There’s a lot of parenting advice out there. In addition to friends and family weighing in on how to raise a perfect kid, there are over 58,000 parenting books telling you what you should and should not do. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel inadequate. A friend and exasperated fellow mom recently told me, “I felt like I was spending more time on my children than with my children.” She has since decided to turn off “power-parenting mode” and enjoy being a mom without the pressure of trying to be the perfect parent with the perfect child.
Here are six science-backed tips to help you do the same:
1. Let your kids get bored.
Instead of feeling pressure to plan fun activities and schedule extra classes, allow for some downtime. Encourage your kids to keep themselves busy and to fill free time by coming up with their own plans and activities. In addition to boosting their creativity and ability to take initiative, you will benefit from not having to drive them to yet another afterschool practice.
2. Walk the walk.
Make healthy habits a family value. Model the behavior you want to encourage. Eat the fruits and vegetables you serve to your kids. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Make sleep a priority for everyone. Everyone will be happier, healthier and less stressed.
3. Sit on your hands.
Allow your kids to solve their own problems (when age appropriate). Resist the impulse to swoop in and resolve any issue they are having at school or with a friend. This robs them of the confidence that they can do it on their own and undermines their ability to learn to navigate their way through a challenge.
4. Cultivate communication.
Ask your children questions. If “How was your day?” is usually met with “Fine,” and a shoulder shrug, try something more specific like, “How was today different from yesterday?” or “What’s the one word you’d use to describe today?” Do your best to listen and give them your full attention. Create cell–free zones at home, especially at the dining room table. Avoid being half-there.
5. Take care of yourself.
Women are the first to take great care of others and the last to take care of themselves. Don’t skip that doctor’s appointment. Take time to see friends. Hire a babysitter so you can have a date night. You will be a better mom when your own needs are met.
6. Send them out the door.
Encourage your children to play outside and minimize screen time. In addition to being good for their physical fitness, studies show it improves academic performance. Best of all, it’s fun.