3 Ways To Raise Happy Kids

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

Before starting college, I had some ideas about what I’d like to study, but it wasn’t until a couple years in that I found what I wanted to commit to: marriage and family studies.  I knew that what I was learning could be applied to both my current and my future relationships, especially my future family.  Growing up, I would say that I was generally a happy kid.  I got along with my parents, I had good friends, did well in school, was involved in extracurricular activities and active in church.  But if you had asked me then how I became that way–happy–I don’t know that I would have been able to nail it down.  However, through my coursework, and now through practical application (aka parenting), I’ve seen three ways parents can raise happy kids: building connections, setting limits and encouraging independence.

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!

So often, I hear parents joke around that they wish their kids came with a manual.  I’ve even said the same thing myself, especially when going through a challenging period of time.  And while each child is different, I know that a combination of connecting, limits and autonomy will help my kids develop into happy, healthy kids.

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

Building Connections
Shortly after becoming pregnant with each of my kids, I felt a connection to them.  My husband on the other hand, didn’t feel connected to them until they were born.  But regardless of when you first feel connected to your kids, it’s important to recognize that each child has an innate need to feel connected, which causes them to feel loved.  For example, my daughter has never been much of a snuggler.  Even now, she’ll sit next to me or my husband when we are watching a show or reading a book, but she’s never wanted to really connect that way for longer than a few minutes.  But, one on one time and words of encouragement and affirmation go a long way for her.  She literally lights up. 

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

On the other hand, my son is a big cuddle bug.  He was more that way even as a baby and now loves to snuggle and hug and sit on our laps.  Additionally, if you can get him talking or telling a story, he loves to feel listened to.  When each child feels connected in the way that means the most to them, they feel loved.  If you’re not sure how your child feels love, I highly recommend the book The Five Love Languages for Children by Gary Chapman.

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

Setting Limits
A strong parent-child connection is important because it builds the foundation for lovingly correcting our kids (aka discipline).  When we set limits, or rules, for our children we are teaching them self-control and establishing socially acceptable behavior.  Right now, my daughter is struggling to remember that her first instinct when things don’t go her way should not be to hit.  We are working with her to help her understand that there are other ways she can express her frustration, but that being physical is not acceptable.  We are teaching her that she needs to think before she acts and to think about how others will feel if she hits them (the golden rule).  As parents, it’s our role to be an example, follow through and maintain a strong connection with each of our kids.  They will (hopefully) recognize that the rules are there because we love them and want them to be happy.

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

Encouraging Independence
Kids seem to have a built-in program for using some variation of the phrase “I want to do it by myself!”.  As they grow and learn more about their abilities, they want to test the limits we’ve put in place.  While this can be extremely frustrating as a parent, it’s helpful to recognize that their desire for autonomy (independence) is actually very useful as it will prepare them for future real-world responsibilities, as well as teaching about choice and accountability.  Obviously, we have to allow some degree of independence otherwise our children wouldn’t learn how to do anything for themselves.  My kids are still fairly young, but I try my best to allow them the ability to choose wherever possible and within reason.  For example, I will tell them what the weather will be like for the day and then allow them to choose their clothes.  I ask them what kind of fruit or vegetable they’d like with their lunch (giving them options).  Doing this helps my kids feel like I trust them to make their own decisions and gives them confidence in themselves.  In addition, I have to make sure that when there is an unwanted consequence to a choice they made, that they take responsibility for it and learn from it.

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

Parenting is hard work.  I was just telling my husband the other night, “It’s so hard to feel like I always have to be on top of everything all the time!  There is so much to remember and so many things I need to teach them and it can be so exhausting.”  But the moments of joy–when your child puts into practice a concept you’ve been working on or they do they right thing even when they think no one is watching or they start on their chores without being asked or a hug for no reason–really do make this whole parenting thing so rewarding. 

