No matter how eagerly you welcomed a pregnancy, no matter how many parenting books you’ve memorized, you’re guaranteed times of moaning, “Why did I ever have kids?” Whether due to a long-running personality conflict or an overdose of crowded-house syndrome, discouragement is only human and nothing to be ashamed of. But it can become a damaging habit; so know how to keep it from visiting too often or staying too long.
- Watch your expectations.
However expert they are, authors and podcast hosts don’t know your kids personally, so it rarely works out if you try to do “exactly as told.” Human beings, however new to the world, are uniquely and complexly designed and can’t be debugged according to mass-produced instructions. Learn the principles of good parenting, but adapt them to your family.
Beware of negative expectations, too. Parents who are always worrying that their kids will get hurt, or will get bad grades, rarely accomplish more than to create self-fulfilling prophecies and raise their own blood pressure.
- Don’t compare your child, or yourself, to others.
No two people have the exact same natural gifts; and it’s comparing apples to oranges to judge your own reality by someone else’s visible image. Never mind how “perfect” another household looks; keep your attention on doing what’s right for your own family.
- Count your blessings.
Feeling occasionally “down” is unavoidable; feeding that feeling is optional. If your typical response to discouragement is to dwell on “poor me, nothing ever goes right,” you’re building a habit of being chronically miserable. (Even if you don’t care about your own happiness, consider that such an attitude is likely to infect your children and eventually your grandchildren.) Keep a reference list of everything you have to be thankful for (that includes your home, your income, electricity, running water, and your kids), and add three items every time you catch yourself starting to complain.
- Practice honesty and openness.
If you try to convince your children (or anyone else) that you’re infallible, you won’t fool them for a moment, but you’ll poison the relationship and your own nerves. If you get mad when others don’t instinctively know what you need, that won’t do the relationship—or your health—any good either.
If you want help cleaning up, say so. If you make a mistake, admit it and apologize. And if you just can’t deal with some issue in your family, don’t be afraid to admit it and seek professional help. You may be saving your children from growing up to pass on dysfunctional-family patterns.
- Think long-term.
However it may seem from the present-moment view, kids do outgrow messy diapers, and today’s struggles don’t last forever. And the little things you do to keep your children healthy and happy aren’t just “same old grind” monotony, but the bricks that build security and self-confidence for everyone’s future. Remember this and keep up your own learning and goal-setting, and you’ll find yourself living many more discouragement-free, all-around-fulfilling days.
Blessings to parents and children of all ages!