Parenting is hard. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying or isn’t a parent! But, parenting is also one of the greatest of all human experiences and one that many of us willingly and eagerly choose to undertake in our lifetimes.
I started this blog this past fall with the explicit intention of creating a warm and encouraging community online for parents (and parents-to-be) to share tips, advice and lessons learned along the way. I’m seven years into my own parenting journey and I write from my experience as a wife and mom of two. I’ve also worked in the field of education for over a decade as both a teacher, consultant and charter school founder and have witnessed a lot of parenting challenges and struggles–and I’ve certainly been challenged and struggled myself, on a daily basis it often seems! I don’t claim to have all the answers and, in fact, have more questions than answers but I love the idea of building a supportive, nonjudgemental and diverse community of parents who are united in the quest to enjoy their family lives!
Parents are human beings and even if we come to parenting with many years of experience as a child psychologist, therapist, counselor or teacher, nothing can quite prepare you for the huge transition that occurs when you become a parent for the first time! I love to read and while we were expecting our first daughter, I read as many parenting books as I could get my hands on. I also picked the brains of other, more experienced moms. One of the things I’ve noticed in my family life is that when we act like a team, we function better! Teams are important not only in sports and the workplace, but also in our family lives. Here are a few tips to encourage teamwork in your family life.
5 Tips to Develop a Sense of Team in your Family Life:
1. Encourage one another. I’m a big believer in positive praise and acknowledging people for their individual contributions. From the time our daughters, who are now 5 and 7, were very young toddlers with limited vocabularies, we’ve worked hard to verbally acknowledge the good choices they make, such as bringing their plates to the sink after a meal, helping to clean up after a play date or organizing their toys or books in their room. Sibling bonds are important and my husband and I try to foster a real sense of love and cooperation between our two daughters. This doesn’t mean that our kids don’t fight or get jealous or mad at each other! It simply means that when we notice one of our daughters helping the other, sharing or doing some other simple good deed, we make sure to give them verbal praise for it.
2. Parents need to remember that they are the leaders of the team! Sports teams always have a captain or co-captains and families need captains, too. As the adults, it is up to us to set boundaries, to enforce discipline, to encourage good choices and kind behavior. Kids pick up on what they see (more than what they hear) so model the behavior you wish to see in your child. If you hope that your kids will grow up with a strong sense of self, a positive outlook on life and a happy and calm demeanor, then you need to work on developing those qualities in yourself, too!
3. Get to know each other! I know this sounds obvious but so many of us are so busy these days with work or other commitments outside the home that I think it’s worth mentioning. Slow down on the weekends. Stay home and play board games, go to the park, or make popcorn and watch a kid friendly movie together on a Saturday night. Relax and be together without the rush and hurry of the Monday-Friday week packed with school, work and after-school activities. Consider creating family traditions like Sunday night family dinner, especially if you or your spouse aren’t able to be home for family dinner during the week. I think some of our best family conversations occur over the dinner table and, strangely enough, when we’re all in the car together.
4. Play to your strengths and harness your differences. If your husband or wife is a morning person, let him or her wake up early on Saturdays with the kids and allow you to sleep in. If bedtime routines make you crazy and ready to pull your hair out, let your partner do the wind down and you can instead offer to clean up the kitchen after dinner. Respect the fact that each of you brings unique contributions to your family team. It’s not a competition so stop keeping score!
5. Trust! Foster a family culture of mutual respect and trust. Don’t micromanage! Nobody likes it. Encourage your kids to be leaders from an early age by giving them very small responsibilities and chores around the house. It’s simple advice, really, but when we choose to trust our kids, we are teaching them that we respect their choices and that they are capable. Trust your spouse! Trust that he or she wants the best for you and your kids and even if their way of handling a situation is not the same as the way you’d handle it–so as long as your kids are safe–let it go! There are multiple ways to go about solving a problem so encourage one another to develop your own, unique parenting style.