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

As anyone who has been around kids can tell you, every kid comes with their own unique personality.  I love finding fun shirts for my kids to wear and graphic tees are some of their favorites.  When I saw these shirts from Cents of Style, I knew I had to grab a couple of them.  For my daughter, I chose the “Boys are EW”, although the “I believe in Pink” would have been perfect for her too.  My son is one of those funny, sweet, charming little boys and I got him a “Word to your Mother” shirt.  (I’m sure my husband will teach him all the words to Vanilla Ice’s song one day.)  My kids love their new shirts and I’m sure they’ll be wearing them for the rest of the summer.

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

Do your kids love wearing graphic tees?  If so, this weekend is the perfect time to snag some for Cents of Style’s Fashion Friday deal.  All their kids graphic tees are 50% off their lowest marked price, with clearance styles starting at less than $5!  Sizes range from 6 months all the way up to Youth XL (14/16) so there is something fun for all ages.  So go to Cents of Style, check out their kids shirts and then use the code KIDSTORY at checkout to take advantage of this deal, plus you’ll get free shipping!  This deal runs from 6/16-6/18

Have you seen these principles help you raise happy kids?

Recognizing Joy in the Small Moments

Would you believe that a journal and a phone app have helped bring so much joy to my life?  It's the small things that make the biggest difference.

My day to day life is pretty ordinary and often consists of fixing food, cleaning up the house, running errands, playing with my kids and other household tasks.  At a glance, it doesn’t feel very glamorous and there are days when I can’t wait for my husband to get home from work so I can turn the kids over to him while I escape to the bathroom by myself or go for a short walk around the block.  A break from everything I have to manage and be responsible for.  Does anyone else hear themselves in my words?

Even though they lack a lot of excitement, most days are good.  The laundry, the dishes, the chauffeuring kids back and forth to school and other activities, homework, chores, fixing meals, buying the second pair of shoes in as many months because kids grow so fast.

But if I stop and take a look at the moments in between, what do I see?  My kids pretending to be a baby animal, laughter at made up knock-knock jokes, my daughter getting me a yogurt out of the fridge for breakfast before getting her own bowl out for cereal, a hug from my son for no reason other than he just wanted to.

I think there is a difference between the real life that is essential to every day living and the real life that is in the small moments in between.  The ones that we just might miss if we’re not looking for them.

I will be the first to admit that I lean more towards being a realist.  But I don’t think being a realist excludes me from being optimistic about what’s around me and seeing the good in people and situations.  Over the last few months, I’ve implemented two small practices into my daily life that help me recognize the small moments: a joy journal and a phone app.

Would you believe that a journal and a phone app have helped bring so much joy to my life?  It's the small things that make the biggest difference.

A little over a month ago, I started a joy journal with the sole purpose being to write down at least three things every day that brought me joy.  It might be something to do with my kids, my husband, something I saw that made me laugh, a personal success and so on.  One of the benefits of this journal in my life is being able to take a step back and see what’s happening in the in between moments of life.  I have started looking for things to write down in my joy journal each night that my kids or husband do or say.  I look for the positive aspect of a negative situation and focus on that.  I work to create joy in my life, my family’s lives and those I associate with, rather than just expecting it to be there.  Overall, I am becoming a happier person.

Would you believe that a journal and a phone app have helped bring so much joy to my life?  It's the small things that make the biggest difference.

In February of this year, I saw a post on a friend’s Facebook where she had compiled a short video of one second clips of each day of her life for the previous month.  Many of them were similar, some were out of the ordinary, but all of them together brought a smile to my face.  Right then, I downloaded the app she used to create her video called 1 Second Everyday. (It’s free!  Download from the Google Play Store or iTunes.)  Since I have my phone with me most of the time, all I have to do is pull it out and take a video.  Then I open the app, select the day and choose which part of the clip I want to represent that day.  And at the end of the month, I had a short video of clips from my family’s lives.  (If you’re interested, you can watch a TED Talk from the creator of this app on why he created it.) 

Having these two things–a joy journal and the 1 Second Everyday app–have become wonderful tools for me because they capture the little moments of joy in every day life and reminds me that my life, ordinary as it may seem, is pretty darn good.

How do you find joy in the small moments of your life?  Do you write them down?  Take a picture or video?  I’d love to hear what benefits you’ve experienced from focusing on joy.

