Think of a specific moment when you know you nailed this parenting thing. Maybe you handled a child’s meltdown like a champ. You were patient and remained kind yet consistent. You worked your way through that chaos like a professional.
Perhaps you thrived in the mess and stress of a birthday party or Pinterest-worthy craft project with Littles. Or maybe it was the time you survived the day with a smile, although morning sickness or the flu had you on the edge of Puke Central all day.
We have all experienced those moments or days. They are beautiful and motivating. Upon reflection, we enter a parenting high and are encouraged that we are indeed doing right by our kids.
Unfortunately, we have also all been on the other side of the parenting spectrum. There are the times when we raise our voice and only later see the futility in fighting fire with fire. Somedays, there just isn’t enough time, patience, or energy to go around. We have all felt like we can do nothing right as parents.
Intense frustration mounts when a whole stage of childhood takes on this defeating feel. “I just can’t handle this child these days!” An extremely hard part of parenting is handling the day-in, day-out throng of situations that try our patience and our problem-solving capabilities.
An epiphany hit me suddenly one day: there is a simple difference between parenting hardships that end peacefully and those that end with frustration and exhaustion.
The difference is me.
Sometimes my child throws a tantrum and I handle it beautifully. Other times, that same child throws a very similar tantrum and I feel like our household is falling to shambles. Same child, different me.
The hardest part of parenting has very little to do with the kids and very much to do with what is going on inside of me.
When I started to understand this concept, it changed parenting for me. I am every bit in control of how I respond to my children and how that makes me feel.
Freedom comes from letting go of trying to control what my children do and focusing instead on what I can do to actually help the situation. I have found that the greatest good comes when I focus on my own perspective and ability to love. In the end, this focus on me does more to improve my children’s behavior anyway.
Learning to act from love and long-term perspective is a lifelong pursuit. However, here are six surefire ideas to get you started and keep you going.
Wake up ten minutes earlier to set your footing for the day. I am a snooze button girl, but when I ignore that urge, those ten minutes are totally worth it! Pray, meditate, deep breathe, repeat positive mantras, take a quick walk, or read a scripture or inspirational quote.
Eat nutritious foods, sleep eight hours, and exercise. (I am not sure in which parenting world all of these things happen every single day, but at least begin my aiming for once a week! These healthy habits really do bring balance and perspective to life.)
Laugh. Stop taking yourself quite so seriously.
Slow down. Go outside and take a few deep breaths.
Be the therapist. Is there a certain behavior that triggers anger or frustration? Ask yourself why it bothers you so much. What is the underlying issue? Is it actually a matter of selfishness (makes me uncomfortable, makes me look bad, etc.) or are you truly acting out of love? Write in your journal or talk to a close confidant about it.
Be present with your child. Cross a few things off your to-do list to make this happen. Kids are pretty consistent. They whine, they hug, they cry, they snuggle. Kids throw tantrums and refuse to obey at times. They change and challenge us. We can count on that.
What I hope to eventually also count on is my response to the difficult moments and trying situations. It might seem insanely obvious, but wasn’t it a pretty learned man who made famous the idea that, “The simplest explanation is usually the right one?”
The hardest part of parenting is being the parent.
It’s being the parent who responds with patience, perspective, and calm. It is being the parent who acts from love, rather than fear or exhaustion. And while it is incredibly difficult to become this parent for all kids at all times, it is always possible for me to be a little bit better tomorrow. And that gives me hope.
Hope that one day, the hardest part of parenting won’t be that hard anymore.
Marielle Melling loves reading and history, music and math. She loves nature and all things athletic. She loves her huge family, four children, and fabulous husband. She loves life and sharing what she is learning. While we’re on the subject, she loves chocolate chip mint ice cream, puzzles, and her toilet paper to roll from the top. Marielle is trying to figure out Instagram, but you will most likely find her at her blog Lovin’ Life with Littles where she shares parenting insights, activities for kids, and funny tidbits about life with Littles.