I’ve been in a life coach program for about 8 months (JodyMoore.com), and I have learned so much about thoughts, feelings, relationships, and embracing all of life, including the difficult parts. Through this program I have learned that my definition of a successful parent needs to be about what I do and how I show up and not about any result outside of me and my control. I envision a space in front of me where I have my thoughts, feelings and actions, and then my part ends. Whatever happens beyond that space—meaning my children’s thoughts, feelings and actions—belongs to my children, not me.
After listening to Jody’s podcast on parenting (Better Than Happy episode 167), I sat down and wrote this article. Of course, I’m not perfect at all these things, some I’m better at than others, but this is kind of my parenting aspirations, my manifesto. You may not agree with all the ideas, and that’s fine. They are just that: ideas. But I hope it helps you see parenting in a new way and helps you to go easier on yourself and your kids!
Who I Want to Be as a Mom
I’m a mom who offers help when I see my kids are sad. I don’t need to also feel sad or mirror their emotion. I can offer help and interact with them and know that their sadness is okay. All is as it should be. It’s okay for them to have negative emotion because that is part of the human experience. I offer to listen and offer to help them work through it. I don’t give the impression that their feelings are wrong (by saying things like, “don’t be mad/sad,” “why are you feeling that?!”). I won’t try to get them out of the circumstance (this is now called “lawn mower” parenting). I won’t think to myself that there is something wrong with their situation or their feelings. I have a new outlook on struggles, difficult circumstances, and negative emotions in my kids. I see now that these are all for their benefit. Difficult times are times of growth. It’s okay for them to struggle. Life isn’t always easy or comfortable. I also see that making the struggle into something bigger (this shouldn’t be happening, why are they/we unlucky?) just makes it worse. I choose to believe that the universe is constantly conspiring in my and my kids’ favor. If this is happening, then it is just what is supposed to happen. We don’t know why, and we don’t need to know why. I choose to not resist reality.
I’m a mom who creates routines, rules, and guidelines for my kids. However, I don’t believe that my children “should” follow those rules and guidelines all the time. The purpose of growing up is to try out all the different options of behaving. Whatever behavior my children choose is okay. I don’t need to make that behavior mean anything about my parenting, or their personality/fixed character, or their future. If it’s happening, then it is supposed to happen. We can all learn from it. Kids will and should make mistakes.
I have rules and guidelines for my kids because I believe that children thrive with a little structure. But I also believe that children should also be able to discuss the rules and guidelines with me if they have a difference of opinion. We can have a calm, respectful conversation. If I say no to a request, I can do it without getting angry at them for asking (they’re supposed to ask for more and more!), without feeling guilty, and without believing that their negative emotion is a problem. If I choose to give in, I don’t need to worry that this will “ruin” them or make them more irresponsible in the future. Whatever happens is okay.
I’m a mom who sets up our family life such that religion is a central part. We go to church, hold callings, participate in church activities, have family scriptures and Family Home Evening on a consistent basis. I do this because I enjoy these things and I enjoy spending time with my family. I don’t do these things so that my kids will behave a certain way or be a certain way when they grow up. They can and should choose their own path, choose what they want to believe and how they want to act. However they act doesn’t say anything about me or my parenting.
I’m a mom who gives a lot of love to my children. I do nice things for them, listen to them, and try to accommodate their needs. I do this because I choose to and not because I require anything from them in return (such as gratitude, telling me about their lives, or obedience).
I’m a mom who gives my children a lot of latitude in how they feel and behave. If they are grumpy, that’s okay. If they are acting out/having tantrums, that’s okay. I see the noise they make as construction noise: not my favorite but I’m not making a big story about what it means (for example, thinking there’s something wrong with my parenting). I know I can feel however I want to feel regardless of how they are acting. It’s natural to feel negative if they are grumpy or to be irritated with them when they are irritated with me. But I try to remember that I can choose my thoughts and therefore my feelings, and I don’t need to mirror them. Once I’ve done what I feel is right in the situation (offered to listen or help them work out their problem), I don’t really even need to notice how they’re acting.
I’m a mom who loves whomever my children love. Whatever friend they are hanging out with, whomever they are dating or marry, I will love that person also. I can choose to feel love for the people my children want to spend time with. I will accept them and treat them with kindness. Whatever happens in that relationship will be just the right thing for my child. I don’t know how their lives are supposed to go, so I don’t need to worry that something is going wrong.
I’m a mom who chooses to believe that my children are on their own journeys and the best thing I can do is love them and allow them to be on those journeys. If they are struggling, I don’t need to make that mean anything about my life. I control myself and my emotions, and the best thing I can do for them is to take care of my own happiness and peace and give them the space to act and feel however they want. I believe that it is not my job to make my kids happy, and I realize that the reason I want them to be happy is so that I can be happy. But I can feel that emotion whenever I choose.
My weaknesses are part of my kids’ growth and journey. I’m the perfect mom for them (even with my imperfections). Also, whatever interaction they have with their dad, sisters, or grandparents is just right for them. I can’t and don’t need to manage that, and I will end up feeling resentful if I try to.