Raising children is the toughest job you'll ever love. But how to know if you're doing it right? Mighty Mommy Cheryl Butler shares 4 strategies for winning parenthood.
In late December, I experienced a parenting milestone which I’ll never forget—I was with my oldest daughter and her husband as they welcomed their first child into the world.
My grandson is only three weeks old and I’m still in awe of this surreal and breathtaking experience. After 25 years of motherhood, I didn’t think I could feel the love that I have for my own eight kids for another human being. But after cutting my grandson’s umbilical cord and hearing him cry for the first time, I can honestly tell you that my heart grew right out of my chest.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I was so overwhelmed. Sure he was incredibly beautiful and adorable beyond words. And yes he is the newest branch of our family tree. Of course I loved listening to his newborn coos and holding him tight, smelling that newborn baby smell that is so intoxicating. But that wasn’t it. What really melted my heart and soul was watching my daughter’s eyes gaze upon her son and seeing her unconditional love as she soothed him in the first moments of his life. It took my breath away.
As those first days unfolded, my daughter and I spent a lot of time together, observing the ins and outs of who he her son was, and we talked—a lot—about parenthood.
As the oldest of my brood of eight, my daughter had the tough role of being second in command. Thankfully, she was a natural and loved the responsibility of being a mother’s helper throughout her childhood. She saw firsthand the delicate balance that was required to keep our large household running (somewhat) smoothly.
As she prepared to go home from the hospital, she admitted to feeling extremely excited but quite nervous about this huge responsibility that was now hers. She joked about the sleepless nights that were ahead and wondered when she’d have five minutes alone in the bathroom again. But the one question that was really weighing on her mind was what constitutes a successful parent.
Success means something different to everyone, but in my decades of parenting eight kids I have discovered that my measure of success is being happy and appreciative of the small moments in each day.
Whether you’re raising the next President of the United States or struggling with your learning-disabled child, here are Mighty Mommy's four basic strategies for being a successful parent:
- Be consistent.
- Don’t compare one child to another.
- Be a positive role model.
- Eat up the ordinary.
Let’s dive in a bit deeper into each one:
Strategy #1: Be Consistent
If there is one single piece of advice I would give every new parent it would be to practice consistency in all areas of parenting. Having a new baby is a fresh start because you have so many new and wondrous adventures and milestones ahead of you. Even if you’ve navigated the ups and downs of parenting for years, if you want to start anew and build a positive, solid foundation then incorporating consistency into all your parenting routines is key.
Deep down, all kids (even moody teens!) crave boundaries, regardless of individual temperament. When they have structure, routines, and rules in place it offers them a sense of security because they know what’s expected of them. Boundaries help your child thrive by teaching them responsibility, consequences, and respect for others as well as themselves.
For example, if you have decided that your kids will not be drinking sugary drinks at meals, and you tell them positively that soda and juice are off limits, you need to mean what you say. You can’t waiver and give in just because someone is whining or having a meltdown. Once your kids understand that water and milk are the only drinks available at meals, and you stay the course, eventually they won’t try to barter and wear you down.
Boundaries help your child thrive by teaching them responsibility, consequences, and respect for others.
That way, when another situation crops up that requires your authority, say a policy on when friends can come over during the week, your word is going to mean something because your kids will be used to the fact that you aren’t going to waffle—no matter what.
Strategy #2: Don’t Compare One Child to Another
One of my favorite parenting mantras is “Thou shall not compare.” I learned this decades ago when I was consumed with infertility, and once again years later when several of my children were struggling with significant speech delays. It seemed as though everyone I encountered during both of those difficult times had the world by the tail...except me.
Isn’t it always this way? Whenever you fail at something, everyone else seems to succeed at it, effortlessly. While all my friends, family, and every stranger I encountered at Wal-Mart was eagerly awaiting a visit from the stork, I was home making deals with the man above, promising that if I were to get just one chance to become a mother, I’d never complain about anything again. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had a pretty great life. My husband and I had fulfilling jobs, lived in a dream home, and we vacationed anywhere we wanted to for all those years that I spent crying beside an empty crib.
Ask and you shall receive. After the blessed adoption of our beautiful daughter, and subsequent births of seven more, my mission to become a mother was accomplished.
I was on such a cloud about overcoming infertility that the possibility of developmental delays didn't even occur to me. But once three of my kids presented with delays, launching me into the murky world of special education services and therapy, I couldn’t help but notice that all my friends had brilliant kids who were ahead of the curve, not struggling like mine.
See Also: 5 Ways to Manage Competitive Parenting
Only when I stopped focusing on others, and looked inward, did I began to appreciate my family. A big part of being a no-fail parent is to cherish what’s going on in your own backyard instead of wishing for someone else's.