This is an undeniably effective way to improve your parenting. It is simple and accessible—no books or courses required.
The catch is, that like all positive change, it requires some effort. But probably less effort than what your current parenting struggles demand of you. And the guaranteed favourable impact on you and your children will be an excellent return on the energy you invest.
The parenting poll that reveals the secret
I’ve been asking concerned parents the same few questions for over three years now and the answers are always strikingly similar:
Q: “From zero to 10, how would you rate your parenting when it’s at it’s best?”
A: 95% of respondents rate their best parenting from 8.5 to 9.5 out of 10.
Q: “What stops you from parenting this way more often?”
A: “I can’t do it when I’m stressed…when I’m tired…when we’re rushed…when there are too many external pressures…when my head is elsewhere…etc”.
Q: “And when your top-notch parenting does happen, what is it that makes it possible?”
A: “It’s when I take the time…when I’m able to pay attention…when I’m thinking clearly…when I don’t get triggered and I’m able to stay calm…etc”.
The conclusion is simple. The secret to better parenting is to relieve and reduce your own stress.
The results of doing so are unequivocal. Whenever a parent takes small but definitive steps to tackle their own stress levels, they report a significant improvement in their parenting, and in their children’s behavior and demeanor.
How people parent when they’re less stressed
Mothers’ and fathers’ stories and explanations of distinction-level parenting fall into four categories:
When you are calmer you are less reactive, not so quick to fly off the handle. You observe and listen with openness and concern.
Perhaps your child opens up about trouble at school and suddenly that recent aggression is not such a mystery. Now you understand the upset, you can empathise and help your child through the difficulties.
When you yourself aren’t overwhelmed you can rise to the challenge of inevitable parenting mishaps.
Maybe your child throws a tantrum in public.You feel panic rising, but you recover yourself and manage to extract yourself and your child with minimal fallout.
Sufficient head space and planning ease pressure. Your capacity to meet your child’s needs on a busy day makes for a smoother operation.
Finding ways to ensure your child isn’t too hungry, thirsty, bored or tired increases productivity and protects sanity. Your on-the-go snacks, deals, stories, treats and fun moments enable a day of jobs to get done.
- Sticking to your guns
When you aren’t falling victim to stress, you have the strength to say “no”. You set and enforce limits.
It may be easier in the moment to give in but you all win in the long run, when you keep your parent hat firmly in place and, despite the flack you cop, take a stand (on bedtime, junk food, allowable screen time).
Steps towards better parenting
Even if there are specific behavioural issues to be tackled (yours or your child’s), when high and sustained levels of negative stress are taken out of the equation, you will have greater insight into the problem, as well as the capacity to find and use any help or information you may need to support positive change.
Tackling stress is neither quick nor easy but often you will know many of the steps you need to take to improve your situation. It may well require tough decisions, compromises and self-discipline.
Start by asking yourself a few important questions:
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- How’s your nutrition and fitness?
- What about relaxation? Are you reliant on alcohol or a screen to unwind?
- How are your relationships and friendships?
A small step to alleviate your stress is all it takes to set you on the path to better parenting more often. It may be as simple as a daily walk. It’s your choice.
A smoother-running, calmer, happier household is within your grasp. Tackle your stress and you and your children will be thankful.
About Jacqueline Stone
Australia Counselling member Jacqueline Stone is a therapist and facilitator, and the founder of Wise Stress Mastery. If you’re ready to do stress better, to feel better and live better (and do your best parenting more often), start by getting her free report Stress Relief Now — 4 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Stress Today.