Parenting: It's all about Balance and Patience
By Amy Swanson, Executive Director, Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, Success By 6 Board Member
It is the day before your big vacation and you have a million errands to run. You anticipate a car full of happy children as you head off to complete the to-do list. However, not even five minutes into the drive there is screaming, whining and outright defiance coming out of the back seats. Now you realize you might have had your hopes AND your expectations set a bit high based on your own needs.
While it is often times difficult to manage your needs with the wants and desires of your children, if you can find a balance you will find a little more peace in your day. When raising young children it is important to remember the expectations you place on them, as well as those you place on your self. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you parent.
Be careful not to set your expectations too high for your children. Expecting children to be happy running errands all day is not realistic. While you have a list of things that must be done, consider breaking up your day with a few activities. You could take a quick stop at a park and play a few games to burn off their energy. Another favorite is to include them in the errands. Let older children map out the course for the day. Younger children can scavenger hunt for items on your list. Pack a few snacks in the car or keep a bag of toys specifically for times like this. Isn't it funny how they seem brand new if they haven't seen them in awhile?
Other things to consider in avoiding setting too high of expectations is to remember you are going to get a few complaints, deal with a fight or two and likely have a few failed attempts at keeping the day fun. Praise your children when they get it right, when they try and when you are having fun with them. Our children respond better to praise than criticism. Also remember you too are human. If you snap or get overwhelmed, give your self a break. Take a quick time out. Even if that means pulling the car over to the side of the road while you breathe deeply.
Now on the flip side of setting expectations too high, at times we don't set them high enough. Perhaps you are guilty of doing things for your children that they really can do themselves. We have all seen the 2-year-old beam with pride when they accomplish the task after demanding "me do it". So, during your day of errands, let children buckle their own seatbelts if they can. Ask them to cross items off your list when you find them or let an older child add up the cost of your items. Remember all these little extras can cost more time in your day but it will be worth it when you end the day with more successes than frustrations.
Through it all, you know your children best and you know yourself. Plan what you know you can all accomplish. Add in things you know each of you will enjoy and remember their age, development and how the time of day can affect everyone. At the end of the day keep in mind every interaction with your child is an opportunity to create a lifetime of happy memories. Your sanity and your child's self esteem is more important than an errand no matter how important it seems in the moment.
The Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery is a community asset called to keep children safe and strengthen families in an effort to create a healthy community. We offer 24-hour care to children when parents are unable to cope with a situation that could negatively impact their children. We also offer parent education, resource referrals and basic needs such as diapers and formula. You can find out more about the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery by visiting www.vanessabehan.org.