Parenting Lessons From Moana’s Mother

Moana's mother teaches important lessons on how to love, teach and let our children grow

If you have kids, you’ve probably watched the movie Moana, seen clips or heard the music.  I took my daughter to see it in the theaters not long after it came out and I loved it.  We’ve watched it a few times since then and it’s a movie that we can all enjoy together as a family.  Soon after the movie came out, I started seeing different people post about their favorite scenes or lessons from the movie.  And each one I read never mentioned the one thing that struck me most as a parent: Moana’s mom.

When I was growing up and watching all the classic animated Disney movies, I never really paid much attention to the fact that so many of them, especially the princess movies, didn’t have mothers: Cinderella, Ariel, Jasmine, Snow White and Belle (just to name a few).  It wasn’t until I had kids of my own and started watching these movies with my kids that I became more bothered by it and question it: How different would these movies have been had the main characters had their mother in their life?  Would they have even come into existence?  Why is it the mother that so often dies?  Obviously, there are Disney movies where the mother is present and these always touch my heart, such as Mulan, Rapunzel and now, Moana.

From the beginning of the movie, Moana’s mother, Sina, is a constant figure in her life.  She encourages her to fulfill her responsibilities, teaches her the necessary skills and is a listening ear and voice of comfort when Moana becomes frustrated.  She sees her daughter’s struggles and desire to be on the water and does her best to help ease the pain.  As her mother, she also wants to protect her daughter from the dangers beyond the reef.  Sina is playful, smart and strong-willed, much like her daughter.

Moana's mother teaches important lessons on how to love, teach and let our children grow

Moana's mother teaches important lessons on how to love, teach and let our children grow

I see myself in Sina and I see my daughter in Moana.

There are two scenes that always get me when it comes to Moana’s mother.  They are brief but make an impact on me and I love how Disney portrayed them.

The first is when Moana’s grandmother is ill and she tells Moana she needs to leave and take the heart to Maui and return it to Te Fiti.  The rest of her family is preoccupied with the grandmother and no one seems to notice her rush out the door and to her family’s hut to pack supplies for her trip.  But then, right in the middle of her packing, her mom appears in the doorway, out of breath and with a look of confusion when she sees what Moana is doing, and then realization hits her and she knows exactly what Moana is doing.  Rather than stop her or scold her, she kneels down and helps her gather the rest of what she needs for her journey.  She recognizes that as much as she doesn’t want Moana to go, that this is something she has to do.

Moana's mother teaches important lessons on how to love, teach and let our children grow

Moana and Sina hug and the final look shared between mother and daughter always brings tears to my eyes because so much is conveyed by that one look: fear, hope, determination.  I imagine myself and my daughter and even my son.  My kids are only 5 and 3, but they are becoming their own individual people with their own personalities.  As they grow, they will be faced with hard things and I won’t be able to shield them from everything that comes their way.  I can only do my best to teach them and prepare them and build a strong relationship with them so that when they need someone to talk to, they know they can come to me for love, help and support.

The second scene is at the very end when Moana returns home.  Sina is the first one to turn and see Moana’s boat and she’s up and running toward the beach with her husband behind her.  Moana rushes into her mother’s arms a split second before her father comes up and hugs both of them.  It’s such a short scene but you can see the relief and pride and happiness so clearly.  I’ve felt these same feelings with my own kids when they do something that makes me a little nervous that they might fail, but then seeing them succeed and being filled with joy.

Moana's mother teaches important lessons on how to love, teach and let our children grow

On this parenting journey, we are going to experience (and have experienced) happiness, joy, heartache, worry, sadness and so many other emotions.  I’m so grateful for these beautiful reminders that as parents, it’s our responsibility to teach our children to the best of our abilities and then trust them as they try out their wings.  They are going to fall.  They are going to fail.  But they are also going to succeed.  And I want to be there when they come running.

How To Use Role Playing In Discipline

Role playing in discipline is an effective technique that teaches kids confidence.  Learn more about how to use it by clicking the link.

