I teach my kids to be gracious. Not just in the polite sense of the word, where they observe social niceties. Gracious in terms of mercy and compassion.
They are 10 and don’t always get it right. They aren’t always models of grace – complaining about an unfair game, kicking a brother in the shin… But they are working on it and so am I. Sometimes instead of tattling, I’ll hear a sweet reconciliation or watch tolerance for incessant knock-knock jokes.
These days, I’m primarily working on being gracious to myself. Giving myself mercy for the ways I don’t live up to my own standards. It’s hard – primarily because the stakes are high.
Most parents do the best they can. Yet we still go through litanies of what we should have done:
- I should have let him do it on his own.
- I shouldn’t have raised my voice.
- I should have set more clear limits.
- I should have enforced the limits I set.
- I shouldn’t have spent so much time at work.
These can be helpful, if they are truly based in self-reflection. They weigh us down if they are based on some imagined (or exaggerated) offense or sense of inadequacy and guilt. Here are a few things that help me lift the weight of guilt and remember how amazing my kids really are.
- Give your kids a compliment. Make it genuine and meaningful.
- Set goals with your kids. Make them accessible.
- Give your kids progressive autonomy.
- Trust yourself. Most parents are doing everything they know how to do.
- Accept help. Ask for advice or a break. Parenting is hard and kids can be overwhelming.
- Parent from your strengths. Acknowledge your limitations.
- Play with your kids – really play. Work up a sweat. Share a favorite activity. Laugh.
- Recognize that your kid’s decisions are her own. Help her take responsibility for her actions.
- Think first. Hold off on disciplining your child when you are stressed out, frustrated, or just plain angry.
- Remember that kids complain – even about stuff they like. Take complaints for what they really are.
This next week, try to be gentler with yourself. Let go of the guilt. What’s your tip for being kind to yourself?
This post originally appeared on The Learning Lab.