Modern mothers are bathed in guilt. We feel guilty for being too strict then guilty for being too lenient. Never fear, these parenting behaviors are actually good!
I’m always amazed how my children’s moods affect me. My tendency was to judge my parenting based on my kids’ emotions.
Kids happy = I’m a good mom
Kids unhappy = I’m a bad mom
Whew. Let me tell you, that’s a life tossed to and fro like the waves of the sea.
When children are little they are very much affected by our parenting choices and behaviors. They are still too young to understand that not everything good seems good at the time.
Honestly, they don’t care about tomorrow, next week, or next year. They care about now. They care about this instant. Or they care about getting what they want.
And that’s only natural. They are, after all, young children.
I had two things at war within me…
I had two things at war within me. My head knowledge that certain parenting habits and behaviors were good for the long term.
And my heart reactions that said these habits may bring about tears or resistance from my kids, which doesn’t feel good for the short-term.
It always felt like a win-lose, zero sum game. Turns out, it isn’t. And, turns out, guilt is not a good motivator for parenting.
Parenting behaviors that don’t always feel good, but really are
Without further ado, here are 10 parenting habits we have that make us feel guilty for some reason.
1. Saying no when needed, without the drama
No one likes to be told no, it’s just the way of human nature.
Some think we should limit how often we tell our children no. However, it’s often not the No that gets the big reactions. It’s how we deliver the no.
- Are we angry?
- Are we frustrated and venting while saying no?
- Is there bitterness and resentment in our tone?
To paraphrase what Sandy Blackard says, “It’s not so much what we do that matters, it’s what we think about what we do.”
Strict, straight forward, and kind teachers are often beloved. And these teachers get the best out of their students. Why? Because their rules are the rules and that’s it. No drama.
Kids are born understanding rules, and even make them for themselves. It’s the drama we have in ourselves about the rules that gets the reactions, not the rules.
2. Having kids do things on their own
“Never do for a child what a child can do for themselves.”
Mothers enjoy loving and serving their children. However, there comes a time when doing things for our children they can do for themselves becomes a crutch.
In fact, children’s self-esteem and self-confidence grow when they feel capable. My children often ask me to do simple things for them. I respond by asking to see how they’re doing it.
“Then,” I say, “If you still can’t do it, I’ll be sure to step in.”
They almost always scurry off to complete the task themselves.
- 5 things you think your kids can’t do on their own, but they can… and vice versa
- Things 2 and 3-year-olds really can do on their own
The body of research on chores is overwhelming.
Essentially, chores are a huge predictor of life satisfaction, success, and happiness.
And it’s no wonder. Chores help children learn to do things that must be done, even if they aren’t wild about it. Chores help kids create order in their own environment, teach the value of hard work, and are a necessary life skill.
It’s true, however, that kids will fight chores sometimes. They will fuss and complain and you may as well expect this. The solution? Put chores before screen time, play, or anything else fun.
It’s that simple.
4. Serving nourishing food
The battles around food can be lengthy and dramatic. But even so, diet is an important factor in children’s behavior, sleep habits, health, and development.
It’s hard when dinner time becomes a war zone. Figuring out your boundaries and keeping them is the key. I don’t force my kids to eat anything, but that said their options are limited. They can “take it or leave it” and I’m okay with either.
Afterwards, there’s no yummy pre-bedtime snack because – it goes without saying – kids will hold out on veggies for a huge bowl of yogurt.
Research shows nutrition is directly related to health. Don’t go against your own food boundaries just to avoid power battles. Your kids will be okay if they don’t love everything on their plate.
5. Monitoring screen time
TV and screens in themselves are not horrible things, but experts and parents alike agree that too much TV gets in the way of other activities that will provide a greater long-term benefits to our kids.
Time for their imaginations to flourish, read books, play with siblings, or engage in creative play. And not to mention all the dangerous things on the internet these days for kids.
Don’t feel guilty if the kids watch some TV now and again. But don’t feel guilty when you shut it off, either.
6. Enforcing the family rules
Sometimes when our children break the family rules, we have an immediate desire to set the behavior straight. We may carry out the built in consequence for breaking that rule or even – at times – have the desire to punish our kids.
→ The difference between a built in consequence and a punishment is, essentially, our attitude and the reason we are doing it.
Or there may be the desire to rescue our children from feeling any negative consequence of their actions. This is a super common parenting behavior.
It’s our natural tendency as mothers to protect our children from anything unpleasant or harmful. But protecting them from unpleasant consequences is most definitely not helpful in the long run.
“Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.”
7. Requiring sharing
There was a viral post a few years back that said sharing isn’t always something we should require, and in many cases I agree. A trap some moms fall into against their own will is buying something for every child so they aren’t forced to share.
If you are able to do this and happy about it, fine! If you do this simply to avoid power battles, then you’re rescuing your child from learning to share.
Below is a video where I share how you can develop your own sharing rules within your home. Quick hint, there are 3 ways.
8. Maintaining proper sleep routines
In my hundreds of hours of study (that isn’t over yet!) for infant and child sleep certification, I’ve found one thing… parents instinctively know everyone needs sleep… but they feel so guilty enforcing it.
This is a typical parenting behavior across the world.
While your child is certainly unique in many ways, their need for sleep is not. When children (and adults for that matter) are sleep deprived they are fussy, unable to concentrate, sluggish, and have a whole host of other issues. This affects our kids and our own parenting behaviors.
Just because your child gets a second wind and fights bedtime doesn’t mean they don’t need to go to bed. It can mean they’re over tired, they don’t feel like going to bed, or their sleep routine needs some work.
Sleep is as much of a need as food.
9. Prioritizing your needs over others “would be nice to haves”
This may land me in some hot water, but I’m from Florida. I’m used to the heat.
Modern moms are used to martyring their own mental health to follow the whims of their kids. They will put aside their own survival needs (sleep, nourishment, exercise, downtime, etc.) in an effort to give those they love whatever they want.
Even if it’s a fleeting pleasure.
Many moms are utterly exhausted, resource depleted, on meds for anxiety or depression or suicidal thoughts (or all three) and yet feel guilty for pulling their kids out of sports to have a simpler family life. Or requiring their kids to help out around the house so they aren’t doing every thing for every one.
And even having them go to bed at a normal time so you don’t get to bed after midnight. When you’ll be up at 6 am the next morning to do it all over again.
10. Making kids sit still or wait
I had this talk just the other day with my oldest. Waiting and sitting still is hard! It feels endless and pointless. In fact, we often orient our days so that our kids aren’t forced to wait anywhere.
And, if they are, we are tempted to pull the phone straight out to distract. Why? We don’t think they can do it.
Even so, asking our kids to sit still and wait once in a while helps strengthen that self-control muscle. And we know self-control is a necessary life skill.
The self-control that allows a small child to sit still for five minutes to read a book is the same self-control that will stop them from running into traffic when you say “stop!”
So next time…
Next time your kids fuss, fight, argue, or backtalk you about your rules or habits around the house, know it’s only short-lived.
When we make choices for the good of our children – even if they don’t see it at the time – the positive effects will outweigh the bad.
Love, hug, cuddle, kiss and tell them you love them to the moon and back. Nurture goes a long way in helping fill kids’ connection bucket.
Give them attention and your time and let them share their emotions. And then keep the family rules and boundaries you’ve created for everyone’s good.
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