Something you may not know about me is that I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in Marriage and Family Studies.  Basically this means that I took a lot of classes about marriage, family, parenting, child development, family finance, family systems and a million others in preparation to become a counselor.  I loved (almost) all of them and they’ve been hugely helpful for me as a parent.  Obviously I know that what I learned in these classes is the ideal and isn’t always achievable due to *ahem* human error.  But at the same time, I’ve also learned that many of the methods and techniques taught are useful even when circumstances aren’t ideal.  The one I want to talk about today is role playing.

In one of my behavioral classes, we learned about concepts like positive and negative reinforcement and how you can use each in parenting.  To be honest, I don’t remember all the technical terms or theories from this class.  But one that stuck with me is this: if you eliminate a negative behavior or response, you have to replace it with a positive behavior or response.

Let me give you an example:

Say you are trying to get rid of a bad habit such as chewing your nails.  You’ve tried putting gloves on, putting your fingers in hot sauce so it burns your mouth when you try and cutting your nails down super short.  Nothing works.  You’re still biting your nails.  Why?  Because you didn’t replace the bad habit with a good one.  Instead of simply trying to eliminate this habit or behavior so it no longer exists, you have retrain yourself with a new, more positive or acceptable behavior.  (A really easy replacement in this example would be to chew gum or put a paperclip in your pocket that you can fiddle with.)

So how does this work in discipline?

A while back I wrote a post about a practice that will change the way you discipline.  (Read more HERE.)  In it, I explain the method that we use for disciplining our kids when they are doing something we want them to stop (the negative behavior) and it works well for us.  But I was thinking the other day and realized that my husband and I weren’t taking the extra step of helping our kids understand what to do instead of the negative behavior.  They knew what they’d done wrong and why it was wrong but not what to do instead (the positive behavior).  This is where role playing comes in.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to help our kids learn how to respond in different situations.  Role playing is a technique you can use with your kids as they get older and can be applied to so many challenges they have, whether it’s bullying, saying no to drugs and drinking, confronting a friend about a difficult issue and so on.  Role playing gives them options for how to respond.   Role playing gives your kids confidence that they can handle situations they may not have encountered before because it feels familiar to them.

Role playing in discipline is an effective technique that teaches kids confidence.  Learn more about how to use it by clicking the link.

For example, when my daughter gets frustrated because her little brother keeps knocking down her tower and retaliates by hitting him, she gets sent to time out.  (Normally, she gets a couple of chances to stop her behavior, but I’m not going to give her another two opportunities to hit.  Again, read more about our method HERE.)  During her time out, she knows she is expected to think about why she got sent to time out and then tell me or my husband why she had to go to time out.  In the past, we would have finished off with something along the lines of “Hitting your brother is not okay.  It hurts him and makes him feel sad.” and then sending her on her way.

BUT we recently added the extra step I mentioned above: we help her think through what she can do if she’s faced with that situation again.  This helps her understand her options and recognize other behaviors that are acceptable.  Then we role play.

Role playing is pretty simple.  You recreate the situation that caused the issue in the first place, then when you get to the part where they reacted negatively, you stop and ask them “what could you do differently in this situation?”  Allow them the opportunity to come up with options for themselves.  There have been times when my daughter’s response has been better than the one I had in mind.  If they can’t come up with something, help them out with some ideas.  Then role play again with the new (positive behavior) replacing the negative behavior.  Depending on the situation, this could take a couple of minutes or it could take 10.

Role playing in discipline is an effective technique that teaches kids confidence.  Learn more about how to use it by clicking the link.

There are days when my kids have pushed my buttons and I’ve reached the limits of my patience.  I know there are situations where I’ve overreacted or sent the wrong kid to time out.  The time they are in time out is also a good opportunity for me to take a few deep breaths, maybe walk into a different room or step outside and think about how I could have responded differently.  And thankfully, kids are pretty forgiving.

The other day, my daughter asked my husband if she could play a game on his phone.  He said no.  In the past, her response would have been to get mad and possibly yell or stomp away.  But instead of all that, she just said, “okay, maybe another time” and went off to find something else to do.  I was totally amazed!  The conversations we’d had and role played actually stuck and she put them into practice.  (Not to say that this happens every time of course.)

