We all want to raise children who are well-behaved, thoughtful, and intelligent, but sometimes we miss the fact that we’re already raising a good human.
All eyes are on you.
The room is silent.
Embarrassment floods your body.
You want to grab your child and run out the door – hoping everyone will forget the rude thing he just shouted.
This isn’t how you raised him! You hep him practice manners. You talk about being polite to others. You were clear about acceptable behavior in public.
In an instant, you see a glimpse into his future: being sent to the principal, talking back to his coach, getting fired from a job.
You thought you were doing a good job raising him (maybe not perfectly, but mostly on the right track). And yet, here you are, lying awake at night worrying about how to raise a good child.
A positive member of society. A good human.
Feeling the Pressure
The pressure is on the day we bring those little ones home.
We hear about the importance of early education and the fact that these early experiences shape our children’s brains for the rest of their lives. It seems crucial that we teach our children everything we can in the first few years of their life.
And it’s not just brain development that seems urgent. There is societal pressure too. Spoken and unspoken rules about how children should behave, the number of extracurricular activities and enrichment activities you should provide, the food they should (or should not) consume.
The pressure comes from family members, friends, social media, and of course, our own dreams and desires.
So, how do we parent well with all of this pressure?
Overcoming Parenting Pressure
- Recognize when you’re putting the pressure on. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best for your child, but if you feel yourself bending over backward to get them into a certain activity or engaging in huge battles while forcing them to learn complex math equations, it might be a sign that you’re focused on something other than your child’s future success.
- Explore your fears, anxieties, and insecurities. Once you recognize these thoughts, sit with them for a while. Don’t try to minimize them, pile on the shame, or beat yourself up. See if you can think back to when you first started believing or feeling this way. What fears were/are present? What worries do you have about the present/future? You may need to seek support from a mental health professional or parent coach for this step.
- Take a few deep breaths. Sitting with big feelings can be overwhelming. If you notice your heart racing, your muscles tensing, or rapid breathing, pause. Do some slow, mindful deep breaths to calm your brain and body. Grab a journal and write down your thoughts, feelings, or fears. Or, move your body in a way that gets your heart rate up, allowing you to process through the feelings, rather than staying stuck.
- Watch your comparisons. Spending hours online may be great for home decor ideas or funny dog videos, but it rarely does anything good for your mental health. If you find yourself envying someone else’s’ life, believing that their family is without flaws, or measuring yourself (or your kids) to their standards, it may be time to unfollow or limit time on social media.
- Catch yourself in a negative spiral. It’s easy for a small thought to bloom into something bigger in the blink of an eye. Seeing your kindergartener struggling with reading suddenly becomes a vision of them failing out of high school and living in your basement forever. If you notice this spiral, stop. Take a deep breath. Bring your mind to the present moment. See your child at their current age – rather than years into the future.
- See your child as the good human they already are. Yes, your kids are immature, they make mistakes, they take forever to learn, and act out from time to time. Yes, they have things to learn and room to grow. But, when we interpret these things as “bad” or criticize ourselves as “failures” we start to see our children in a negative light. And, unfortunately, our negative lens can impact their self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Find joy in your child today. Let’s look for the good, rather than dwelling on the “bad.” Let’s embrace them with all of their immaturity and mistakes. Let’s see them as works in progress, rather than having their lives determined – positively or negatively – by their first six years. Let’s support them as they grow, recognizing their struggles show they still need the support of a loving, connected caregiver.
How to Raise a Good Human
The first few years of your child’s life are important, but it’s not the end of the story.
Brain growth continues until your child is 25 years old.
And, thanks to neuroplasticity, our brains are still able to change, grow, and learn new skills into adulthood.
Take a deep breath. There is time.
But, if you’re still feeling the pressure, here are a few things to focus on instead:
Keep the connection strong
Help your child identify and communicate their emotions
Learn and practice coping and calming skills
Identify and take care of your own needs
Give your child lots of opportunities for independence (age-appropriately, of course)
Be patient with them while the mature
Embrace their mistakes, seeing failure as an opportunity to learn
Be kind and compassionate to yourself in the process
Rebuild or repair your connection after separation, an argument, or misunderstanding
Focus on the things you love about the child you have!