Parents are always talking about their “to-do list.” Parenting is a busy occupation and it can be helpful to create to-do lists for all of the urgent and important things we have to do for work, for our kids and for ourselves. Sometimes it can be just as valuable or maybe even more so, to create a “not to-do list.” It can be helpful to identify those things that take away from our main purpose, goals and objectives of parenthood.
Our “not to-do list” can consist of reminders of things that get in the way of our overall mission. These are things that take away from what we really want to accomplish and distract us mentally, emotionally and physically from what is most important to us, our kids and our family. Your “not to-do list” may be slightly different than mine and you may want to be more specific about certain things that seem to derail you and get you off track, but the follow 13 things are just a few items I have found both personally and in my experience working with other parents that we can put on our “no t-do list.” We can give up the following things to help remove the obstructions and make room for the stuff that builds ongoing cycles of happiness and growth.
13 “Not to-do’s”
1. Overbooking: It’s easy to overbook ourselves and our families, especially as our family grows up. The kids start adding sports, music, friends, church and so many activities to our endless list of activities. Learn to say no to some things. Recognize that you and your family are finite beings with only so much time each day. Talk together as a family about designating some time each week that is sacred, no schedule time; time that belongs to the family only. Leave time to relax, be together, play and just think.
2. Rigidity: Parenting is a dance and dancing requires some flexibility. When we try to do the dance of parenting without being flexible, we are easily bent out of shape and it hurts. Remember these two words, “It’s Okay.” These words can help us to stay flexible and nimble when our children do the unexpected. They can remind us that even when things don’t go as we expected, things will turn out.
3. ‘Shoulding’: We tell ourselves, “The house should be cleaner. The kids should be better behaved. I should be less irritable.” The list of ‘shoulds’ goes on and on and all it does is fosters discontent and creates shame and stalls progress rather than saying, “That happens sometimes” and making the necessary positive changes. Let go of some of those strict expectations.
4. Control: The only thing we can control is ourselves and even then, we can be heavily influenced by what is going on around us. Control over our children is an illusion and the more controlling we try to be the less control and influence we actually have. Let go of the control and focus on teaching and influencing kids in positive, healthy ways.
5. Perfection: Once again, we are talking about an illusion. Often we seek for perfection in both ourselves as well as our kids only to be disappointed because we can never find it, let alone reach it.
6. The Right Way: Remember that there are often many different solutions to the same problem, The way that you think it should be done is only one perspective. Be open to other perspectives and solutions.
7. Normal: My mother in-law has a wall decoration that says, “Around here, normal is just a setting on the dryer.” One of the most fun things about being a parent, especially to young kids, is that you can be silly and kiss normal good bye. It can be a great joy to watch your kids and join in with them on things that, to the rest of the civilized world might seem a little strange.
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8. Addictions: This is a must. It’s hard to focus on your children and family when you are consumed by an addiction. It doesn’t matter whether the addiction is drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling or gaming; addictions will all degrade and potentially destroy your family. If addiction is a problem for you, please get the help you need.
9. Excessive TV, gaming, and technology: Turn. Off. The. TV. Many families simply always have the TV running in their home. It creates a background soundtrack for their lives. Many moms and dads use TV or other technology to relax in the evening after work, but it can interfere and take away from time to really engage with the kids during prime together hours. While TV watching in moderation can be helpful and relaxing, in excess it actually becomes draining and often makes people feel disconnected, depressed and lethargic.
10. Yelling: There is one thing I know about yelling. It doesn’t make anyone happier. It doesn’t encourage connection or joy in the giver or the receiver. Make “stop yelling” a major point of your “not to-do list” and watch as your personal happiness and satisfaction increase day by day.
11. Spanking: Just like yelling, spanking does not breed happiness, respect or compliance. It doesn’t make anyone feel or do better. Spanking just doesn’t make sense as discipline. The truth is that when yelling and other punishments are taken off the table as a legitimate disciplinary option, parents start to be more innovative and find other ways to proactively and responsively teach their children healthy behaviors, skills and values.
12. Cleanliness: Okay, this is one of those points of moderation. Obviously, living in absolute clutter or a septic disaster area is neither preferable nor healthy, but some disorganization is a normal part of living with kids. In some instances it can be fun to even participate in making a mess with them. My kids can clean the house in the morning and by no later than 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon can be back to square one. Kids make messes and it can be helpful to let go a little when it comes to the value we place on a spotless home. Make sure that you are not measuring your own value as a mother or father based on the cleanliness of your home.
13. Coolness: I just recently came to grips with the notion that by most of the world’s standards I am no longer “cool.” I just don’t meet the definition of “cool,” or at least my old definitions of what is cool. There is a new kind of cool as a parent. My wife thinks I’m pretty cool when I change a diaper. My three oldest sons think I’m pretty cool when I run into their wall on purpose after I put them to bed at night. My daughter thinks I’m pretty cool when I make funny faces at her through her translucent sippy cup. It’s time to let go of old definitions of cool. I’m okay with that.
So what is keeping you from the relationship with your kids and family that you really want? What do you need and want to give up? What would your “not to-do list” look like?
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