Type “parenting & self-improvement” in a search engine of choice and you’ll come up with thousands of blogs, articles, and studies on ways to improve your parenting. But what about a separation of the two concepts? Self-Improvement AND being a parent? That’s something I want to examine in today’s post.
For some, it’s because of our kids that we decide to take the time to become a better person. I know that’s what I did. I want to examine the importance of taking the time to focus on ourselves with the end-goal of becoming better parents. Any self-improvement we do for ourselves will help improve our abilities to be a parent for our children.
As I discussed last Monday about happiness, if you want to improve your parenting, consider making the end-goal not about your parenting but about yourself.
Make the Journey About Yourself
Type in “ways to improve parenting” and many of the sites to pop up are ways to be a more active listener, be patient, and take time to get to know your kids. All of these are fantastic suggestions, but hard to sustain if the work behind a lack of listening, patience, or communication isn’t addressed internally.
In this year of wellness, if you are a parent, make the journey about yourself first and not about improving your parenting.
If one of your goals (discussed in last week’s newsletter) this year is to improve parenting, this isn’t me saying you need to reconsider your goals. Rather, I am suggesting that you consider the reasons and alter your perspective before going any further.
If you focus too much on something that will deepen your frustration, if you find that you aren’t meeting your benchmarks, you will get frustrated. Frustration leads to discouragement and possibly giving up before achieving your goals.
Therefore, make this journey first about yourself and about your children second. If you’ve done air travel or seen it in a movie/TV – remember what the flight attendants always say: take care of your oxygen mask first before helping anyone else, specifically your children.
If you aren’t able to help yourself, it’s going to be very hard to help your kids.
So if a goal is to be a more attentive parent, ask yourself what might be at the root of that? Make the answer to that question your goal for the year. Quick to snap at a child? Focus on your anger or negatively associated feelings with yourself instead of saying “raise my voice less towards my children.”
Providing a Positive Role Model & Embrace Imperfection
When you take the time for self-improvement while being a parent, you are providing your children with a positive role model. Showing children that even parents need to take the time to make personal adjustments humanizes us to them and makes ourselves more approachable.
We want our children to respect us, therefore by appearing flawed and human gives our children someone to respect. That respect can come from admitting our imperfection and saying to ourselves and children: I can learn from this and make a positive change.
This is great if you want to teach your child to be a more gracious loser or compassionate towards others. Lead by example.
It’s easy to get caught up with the idea that in order to be a “good” parent, one has to be a “perfect” parent. Nothing can be further from the truth. There’s something to be said about being a positive role model to children when we are showing them that we can improve ourselves.
Likewise, we can normalize failure and imperfection for our children to provide them with the reality of the world: no one, despite their best efforts or appearances, is perfect. Everyone is flawed, and everyone makes mistakes. The world is a more interesting and beautiful place with those imperfections.
By switching the focus from making improvements to parenting to improvements to self, the secondary benefit will be “I am becoming a better parent” naturally. Just like shifting one’s focus away from “I am doing this to improve my happiness,” you’ll find that you will be more content even if you aren’t more “happy.”
Sometimes the benefits we think should be our primary goals actually are our secondary ones because we approach goals from the wrong perspective.
I can’t guarantee this for everyone, but for myself, when I focused on getting healthier and removing stress in my life, I found my demeanor around Jai to improve. I found I was more patient for him, I took my time to explain things clearly, I was also able to put our entire relationship in proper perspective (I am dealing with a toddler, not another adult).
When we find satisfaction with ourselves, we are more likely to extend that satisfaction to others.
Self-Improvement and being a Parent
When beginning a journey into self-improvement this year or at any point in time, remind yourself of the following: I am making this journey for myself first and foremost. My children will benefit from my changes because I will improve as a parent through those changes.
You will have difficult days, especially if you have a chronic illness and parent, but remember that those days will end and you can start fresh tomorrow. If you snap at a child or behave in a way you are trying to avoid, remember to apologize to your child for your behavior.
Self-improvement is a humbling experience, so apologizing to children isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. It takes a lot of willpower to admit a mistake to a child, particularly with the natural power dynamic. Keep the mantra running in the back of your mind: I am doing this for myself so I can do better for my child.
Remember that children are naturally forgiving and understanding. Embrace the love they give to you.
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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton