Raising children can be a hugely rewarding, life-enriching experience but it can also be a huge source of stress and sometimes even despair. There are those who will wax lyrical about how every moment of child-rearing is a joy, but any realistic parent knows that those people are liars.
Children lie to their parents. They can be sneaky. They don’t listen to what they’re told and somehow, they can often seem to have been born with the ability to press just the right buttons to drive Mum and Dad nuts.
None of this is really news to most parents. But many don’t stop to think that some of the things that they do might be driving their kids just as crazy and adding to THEIR stress.
We all want to raise kids that are good, well-adjusted creatures who do well in school, are popular and who will grow up to be useful, successful people in their own right. We also hope we can raise our kids to do better and have a better life than we have, but in doing so often hold some hypocritically high standards for our children, especially when they reach their tween and teen years.
Are you guilty of this? Consider these behaviors (and be honest here) and if you can see yourself in any of them then the time has come to learn to lighten up.
Expecting Your Child to Always be in a Good Mood
It’s annoying (to say the least) when you come home from a long day at work and your kid is in a bad mood. Why? You are the one who has toiled all day to keep a roof over their head and food on the table – as well as pay for those jeans they were so desperate for. Surely the least they could do is stop their silly sulk that’s adding to your stress.
The fact is though, kids have bad days too. They get a bad test score. They have a fight with their BFF. The teacher was particularly mean today. They just spent an hour studying for a test when they could have spent it out playing soccer instead.
The fact is that children experience things during their day that anger them, stress them out and upset them just like you do. They deserve to be cut a bit of slack. Kids are not always going to be in a good mood and parents just have to accept that. Now, if they are never in a good mood, that’s a different story. But for the most part leaving them alone, while making the offer that you are there to talk if they need it, is better than haranguing them to ‘cheer up’ just because it will make you feel better.
Expecting Your Child to Be Perfect in School
There is nothing wrong with wanting your child to do well at school. There is nothing wrong with encouraging them to do so and for setting boundaries for study times. There is even nothing wrong with becoming a little frustrated when they get a low mark in a test or assignment you know they could have done better in. But expecting your child to be perfect in school is not just unreasonable it can border on cruel if you set the bar too high.
Are you perfect at work? Do you never make a mistake? No, you do, and you learn from it, continue to try to do your best and move on. School is your child’s work at this point. All you can ask is that they always try their best, help them learn how to learn from their mistakes and offer support when they need it. Screaming at them over a bad test score will achieve nothing, other than to undermine their confidence even further.
Expecting Your Child Never to Mess Up
It’s frustrating when a child messes up for sure. How did they rip that dress? You just bought it. How did they manage to drop that phone? Do they think iPhone screens grow on trees? Why did they miss the bus? Can’t they read a timetable?
The question here to ask yourself is why do we often hold kids to a higher standard than we do ourselves? You have probably missed a bus at least once or twice. One odd step or slip and you might drop your phone as well. And the chances are you’d be mad, but you’d forgive yourself and move on to finding a solution to the problem. So, if you don’t do the same for your kids then yes, you are being totally unreasonable.
Expecting Your Child to Always be Grateful
We all try to give our kids as much as we possibly can. And yes, they should be grateful for that fact. But they don’t have to tell you that ten times a day. The fact is that when you take on the role of parent it comes along with the responsibility of putting your children’s needs ahead of your own much of the time.
While we are on the subject, many parents do need to be mindful of the need to give a little bit more of themselves sometimes. If your kids are in the room with you but you are glued to the TV, or your phone, you aren’t really spending time with them, are you? They shouldn’t have to be grateful for just your presence; they really need your attention, too.
Expecting Your Child to Always Be Honest
As we mentioned earlier, kids lie. Very few of them however actually lie to be deceitful. Instead they lie because they are scared of what might happen if they tell the truth. If they actually tell you how badly they messed up a test, are you going to shout and scream? If you honestly answered probably, then yes, they are going to hide that test score from you for as long as possible, and may go to extreme lengths to do so. And the same holds true for many other things.
No one is saying you should never get mad at some of things kids do, especially as they often do some pretty dumb things. But didn’t you? If you make every little thing that a child does wrong into a nuclear event, refusing to hear their side and laying down the law just because what you say goes then you will raise deceptive, dishonest children.
Instead, learn to pick your battles and learn to listen. The more your child feels comfortable telling you things and feels they have a reasonable sense of freedom the more likely they are to be honest with you. And remember, we all make mistakes, even you, and everyone deserves a fair hearing.