Want to know the most important parenting skills you can focus on? There’s always “more” but the answer isn’t doing more, but focusing on what matters.
A while ago my husband and I started having conversations about how we felt in over our heads.
I began praying for help. Praying I could find a way to make sure I was meeting everyone’s needs without living in guilt and anxiety that I was going to screw the kids up.
And as is usually the case…
When I really start praying and thinking about something, solutions show up. New parenting skills, new ways of doing things, and reminders about things I used to do, but have let slip.
We can’t hold it all together all the time.
So in typical Rachel fashion I read tons of stuff, talked with my mentor, and started to put together some patterns. Parenting skills that research, experience, and Wise People all say makes for well-adjusted stable families.
Not perfect families… but healthy ones.
Parenting Skills That Make The Biggest Difference In Family Life
We won’t do all of these perfectly all the time – of course – but when we feel things are out of kilter or out of whack, they are a good place to start.
Some of these parenting skills are intuitive, and some are not. The key is to put them in your parenting toolbox for when you need to pull them out.
The Ability To Keep YOUR Emotions In Check Without Stuffing Them Or Exploding
“Emotions are good servants, but bad masters.” Unknown
It is so flipping hard to remain calm as a mother. That is a massively important parenting skill that takes a lot of soul searching to master.
Even though we know it’s okay to show emotions, be human, and feel the range of our feelings, it can be hard to take care of our children when we’re Big Balls Of Feelings. And since our children seem to bring out our Big Balls Of Feelings, it feels lose/lose.
The best illustration I’ve heard about how to handle overwhelming feelings (especially when you need to be able to remain calm) is to do this. This might feel a little fooey to you, but once you try it you’ll be convinced.
When you’re experiencing strong emotions and are tempted to yell, severely punish, or flip out, imagine that you are the sky.
You are the sky and your feelings are like clouds passing by.
Now, you might feel rage, disappointment, sadness, fear, anger, anxiety, or loneliness… Imagine that you are the sky and your feelings are clouds and you don’t need to do anything about the clouds.
You just observe them, call them out for what they are, and let them pass by.
When you are calm again you can make rational choices.
This is one of the hardest parts of parenting… not treating our children based on our own emotional reactions.
A Routine Habit of Meeting Your Own Needs Before You Crack And Lose It
There is a lot of confusion and guilt around taking care of ourselves.
Self-care, they call it.
We may have a few opposing viewpoints that are deep back in our brains. If you’re a Christian like me, it’s probably worse. We think we need to pour ourselves out and sacrifice our sanity. That we should never ever ever put ourselves before anyone else in the entire world, especially never before our own family.
We get strung out, bitter, resentful, angry, and mentally ill but our answer is not to take better care of our needs and wants. OH NO.
It’s to make ourselves feel guilty that we can’t martyr ourselves more happily.
I think it’s a lack of understanding about what it means to meet our needs. And, in fact, meeting our own needs and living within our boundaries is a skill we develop over time and with a lot of practice.
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Things moms need to love and serve their families well:
- Adequate rest | If your baby is waking multiple times all night you don’t have to suffer this actual “torture” indefinitely, ask a friend for help.
- Time alone | If you are an introvert, this is even more important. This isn’t a luxury, this is a necessity because you cannot run your home and love your family well if you have no down time to process and refresh.
- Time with friends | We can lose our entire identity when we become mothers and then we try to find vicarious fulfillment through our children. This works until the kids don’t do what we want then it stops working.
- Exercise and body care | Whether you are jumping up and down while watching Netflix (not saying I do this, not saying I don’t), joining a gym, taking classes, or just walking around the yard back and forth (desperate times, mamas), being active helps us physically, emotionally, and physiologically.
If you don’t do those things regularly then you’ll quickly reach the end of your rope. You can hang on to the end of the rope for a while, but eventually your hands will blister and your grip will falter and you’ll fall.
The Capacity To See Your Child Through THEIR Eyes, Not Your Own Needs And Wishes
We often confuse our own wants and needs with our children’s. Because we wanted to be involved in more extra curricular’s as a child, and our parents wouldn’t let us, so we sign our kids up for 5.63 sports per week and pretend it’s best for them.
We want to make sure our kids are very well-behaved in public so – when our children have a meltdown – we’re willing to give them whatever it takes to keep them quiet because we want to be seen to have obedient kids.
It’s really really (or as we say in the South…) real real hard do what’s best in the moment even if it makes us uncomfortable.
The Discipline Of Keeping Family Rhythms
Though I’m always writing about routines and rhythms – I will be the first to admit – doing things over and over can be tedious.
But this is part of where we realize that it’s tedious for US, not our kids. They need routine, predictability, and consistency. And you don’t really realize how important it is until you have a few days being off routine and then BAM… everyone’s fussy, whiny, hangry, and out of sorts.
It takes discipline and commitment to maintain routines, traditions, and rhythms when we just don’t feel like it. Maintaining healthy family routines are an important parenting skill.
But luckily, it’s worth it!
The Ability To Be Kind Yet Firm
Both overly permissive parents and overly strict parents produce dysfunctional dynamics within the home. We all probably tend towards one or the other of those extremes.
It takes thought and care to be a kind, loving, nurturing mother who also prioritizes limits and boundaries with her kids.
It feels hard at first, but it gets easier because it works so well.
When we are able to make rules that actually matter and forget the rest, it’s much easier to “enforce them.” And when we aren’t running around all day barking rules we don’t really care about then we are happier and more at peace.
If we’re at peace we can parent kindly always with the aim to meet our child’s needs. When we’re at the end of our rope we let things slide because we Can’t Take It Anymore.
You don’t have to be a perfect parent. You don’t have to do all things right all the time… you just need to be in tune.
In tune with yourself.
In tune with your kids.
And, in tune when something is “off” so you can find a way forward.
You’ve Got A Family Culture… Embrace It!
You may find you want to add a few routines or rituals to your family life. Or might see some rituals or habits your family does you don’t believe in. This will happen.
The idea is not to give yourself a bunch of To Dos, but to figure out what is at the meat your family. What you believe in, what you like to spend time doing, and how you want your family to be characterized.
“If you want to have a happier family, find some family members, make some time, and play.” Secrets of Happy Families
In my quest to strengthen our own family culture and help you strengthen yours, I made a beautifully functional Family Culture Pack for you.
Use it to brainstorm your family values, then edit the template and print your own family values to frame or hang on the fridge.
Nail down the aspects of your family culture you already have and those that are lacking. Begin improving your own family culture today.