Happy Parenting: 15 Things You Should Give Up to Be a Happy Parent
Want to be a happier parent? Ditch what’s on this list.
By Carol Tuttle
You want to be a happy parent, but it’s challenging, especially when your child is in the teen years.
Don’t lose hope just yet. I have a list of 15 things that keep you from happy parenting. Read through them. Be honest with yourself. Then let them go. Allow yourself to be a happy parent for your child—and yourself!
How to be a happier parent
Here’s a list of 15 things you should give up—and then watch your happiness take off:
Give up “supposed to”
We were conditioned by our early family experiences to believe that parenthood is supposed to look a certain way. But if you hold onto the way things are “supposed” to be, you may miss enjoying how they actually are. Be willing to question what you prioritize as a parent and why.
Give up keeping score
What does your mental score-card keep track of: Who in the family is pulling their weight? How many extracurriculars your child is involved in? How much time you spend running errands—and how much your kids didn’t say thanks?
Keeping score wastes energy. Just do what you feel inspired and able to do. Don’t feel obligated by others’ contributions. Don’t obligate them to live up to yours.
Give up force
As a parent, you have a responsibility to set boundaries. But if a teen consistently resists a certain boundary, don’t just force them to comply. Before you go further, ask your teen, “Why?”
Think of yourself as your teen’s trusted and effective guide, not their dictator. When they experience you as their guide, they’re more likely to listen, which means less struggle and frustration for both of you.
Give up yelling
If you’re not a yeller, this one isn’t for you. But if you tend to yell when you’re feeling upset, consider this question: has yelling strengthened your relationship with your teen—or not?
Yelling usually happens in anger, and it either scares or alienates children. It destroys the relationship of trust that makes a huge difference with your teen. Pay attention to times and circumstances when you yell and then commit to changing those scenarios in the future.
Give up your need to look perfect
Hear me now: there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Embrace your imperfections. Laugh at yourself. The best parents are willing to always learn, change, and improve.
Give up worry
Compulsive worrying doesn’t make your teen any safer. It doesn’t make you any happier. And it teaches your teenager to live in fear. Release your worries and cultivate gratitude for your child’s safety in the present moment.
Give up one-size-fits-all rules
Every teen is unique. What works for one won’t always work for another. Certain standard rules apply across the board (for example, everyone needs to speak respectfully.) But consider the possibility that being a fair parent doesn’t mean doing the exact same thing in the exact same way for every child.
Give up the food fight
You want your teen to eat well, but in their time of life, they are reaching for autonomy. They may not make the healthy choices you want them to make, especially if they’re out with friends.
Have healthy, delicious food available at home. Let your teen voice their preferences and give them a responsibility in meal prep. Make your own healthy eating choices instead of trying to change your child’s.
Give up your role as events coordinator
If you feel like parenthood is a treadmill you can’t keep up with, you may be taking too much responsibility for your teen’s time. Make plans that support their development, but don’t map out every minute for them.
If your teen is taking on too much that somehow becomes your responsibility, have a frank conversation about boundaries. Let your child know what you’re able and willing to do. If they want your help with more than you can give, invite them to get creative about arranging rides or other needs.
Give up unhealthy self-sacrifice
As a parent, you generously give love, time, and attention. But you shouldn’t give up your core self just because you’re a parent. When you ignore your basic needs, you teach your children that when they grow up, they shouldn’t take care of themselves.
Give up guilt
Parents sometimes fall into the self-sacrifice trap because they feel unnecessary guilt. Guilt can be useful if you use it to recognize where you need to make changes. But overwhelming, paralyzing guilt that makes you feel worthless as a person or parent doesn’t accomplish anything. You are enough, just as you are.
Give up one-sided decisions
As the parent, you often have the final say; however, you and your teen will both be happier if it’s not the only say. When it’s appropriate to do so, involve your child in decisions that will affect them. By enrolling children in the decision-making process, you’ll empower them to make their own good decisions in the future.
Give up negative messages
So many messages are repeated to children: you’re too loud, you’re too quiet, you ask too many questions, you’re exhausting, you’re demanding, you’re too talkative, you should make more friends, quit moving, speak up, settle down, smile more.
Try this instead: comment on the exact same behavior in a positive way. For example, you can see the trait of, “you’re too talkative,” as “you really make friends easily.”
Give up your own childhood story
What did you experience that you most want your children to avoid? Being teased at school? Lack of money? Feeling not-enough? Your fears may actually set up that same pattern to be re-created. Don’t trap your children now in your fears of the past. Let them go. Create what you want, not what you don’t want.
Give up on giving up
I’ve heard from parents who worry that they’ve damaged their child, or that they’ve made a mistake that will last a lifetime. I’ve said this many times:
It’s never too late to be a better, happier parent.
Whether your children are 14 or 40, they respond to genuine love from their parents. The effects of mistakes may take a little longer to overcome if your child is older, but it’s never impossible to show up as the happy, supportive parent that you are meant to be. Don’t give up! You have everything you need to be a good parent.
Ok, deep breath.
It’s time to let go of whatever keeps you stuck and let the happiness in!