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Parenting is Hard!

I do not promise it will be easy, just a little easier once you are armed with knowledge. Read on, parents!

As an early childhood professional, I have seen my share of parenting styles, most of which are not found in scholarly articles or parenting books. Our world, especially now, is complex, and we are running on empty most days juggling work, home schooling, life, and just surviving. Just so we are clear, I am not bagging on parents. Parenting is hard! Remember those three words as you read forward but know YOU CAN be successful! Also remember, I write this not to judge, but to inform, not to preach, but share my expertise to make your lives as parents a bit easier.

Children are our future. We need to take a step back, re-evaluate what we are doing, and put on our big girl pants.

When you plant a garden, you research the best soil, sun exposure, temperature, and when to water, among other things. You weed the garden and do you very best to prevent predators from eating your future harvest. Children are the most complex seeds in the most complex garden imaginable, requiring crazy amounts of love, care, attention, patience, and guidance. Yet, we are allowing the children in our very own gardens to wilt, spoil, and not reach their full amazing potential.

Parenting is hard but you can do it! Remember how I told you to remember those three words I added four “but you can do it”. Make these words your new mantra and let yourself be okay with the fact that parenting is hard. When you start a new job or try a new skill, you don’t expect it to be easy. It takes time, practice, and perseverance to achieve greatness. When we bring our bundle of joy home from the hospital with the booger sucker, there is not time for practice, and you are expected to already be GREAT! On top of that, it’s a baby and they are so cute and pure and innocent. Babies can be challenging, but we can find solace in knowing they need us. They can’t communicate, and we are their only hope of survival.

Fast forward to age two, three, and four. We now have strong-willed, determined, curious, and exhausting young people running amuck or maybe just pushing your limits. How often do you have the best intentions yet find yourself giving in, making empty threats, freaking out, and just plain losing your mind? As parents, we want the best for our little cherubs and love them with all our hearts and souls, but we may find them sucking the life out of us. Picture this: You take you toddler to the food store (first mistake, but unavoidable because hey, this is life). You promise your angel ice-cream if they behave (in the produce section). Moving from isle to isle, your angel is giving you a hard time, screaming, trying to stand in the cart, pulling things off the shelf, throwing your keys… you remind your angel child “If you continue to act like this you CAN’T have the ice-cream”. Each isle you keep saying “if you continue to act like this you CAN’T have the ice-cream”. The behavior continues to escalate. You have had it. You are at your limit. “That is it, now you are NOT getting the ice-cream”. Angel has now fully morphed into Devil and is in FULL BLOWN TANTRUM mode (the point of no return). But you are sticking to your guns (so much so that other parents are like DAMN you go, some (me) even want to hug you and say WAY TO GO). Other parents are looking and judging, and the life has officially been sucked out of you. So, you CAVE… you run to the ice-cream isle, “Here is the ice-cream, what kind do you want, oh you want both okay”!!!

You may be thinking “so what”. He/she is just a child and I need my sanity! Well, since the “Devil Child” has won and the parent did not follow through, the parent has set the stage for future behavior and what is necessary for the CHILD to WIN! In this real-life scenario (that I saw with my own 2 eyes) this little human has beat you. Think about that for a moment. Your child with 2-4 years of living on this earth is now in control! Every time you give in and do not follow through, you are teaching your child how to act in order to get what they want. Reading this true story, you may be thinking my child is great in the grocery store, but I am willing to bet EVERY parent can relate to a similar bargaining situation gone wrong, where the little person wins and the parent loses.

Remember, I said I am NOT judging you! As a parent, I was there. I struggled, negotiated, gave in, doubted my parenting skills, and even my worth as a woman. This self-sabotage is not who you are, it is not healthy, and definitely NOT serving your children and their futures. You have so much to do and your job as a parent is the most important one of your life. Good news...there is help. Parents need support and resources. Although you may just need five minutes to pee in peace, a reprieve at a party (or grocery store), or just an escape from being a parent, know the decision you make today effects your child and his/her future. The consistency and commitment to the long-term outcome is far more beneficial than the moments of escape that can catapult your child into a downward unhealthy idea of life.

As a young parent, I thought I needed to be the BEST mom and that I should know it all. I wish I had resources and a professional to lean on. Here are some things you may not, but really must, know (a few things I wish I knew at the time):

  • Your child’s brain is not fully developed until 25 years of age, so of course they cannot comprehend adult expectations. Don’t waste your time trying to reason or trying to make them see things as you do; this is a losing battle. Instead listen, acknowledge feelings, breath, communicate, set boundaries, set expectations, and be comfortable in your actions.

  • Setting expectations means you MUST hold your child accountable and follow through. I know this is hard but SUPER important! If you say you are going to do something, you MUST do it. Children can pick up on empty consequences easily, and they are built to push the very boundaries you are setting. That’s healthy for them and is a way for them to try to learn to understand their limits.

  • Children thrive an environment that is developmentally appropriate with boundaries and high expectations that are reasonable and age appropriate. Set the standards high and you will be amazed at the results. You’ll be able to applaud them even if they fall short of your high standard, which could be just above the normal expectation you originally set. Also remember what is reasonable to you is not always reasonable to your child.

  • Your children want YOU! Did you know too many toy choices often over stimulate a child? Research shows when children have too many toys, they play less and get bored more quickly and may act out. What they really want when they ask you for the toy is to PLAY WITH YOU.

Parenting is hard but nothing that is worth it isn’t. Envision yourself as an imperfect but effective parent, enjoying time with your child. You are in control, happy, content, and empowered. This can be you. Of course, you will never be “perfect”, stuff will go down, and the “devil child” will appear from time to time, but you will be armed with necessary knowledge and techniques that will save YOU. Parenting requires tough decisions and consistency. You can (and let’s face it must) encourage your child to be solution oriented, rejecting victimhood and entitlement, the makings of a well-adjusted future adult. Remember the little ones of today are our future. Children do not want to be in control; they want choices, boundaries, and limits, and perhaps candy. You may be surprised to learn children crave these things but CAN accept no as an answer, and above all, they want you to be consistent. It is in this environment they will THRIVE and you will find some peace. It doesn’t have to be a battle, you don’t have to lose your mind, and you can do this. Remember, you’ve got a village behind you!

With love and encouragement,

Dr. Deb

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Dr Deb brings decades of first-hand experience to her parent coaching, not only as a parent, but as an educator and administrator herself. Her energy and insight are so motivational and she is passionate about helping raise kind, generous, and creative tiny humans! She loves what she does and is a fantastic resource!

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