So the next time your child misbehaves, think of it as an opportunity to help them learn more about acceptable behaviors.  Teach them to recognize their options and give them the confidence to deal with their daily situations in a positive way.  Take a few minutes to go through a short role play with them.  And remember that you’ll probably have the same conversations and the same role plays a few dozen more times until it sticks. *wink*

Do you use role playing with your kids?  What are the benefits you’ve seen or think you would see by using this technique with your kids?

4 Ways To Keep Moving Forward

In order to progress in life, we have to keep moving forward.  Learn 4 ways to help you stay positive and on the path to your goals.

Last week, I posted about the campaign I got involved in called “I Am Amazing Because…”  The purpose and goal of this campaign is to promote confidence and positivity by recognizing the talents and abilities and characteristics of those around us that we find amazing and unique and then telling them.  We, as individuals, should be included in this recognition and often I think we forget or downplay what is amazing about ourselves.  When I shared my post last week, I wrote that one of the qualities in myself that I find amazing is my ability to keep moving forward.

I received this shirt in exchange for my review and promotion but all thoughts and opinions are 100% mine.

As I’ve gotten older and reflected on who I am as a person, I’ve realized that when I’m not growing in some area of my life, or I’m not working towards a goal or purpose, I start to get grumpy and restless.  When life starts getting too routine or I notice myself getting complacent, that’s my internal nudge to make a change.

Growing up, my situation at home presented some challenges.  I found myself placed in circumstances that were not of my choosing, nor did I have a way to remove them from my life.  But one thing that kept me going, quite literally, was the knowledge that I could keep moving forward in different areas of my life.  At some point I knew that things had to get better. That what things I did have control over, I could make the best of them and focus on that.

This post contains affiliate links, which if you click on them and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
In order to progress in life, we have to keep moving forward.  Learn 4 ways to help you stay positive and on the path to your goals.
Photo Credit: Kendra Leigh Photography & Video

There is a quote that says, “If you’re not moving forward, you are moving backward.”  In today’s world, it is impossible to stand still.  So what stops us from moving forward?

  • Fear
  • Uncertainty
  • Past Mistakes
  • Unclear Goals
  • Allowing Yesterday to Define Today
  • Unrealistic Expectations

You could probably add to this list, but that’s not what I want you to focus on.  What I want you to take away from this post today is how to keep moving forward.

In order to progress in life, we have to keep moving forward.  Learn 4 ways to help you stay positive and on the path to your goals.

Recognize Progress
Sometimes we aren’t necessarily faced with being unable to move forward, but rather that we don’t feel we’re moving forward fast enough.  We have a goal in mind and we’re just not reaching it as quickly as we’d like.  This can turn into frustration, disappointment or any number of negative emotions.  Those emotions can cause us to lose focus which can slow us down even more.  It’s important to recognize progress, no matter how small it is.  Each step forward is a step towards your goal.  Each step is essential to our growth and progress as a person, not only in our quest to accomplish something.

Ask for Help and Support
Having a network of people to rely on when things get hard is a great tool to help you keep moving forward.  Your network might include your family, friends, coworkers, neighbors or even a support group.  The people I ask for support from varies depending on what my goal is or the challenge I’m facing. We must surround ourselves with people who want to see us succeed and will help us along the way, especially when we stumble, fall or want to give up.  

Adopt a Mantra
By definition, a mantra is simply a statement or slogan that is repeated frequently.  I’ve seen a lot of posts from people who have chosen a word or phrase that embodies what they want to focus on for the day/week/month/quarter/year.  You could have a different mantra for different aspects of your life, or have the same one that encompasses all aspects of your life.  You can change your mantra if you feel it isn’t working for you.  There are no rules when it comes to mantras.  You simply choose one and then make that your focus and the thing that brings you back when you start veering off course.

Speak Positively About Yourself
I’ve talked about this concept of positivity and self care a few different times, such as here and here, but that’s because it’s so important!  We can be our own worst critic or our greatest cheerleader.  In order to continue moving forward in life, we have to believe that we can.  When fear or uncertainty tries to push it’s way in between the cracks, we have to push it back out and remind ourselves that we can do this!  If you find this idea difficult, another way to approach it is to think about those who depend on you and how what you do affects them.  For me, that’s my kids and my husband.  If I speak badly about myself, what does that teach my children?  How are they going to start talking about themselves?  If I tell my husband that I don’t know why he married me, or list off all the things I’m horrible at, is that going to help grow and nurture our relationship?  Your life has an impact on other people whether you want it to or not, so why not make it a positive one?

