Very simple parenting habits truly can transform our wellbeing as a family. Especially when we’re overwhelmed and struggling to hold everything together.
But it is when we are most overwhelmed that we are most likely as parents to over complicate everything and forget the simple parenting habits that make all the difference.
The fundamental problem is we endlessly second guess ourselves as parents. And oh my, have Google and Instagram and Facebook made that worse!!!
We’ve lost confidence in our basic ability to be good parents and so we constantly search for solutions and secrets from others on how to succeed at parenting.
This is a vicious circle.
The more time we spend searching for secrets that are always just beyond our grasp, the less time we give to those incredibly simple parenting habits that truly give our children what they most need.
So if you are caught up in a crazy cycle of chaos and feel like you’re failing every single day please, please step back from it all and just focus on these seven simple parenting habits.
They will make the whole family happier.
And they will actually set our kids up for life.
7 Simple Parenting Habits That Matter Most
1. Make Time In The Morning For A Bear Hug
Mornings are stress points for most families.
Bizarrely, we’ve all accepted a mad world where every day we have to scramble from our slumber and hurtle pell mell and caffeine fuelled out of the door in no time fast to hit childcare and school and work on time.
Whoever designed this way of life, very clearly knew nothing about child development. Very few kids – especially young ones – are good at speedy transitions.
And neither it has to be said are most adults tanked up on a jug and some of coffee. But it is what it is. It is the way we live now.
And mornings always are going to be a bit grim.
We can do some practical things to make it easier.
Don’t obsess about having everything ready the night before as you will forget stuff as you collapse in an exhausted heap from the chaos of the day.
Do declutter your entrance hall because it has been statistically proven mothers everywhere are less inclined to shriek like a banshee at their nearest and dearest when exiting the house does not involve an obstacle course of bikes and bags and boots and random – why do we have this? – cr*p.
But in all the grimness and the shouting and the wailing and forgotten homework and lost gym kit stick to this one simple parenting habit : make time in the morning for a bear hug.
Amidst the anger and the noise and the chaos that stolen moment to embrace our child says not just “I love you” but “I love you despite all this” and “I love you even though I cannot believe we are going to be late again” and “I love you even though I cannot comprehend how you can possibly have lost your gym kit for the tenth time this term and haven’t done your homework”.
It it very easy for today’s children to blame themselves for the crazy family chaos of our over busy lives. They need to feel deep down every day that we love them despite the shouting and we always will.
2. Kick Them Outside
Childhood today has been taken over by parenting problems.
There are behaviour problems. Attention problems. Sleeping problems. Eating problems. Anxiety problems. Gross motor problems. Fine motor problems.
And the proper answer to these problems – we have become convinced – is expert advice and complex interventions.
But most of the time, for most kids, the single intervention that can make the most immediate difference is more time playing outdoors.
It helps with sleep. It helps with concentration. It helps with coordination. It helps with tantrums. It helps with confidence.
It reduces screen time. It lowers sugar levels.
And it does wonders for internecine sibling warfare.
So before we turn all the natural stages of child development into problems requiring expert intervention we need to remember this simple parenting habit: kick them outside.
And focus our energy on making sure that every single day – come rain or shine – they spend a big dollop of time playing outdoors.
Free play outdoors is great but if you need some inspiration check out this big bucket list of fun outdoor activities for kids.
3. Really Be There
Children can do all sorts of strange – and sometimes self destructive – things to get our attention. It really is a natural instinct.
But we have got ourselves into an unholy mess as parents because whilst we think we are lavishing them with attention – I mean we are constantly obsessing about being better parents – we are very often not there for them.
And most damagingly, when we are in the same room.
And are far away on our phone or devices absorbed – as our children sense only too well – in another world and not them.
Our children don’t need our constant attention. Anything but. But they do desperately need us to stick to this one simple parenting habit: really be there.
And by that I mean when we are there, we really need to be there for them – minus our phones – absorbed in their presence, talking and listening and laughing and singing and watching and playing and reading with them.
4. Leave Them Alone
Ironically, today’s children have another issue with modern parenting.
They are very rarely ever out of the eagle eye of an adult.
Right into their tweens children spend almost all of their time in sight of their parents or a teacher or an instructor or “childcare”.
This is not natural.
