Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mom stuff

One of the many talks Meghan and I had was about being moms, and what kind of moms we are, and want to be. And then last night at my parents' house I found an article in Woman's Day called 20 Ways To Be An Even Better Mom. I've always parented by my instincts, without much looking externally for instructions or affirmation. But I think a lot of this article makes sense, and I'm happy to report that I already do many of the things they suggest. (I've marked them with an asterik.) I guess I must be doing something right.

1. Be the boss*
"We often abdicate the position of authority because we want to be our kids' friends," says Julie Barnhill, author of One Tough Mother: It's Time to Step Up and Be the Mom. "But if you don't take charge, someone else will become a voice of influence in your child's life, like his friends." Establish rules and enforce them.

2. Whisper sweet nothings
Years ago, when Maribeth Wahle of Boston felt she'd had a bad day with one of her kids, her mother shared some advice. "She said that whenever she had that experience with me or my siblings, she'd whisper something kind into our ears as she tucked us in at night," says Maribeth. "That soothing advice has helped me raise my own children over the past 23 years."

3. Showcase your many layers*
Kids need to view you as a well-rounded, multidimensional person, not just as Mom, notes Lorraine Morris Cole, a Woodbridge, Virginia, mother of three. If you work outside the home, tell them something interesting about your job. If you volunteer, share how you help others. If you have a hobby, ask them to take part.

4. Put on the brakes*
"Resist the urge to help everyone, and people will eventually stop calling you with little time-sappers," says Jen Singer, author of You're a Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren't So Bad Either): 14 Secrets to Finding Happiness Between Super Mom and Slacker Mom. You'll be less frazzled and will have time to focus on more important things.

5. Protect adult time*
No matter how hectic life gets, make time for a night out with friends to relax and refuel.

6. Trust your instincts*
"I try not to concern myself with what kind of moms my mother and grandmother were," says Funmilayo Tyler, a mother of two in Oakland, California. You have your own parenting style; believe in it.

7. Forget about educational toys*
Children can learn just as much from their own imagination as they can from the latest brain-stimulating toy, says Singer. "Sometimes it's better to let her spend playtime simply putting pebbles in a bucket."

8. Allow your child to fail*
"Falling off a bike, getting a poor grade—these are all learning opportunities," says clinical psychologist Penny B. Donnenfeld, PhD. "If you rush in to fix it, you're telling your child that trying is not good enough and that perfection is required." The better lesson? Keep trying despite letdowns.

9. Don't be a soccer mom*
Kids whose parents go to every one of their games are less likely to continue with sports as young adults, notes Terri Khonsari, author of Raising a Superstar: Simple Strategies to Bring Out the Brilliance in Every Child. They're often playing just to please Mom and Dad rather than for their own enjoyment, she explains. Except for the major games, drop off the kids and leave. This teaches kids to cheer for themselves.

10. Admit that balance is a myth*
Instead of beating yourself up for not mastering the perfect work–life balance, concentrate on the little picture—just doing the best you can from day to day, says parenting expert Bonnie Ulman.

11. Say no to your kids*
"It makes you a better parent," says psychologist Susan Newman, PhD, author of The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say It—and Mean It, and Stop People-Pleasing Forever. "By turning down children's endless requests, you teach them how to cope with disappointment and to understand that they can't have everything they want—which will help them in the future."

12. Be attentive*
Debi Sakamoto, a Portland, Oregon, mom of two, learned the mantra "Be here now" at a work seminar and incorporated it into her home life. "To me, it's about really listening to my kids when they tell me about their day, not letting my mind drift," she says.

13. Hear what kids don't say*
"There's an old Jewish saying: 'A mother understands what a child does not say,'" notes Leslie Parrott, PhD, coauthor of The Parent You Want to Be: Who You Are Matters More Than What You Do. Kids often bottle up their feelings; if you ask what's wrong, they'll say "nothing." Your job is to help them work through their emotions. Start a dialogue and coax the feelings out—don't force it.

14. Create a village
Build a backup team you can count on. "My village includes family, longtime friends, kind neighbors, and other moms and dads in my community," says Shikira Porter, an Oakland, California, mom of a 6-month-old.

15. Accept each child's uniqueness*
"Kids are who they are, with their own quirks and imperfections, and that's what makes them perfect," says relationship expert Lissa Coffey. Rather than trying to mold your child into what you want him to be, love and appreciate him as he is.

16. Play soothing music
Nataly Blumberg plays classical music or soft jazz to make the morning rush less stressful for herself and her kids. "Although we're still rushing around, we all feel a little more relaxed and the tension that used to fill the air is gone," says the New York City mom

17. Face your giants
Stand up to competitive moms who try to tell you how to raise your children, says Barnhill. When someone criticizes your brand of parenting, speak up, but do it calmly, not angrily.

18. Admit your mistakes*
When Rachael Herrscher's 5-year-old son said sadly, "Mommy, I've made too many mistakes today," she told him that she too made lots of errors each day. "I could see the light go off in his head as he realized, 'Wow, big people aren’t perfect either!'" says Rachael, who lives in Salt Lake City. "I also apologize to my kids when I lose my patience. It lets them know that it's OK to not be perfect."

19. Be a kid again*
Take a cue from your children and play. Spend time outdoors with them doing whatever they want to do. Before you know it, you'll be focused on the moment with no thoughts of to-do lists. That's when you'll truly connect with your kids.

20. Focus on what you have*
"Many of us suffer from the disease of 'not-enoughness,'" says Noah St. John, PhD, founder of Every morning, have your kids think of five things they're grateful for—come up with your own list, too. The practice helps build their confidence and self-esteem.


Meghan said...

You know I was laughing at 9... and AMEN to 19 & 20.

Great list.

jenn said...

I like the soccer mom one. I think that is very true. I played ball because I liked playing ball. That's it!

CosmicAvatar said...

I'm no parent, but that list sounds pretty sensible to me.

Amanda said...

I realized I do a lot of these with my TKD kids - like praise them for realizing they made a mistake and fixing it themselves. Makes me believe in the "trust your instincts" step.