In order to progress in life, we have to keep moving forward.  Learn 4 ways to help you stay positive and on the path to your goals.
Photo Credit: Kendra Leigh Photography & Video

In an effort to encourage this attitude of positivity, Cents of Style is running a deal on all of their inspirational t-shirts.  I chose “Keep Moving Forward”, but if that doesn’t quite resonate with you, check out their selection.  You can find 30+ options to choose from and maybe you’ll find the one that hits home for you.

To take advantage of this deal, click HERE to view all the t-shirts.  Select the one you want and at checkout, enter the code INSPIRE17 and it will take 50% off the lowest marked price plus get FREE SHIPPING!  This sale will run from 1/20/17 thru 1/22/17.  Don’t miss out on this awesome deal and use it to buy something that will inspire you, make you smile and help your day be a little brighter.

I encourage you to keep moving forward.  Whether that means leaps and bounds or inch by inch, keep moving.  Keep growing.  I know you can do this.  Because you can do hard things.

Mental Health Moments

Let’s get one thing straight: I love being a mom.  It is one of the most rewarding things I do.  My children bring me joy and happiness.  They make me laugh out loud with their silly songs and attempts at being grown up.  But, man, it is HARD. 

All day long, I am watching my own behavior to make sure it’s in line with what I teach my kids is good.  I have to discipline my kids when they hit or try to bite or wrestle too rough, all while reminding them that I love them and it’s the behavior I don’t like.  If I want a little treat before dinner time, I have to discreetly sneak it into some closet or corner while the kids are distracted.  (Although, they always seem to notice the moment I disappear and go running through the house yelling, “Mom!” and find me with my half eaten chocolate in my mouth and a lie on my lips: “I’m not doing anything.”)  I’m taking deep breaths and counting to 5 as I clean up another spilled drink or sweep up enough crumbs from under the table to feed a small army.  I feel like a broken record when I have to remind my kids multiple times a day to clean up their toys, put on their shoes, get dressed, come to the table, please eat your food, stop touching your brother’s foot…

Being a mom is super tiring.  When my husband comes home from a long day at work, he is able to mentally shut down that part of his brain and focus on his role of father or husband.  I, on the other hand, am still in mom-mode: working on dinner, straightening up the house, etc.  Women have a lot harder time disconnecting from one role and shifting into another one.  I honestly feel like I am going almost non-stop from the time I wake up in the morning until I go to bed at night.  I do my best to get to bed early but that time when the kids are asleep is magical.  Am I right, moms?  It’s a chance for me to try and regroup and regain some sense of self and think about what “I” want for a few minutes: “Chocolate ice cream or salted caramel?”

But let’s be real here: moms need mental health days too.  And the fact is, we rarely get them.  Sure, we might catch snippets, or what I’m calling mental health moments, but the majority of our time and energy is devoted to our family.  In order to be able to take care of our family, we also have to take care of ourselves.  But how can we do that when it seems we have so little time to ourselves?  Check out these suggestions and see if one might work for you:

  • Get up a few minutes earlier in the morning and set the tone for your day by reading scriptures, writing in your journal, meditating or just taking a nice, hot shower without interruptions
  • Listen to your favorite songs
  • Run out and get yourself a drink or small treat after the kids go to bed
  • Paint your nails
  • Read a book
  • Go on a walk or drive
  • Forget the dishes and go to bed early
  • Watch a re-run of your favorite show 
  • Do something creative

If you didn’t find something you identified with, hopefully this list got you thinking of some small ways you can regain your sanity throughout the day.

What do you do for your mental health moments?

When Your Child Prefers One Parent

What can you do as a parent when you child(ren) prefer one parent over another?  3 simple suggestions that will make a difference.

