Raising children is no easy task. The habits we form now have a great impact on how our future days will go. Below are five habits that I've intentionally cultivated which I believe have made parenthood easier and more joyful.
Create a daily rhythm.
While it isn't necessary, or even helpful, to be so rigid as to have every detail of the day planned out, it is very helpful to create a daily rhythm, or a flow to the day that children can generally count on. This daily rhythm creates a stable foundation, and knowing what comes next makes children feel secure and helps them transition more easily.
In addition, once the habit is well-formed, the rhythm becomes “the boss” in many ways. Children understand that after dinner it is time to bath, for example, and there is less push-back. A daily rhythm isn't only soothing for children but has been shown to also help parents feel more competent and confident.
Stick to the routine.
Within the daily rhythm, routines make parenting easier. It isn't just knowing what to expect; it's also about connection points throughout the day. Sweet bedtime rituals and mealtime conversations serve to bring us back to each other in the midst of a busy life. Being connected and knowing what to expect are two important aspects that bring peace to our homes, and intentional, loving routines accomplish both.
Meet as a family every week.
If you aren't already doing a weekly family meeting, I highly recommend beginning this tradition. Family meetings serve many purposes. They really help the family to function more smoothly as a unit. During family meetings, it's beneficial to talk about what went well that week, what didn't, what needs to be addressed, and plans for the upcoming week. When everyone gets to voice their opinions and ideas, the family bond is strengthened.
When families work on problems together, children learn how to work with others in a team, troubleshoot, and problem-solve. I also like using family meetings as a time to share fond memories from the past week and to share our appreciations and gratitude of each other. When everyone in the family feels heard, understood, and appreciated, you can bet that parenthood will be a little easier.
Be clear and consistent.
Many parenting problems arise because we either aren't clear about the boundaries or we aren't consistent with enforcing those boundaries. Think of a “road closed” sign. It will stop you from going down that road, but unless there's a detour arrow, you're likely left stuck without knowing where to go next. Telling children what to stop doing is only half of discipline, and ending it there leaves things unclear. It's like putting up the “road closed” sign without detour arrow.
If we don't show them where to go from there, it's not likely they'll go in the direction we want them to go. They may, instead, find their own new path to the destination they're trying to get to, which is almost always getting a need met. Alternatively, they may crash through the sign and keep on going if the boundary isn't firm and held consistently. If we are both consistent in saying “you may not go that way” and clear in saying “here's the better way to go,” parenthood gets easier because it isn't an all-day marathon of power struggles.
Lean on your village.
We aren't meant to do this thing alone, and yet I've heard many parents say how lonely they feel every day.