Would you say your parenting leans toward the plus or the minus?
Parents that lean towards the plus side often deal with their challenges by adding more to their plate. They want tips to help them control their own anger, suggestions for discipline tactics, and ideas for running a smooth home. They think that the solution might be to add time-filling activities or commitments to their already busy schedules. For instance, if you feel your child needs to make more friends, you might add yet another sport or club to their schedule. If your child is tired of their toys, you may feel that the solution is to buy new games or toys.
Parents are always looking for new things to make their lives less stressful, but sometimes those “solutions” actually add more to their to-do list.
Parents that lean toward the minus side, on the other hand, recognize that cutting back on activities and creating margin in their lives can actually help cut down on their parenting stress and increase their parenting effectiveness. They decide to tackle the problems by cutting things out of their lives to free up time to solve the challenges in other ways.
The trick is knowing how to balance the pluses and the minuses of parenting. A healthy home has a little of both. Here are a few suggestions for guiding you to find that plus/minus harmony:
Start by Establishing Your Family’s Core Values.
Take the time to think through and write out 5-10 core values that you would like to have as the foundation for your family for years to come. Talk to your family about them, put them on display where everyone can see them, and most importantly, let them guide you as you make parenting and scheduling decisions.
Keep the Margin.
Can you imagine reading a book without any margins? Or writing a paper without any space around the edges? It would be harder to read, that’s for sure.
We need margin in our lives as well. In the book, Margin, by Richard Swenson, margin is described as: The space between our load and our limits and is related to our reserves and resilience. It is a buffer, a leeway, a gap; the place we go to heal, to relate, to reflect, to recharge our batteries, to focus on the things that matter most.
In other words, don’t fill every moment of every day. Just because you have two hours free a couple of days a week doesn’t mean you should find something to fill them.
Margin allows you time to recharge, relax, re-evaluate, and it also allows you to say yes to urgent matters that crop up that truly need your attention.
If you are marginless right now, take some time to look through your schedule and use your core values to help you decide where you might be able to subtract some things from your life.
Once you do that, remember that in order to keep those margins, you must keep the plus/minus balance. Whenever you choose to say yes to something, see if there is something you can also say no to as well. Saying yes too many times and not saying noes to balance that out will result in a life with no margin and lots of stress.
Let Your Child Be Bored.
Kids need down time. They need afternoons and days when they have nothing scheduled. Boredom can be the breeding place for creativity and imagination. That means limiting their screen time when they are bored as well.
Let Go of Your Need to Micro-manage.
This can start as early as sleep training your baby and continues throughout elementary, middle and high school. You don’t need to stand over your child’s shoulder as they do their homework or referee every sibling fight. It’s usually uncomfortable for parents to step back, but this will help your child learn to grow in independence, and it will ultimately make your life easier.
Let Go of Activities That are Not Emotionally Healthy for Your Family.
Sometimes you should remove your child from that toxic sports team or let go of a lesson or extra-curricular activity that is doing absolutely nothing but adding stress to your life. Just because you took piano lessons as a child and loved it doesn’t mean that your child has to do the same, especially if it is a constant source of conflict in your home.
I learned that lesson when my youngest asked me if she could take piano lessons. She was in elementary school and I thought, “why not?” It was fun for her at first, but after a few lessons, it became harder and harder to get her to practice. It was evident she was not enjoying it and I certainly was not enjoying the constant battles. After 6 weeks, we reached a mutual agreement that this was simply not her thing. She switched her focus to sports and that’s where she thrived and stayed all the way through college.
What Do You Need to Subtract?
Take some time for a little self-evaluation and think about what you could subtract from your life that would give you more balance and less stress. If this is hard for you, I’m happy to help. Schedule a free consultation here and let’s talk.