As a parent, I enjoy the feeling of being wanted and loved by my children.  When they get hurt or are scared, the little cry of “Mommy!” makes me feel that my kids know I’ll help and protect them.  When they are excited about something and come grab my hand to show me their new “cave” or “store”, I (usually) can’t help but smile.  But to be honest, being a stay-at-home mom can be really exhausting.  Sometimes it’s really hard to muster up the excitement and exclaim “wow!” for the 100th time that day or pick up their drink off the floor or sit down to eat some lunch only to have them ask for more food.

Don’t get me wrong.  I wouldn’t trade staying at home with my kids for anything.  But I also just need a little break sometimes.  Enter Daddy.  My husband gets home between 5:30 and 6 each night.  The kids run to the door, fling it open and jump into his arms.  Daddy is their wrestling buddy, tickle monster and airplane flyer.  But many days when we sit down to the table for dinner, the kids will ask me for whatever it is they want or need rather than my husband.  I get it.  They are with me all day and are used to asking me for help.  And my husband, bless his heart, is always willing to help out by getting them a drink or more food and he always makes sure the kids thank me for dinner every night.

What can you do as a parent when you child(ren) prefer one parent over another?  3 simple suggestions that will make a difference.

But the last couple of months have been rough, mostly when it comes to bedtime.  My son, who I’ll admit is more of a mama’s boy, won’t let my husband put him to bed.  He screams.  He cries.  He reaches for me.  He struggles to escape my husband’s arms.  It’s a bit ridiculous.  My kids share a room and go to bed at the same time.  Since my husband is home most nights, we put the kids down together.  Last night, for example, my daughter asked if I could read her a story on her bed.  This left my son with my husband and immediately he started throwing a fit: “No, I want mommy!  Not you!  I don’t want you!  I want to sit with mommy!” and so it went.  He calmed down for a few minutes while we read a story but started right back up again as soon as it was done.  It took him about 45 minutes to get settled enough to finally fall asleep.  During this time, my husband checked on him periodically while I showered and did a few things around the house.

So what’s the point of this story?  (Hint: It’s not about bedtime routines, parenting styles or kids sharing a room. *wink*)  It’s about what to do when your child prefers one parent over another.  What do you do?  How do you handle it?  While I’m still trying to figure it out myself, there are a few things that I think make a difference.  (And I hope it’s obvious that I’m gearing these suggestions toward healthy relationships, not abusive ones.)

Don’t Undermine
When this first started happening with my son, my instinct was to just take over and hold him or help him or whatever it was that needed to be done.  It didn’t seem like a big deal to me at the time.  But as time has gone on and the behavior has persisted, I’ve had to restrain myself and let my husband take care of things.  The way he tries to help is often different than the way I would do things.  But if I continue to butt in each time, our kids might think that his way is “wrong” and my way is “right” or even that we don’t back each other up.

What can you do as a parent when you child(ren) prefer one parent over another?  3 simple suggestions that will make a difference.

Encourage Relationship Building
As our kids have gotten a little older, my husband and I have tried to be better about spending one on one time with them going on daddy-daughter dates, mommy-son dates, daddy-buddy hangouts and mommy-daughter dates.  We believe, as I think many parents do, that building a strong relationship with our kids is essential for the days ahead as they get into dating, hanging out with friends and all the things that come with growing up.  We want our kids to know that they can come to either of us for help, love and advice.

What can you do as a parent when you child(ren) prefer one parent over another?  3 simple suggestions that will make a difference.

Say “I love you” to Each Other
This might seem like a “duh” suggestion, but hear me out.  I say “I love you” to our kids multiple times throughout the day.  My husband also says this to our kids when he calls during the day or over chat as well as when he gets home.  Our kids also need to see that their parents (my husband and I) love each other.  How often do you say “I love you” to your spouse in front of your kids?  Do you compliment each other in front of them?  Do your kids see your love through words and actions?

What can you do as a parent when you child(ren) prefer one parent over another?  3 simple suggestions that will make a difference.

If you’re going through any of this right now with your kids, I hear you!  It’s not easy and can be really frustrating.  I hope that at least one of these suggestions will be helpful to you.  I’m still trying to figure out this whole parenting thing and we need each other!  If you have anything that you find helps, please share!