Children from about three onwards need progressively more and more time in a child managed world so they can practice independence together.
Without this they can’t properly develop the self confidence to take responsibility for themselves and to deal with minor problems or the skills to manage conflict with other children.
Significant rises in childhood anxiety seem to be connected with our failure to progressively provide kids with genuine independence.
We also seem to be seeing a generation of teenagers who lack the resilience to cope with disagreements and look too quickly to adult authority to control differences of opinion.
So our fourth simple parenting habit is to: leave them alone.
We need to give them more and more space to play with other children completely out of sight of an adult and to butt out more and be the peace keeper of last resort not the rapid response unit to every minor flare up.
5. Say Sorry When You Screw Up
Parenting today has become very busy. Many of us drive ourselves into a blind panic juggling too many balls every day.
Drop offs here, pick ups there, homework, reading, music lessons, sports clubs, forms to fill in, soggy swim stuff to rescue from forgotten bags, cakes for school sales, costumes for this, kit for that whilst also somehow getting work done, putting food on the table and keeping the house vaguely clean.
It does not matter how organised we try to be. Complicated to do lists and schedules will not change the fact we cannot possibly do it all.
We will drop balls daily.
And sometimes it will be messy.
And sometimes there will be painful consequences.
And we will have to put our hand up and say sorry.
But our kids – and our especially our daughters – need to see us fail.
Because through this they learn we can’t do everything and they can’t either and that life is about choices and doing some things means not doing others.
And through this they can come to accept they will screw up and they will fail others at times in their lives but in seeing us apologise honestly they learn to say sorry with some grace and without excuses when they do.
So simple parenting habit number five is to : say sorry when you screw up.
6. Teach Something
As we endlessly search social media for the holy grail of parenting – those secret solutions still beyond our grasp – we tend to forget the human species survived 200,000 years without a parenting manual between them.
We do all have parenting instincts we really can trust in.
But we are in danger of forgetting one of them.
We love our kids. And we know without thought we need to feed them and care for them. And of course we will defend them against all comers.
But teaching is also one of our primary roles as parents.
And we have lost confidence in ourselves as teachers.
Again it’s a vicious circle. We outsource more and more teaching to professionals so we never get any practice at it. And then feeling unqualified we outsource more.
In doing this we miss out on one of the most profound and joyful connections between parents and children: the passing on of skills and knowledge and experience and wisdom to the next generation of our family.
So our sixth simple parenting habit is all about rebuilding our belief in ourselves through practice and week in, week out taking just a little time to: teach something.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It can be peeling potatoes or boiling an egg or making cakes or fixing a puncture or growing vegetables or sticking to a budget.
But we need to keep it going when they start school, so we share ourselves with them in a way that they can pass on to a new generation all the little stuff passed on to us before.
7. Find Peace Together At The End Of The Day
Things will go wrong for our kids every day however hard we try as parents. Little stuff that bounces off them and big things that sear their soul.
Some of it will be our fault and some of it theirs and some of it beyond us both. We won’t always be able mend it or solve it or change it and it’s often not clear we should.
But we do need those simple bedtime rituals that help us as parent and child find some peace and acceptance together at the end of the day.
That might be reading together. It might be listening quietly to them talk. It might be a prayer. It might just be the commitment to be unquestionably there with them undistracted to tell them we love them.
It really is the simplest of parenting habits but it is so easy when our adrenalin crashes in the evening or when evening emails still call to be absent in mind if not in body.
But those final moments that ensure they go to sleep feeling loved are the most powerful gift we can give them and will protect them throughout their lives.
So if you are struggling to hold everything and really doubting yourself as a parent do hold onto these seven simple parenting habits because they are achievable and rewarding in even the craziest of times and really do make a difference:
- Make time in the morning for a bear hug.
- Kick them outside.
- Really be there.
- Leave them alone.
- Say sorry when you screw up.
- Teach something every week.
- Find peace together at the end of the day.
I truly hope these simple parenting habits help you and your family as much as they have mine. For more thoughts on simpler parenting read these:
- Slower Happier Parenting
- Build Kids Confidence
- Self Care For Stressed Mothers
- How To Help Kids Who Worry
- Lovely Ways To Calm Down
- Balancing Activities For Kids
- Help Kids Who Hate School
- Help Kids With Transitions
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