their work/school routine, I was beat. With my hair all scruffy, in my sweatpants full of lint, I arrived at Rainbow Songs with Scarlett all happy we actually made it there. I swear the mom sitting next to me looked like this:

Gisele-Bündchen-carried-baby-Vivian-outing-NYC (2)

I learned not to compare to be happy. I don’t feed my kids all organic and I buy jarred baby food (gasp) for Scarlett. There are days I bake an awesome batch of cupcakes filled with home made strawberry syrup and vanilla icing whipped from vanilla beans of Madagascar, and there are days I need to order take out from Gerrard and skip a bath for my baby, or myself. I don’t compare myself with anyone anymore. I am sure everyone has bad days, we just don’t get to see all of them.

3. Don’t Get Angry at People Who Don’t Understand. Speak Up or Let Go!

This one is important. I’ve heard so many moms telling me that they are angry because someone passed judgement on their parenting while not understanding what they were going through. And they all kinda did this:

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Do your self a favour, if you can’t let go, then tell them how you feel!

When I had my son, I called up a long time friend who lived in Asia and also had a baby at the same time. While we both struggled with breastfeeding, I chose to bottle feed and she persisted and successfully breastfed her daughter for one year. So she commented, half jokingly: “You are just lazy! You didn’t want to do the work!” What she said gnawed at me first. I kept on thinking, with four grandparents on call and a full time nanny hired the day the baby was born, what did she know about hard work? How could she understand what I was going through? Later on, I realized that her life was so sheltered, that she could not possibly imagine my situation and breastfeeding was probably the most physical challenge she has ever had. So I let it go, and we are still best of the friends today and I am proud of her for her persistence.

In another situation however, I had to speak up. A friend from high school also had a baby girl soon after I had my son. To this day, she is still a sweet little thing that would not step out of line if you told her to stand between 5 cm of space. Naturally, her mom/my friend could not understand my challenges with Blake, and complained about us being fussy parents who were stuck to a schedule. Needless to say, after a while, I could not hang out with her without getting upset about her comments. I actually considered ending the friendship for good. Finally, one day I decided to give it a last go: I confronted her and told her how I felt. To my surprise, she had no idea I felt that way and really acknowledged that she could’ve been more understanding. It was a fantastic outcome!

Sometimes speaking up is hard, but it will make you feel much better, and in the case of parenting, it’s worth the uneasiness.

4. Don’t Blindly Follow any Parenting Philosophy

I’ve seen attachment parenting devotees chasing their crying 3 year old, trying to babywear them while all the kid wanted was to walk. I’ve seen parents swearing off sleep training only to find themselves having to do it because they could no longer nurse a 13 months old to sleep every 2 hours without passing out at work. The theories are exactly what they are: just theories. It is good to explore and have an opinion on these different philosophies but until you try it with your own child, who by the way has her own personality and growth pattern, you will never know if it is gold or a dud.

Don’t make things harder than they have to be. After all, having a philosophy is nice but it is what your child and family need that matters the most!

5. Don’t Feel Guilty

Stay at home or have a career, breastfeed or bottle, make your choice and ditch the guilt! Be confident of the choice you make, and be happy! Enough said!

6. Don’t Lose Your Cool

This is a tough one but we have to work on achieving this. We can be firm but not lose our cool. I am the first to admit that I have lost my cool many times. Did I mention I had a very smart 4 year old who constantly challenges authority? I have to say, I never felt good after getting angry. At the time, it may have scared the kid into doing what you want him to do, but the long term results are very unsuccessful, at least for me.

All those tips we teach our toddlers to practices to regulate their emotions? We can use them too. Show them by example, and keep your cool. You will be more effective and much happier over the long run!

Want to share your parenting tips and experience? I’d love to hear from you!

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2 thoughts on “How to be a happier parent: Six Don’ts

  1. I’ve learned that everything (good and bad) with kids is a phase. You savour the good stuff and hope the bad stuff passes quickly. Also, it’s ok not to be happy all the time and cherish each moment as a parent. There are some moments that are just downright terrible, and they are what they are. You don’t have to enjoy those times, just survive them!

    • I totally agree! There were so many times I was stressed out about something only to find out later that the phase has passed by itself. You are definitely right that some moments are just horrible and we can’t be happy all the time; we can only work toward being happier in a general mental state kind of way.

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