It is the most challenging and yet rewarding job in the world: motherhood. I am a mom of six children (four of them are currently teenagers), and someone recently asked me what advice I would give to other mothers out there. In that vein, I came up with this list of the top five things I’ve learned in my 22 years as a mother.
- Don’t compare your family’s behind-the-scenes story to another family’s highlights reel. That seems so obvious, and yet we do it—all the time. Someone at church once told me that they wished they had a perfect family like mine. I literally laughed out loud. I do not have a perfect family. You do not have a perfect family. And guess what? That’s just fine.
- If you don’t set limits with your children at a young age, it’s much more challenging to do it at an older age. Believe me, it’s much easier to control the actions of a five-year-old than it is to reign in the actions of a 17-year-old. So when you have put your preschooler in timeout for the fifth time that day for talking back, stick to your guns. It’s making you crazy now, but it will save your sanity later.
- Don’t let your teenager’s moods become your moods. As Kevin Leman, one of my favorite parenting authors, says, “Keep your sails out of your child’s wind.” That idea has been a lifesaver for me. Teens will be moody—often. If you let your attitude be affected by their attitudes, you’re in for a world of hurt. It was tough enough being a teen when I was one; I don’t want to relive it six more times.
- Take time to focus on the good in your children. Too often it’s easy to get caught up in all that they are not doing versus what they are doing. Maybe their room looks like a bomb went off and they forget to take out the trash—but aren’t you glad that they keep their curfew, are kind to their siblings, and actually appreciate when you cook dinner? One of the best things I ever did while in the middle of a challenging parenting time was to make a list of all the troubling things my child was doing and then a list of all the great things this child was doing. The first column had a grand total of five items. The second? Twenty-six! And yet I was spending all of my time fixated on those five negative behaviors. Look for the positive.
- Give yourself a break. I mean this literally as well as figuratively. Every Monday I go to lunch. By myself. It’s my time to eat tacos and read a book and get myself recharged for the week ahead. My ritual actually acts as a reminder to me that as a mom, I don’t have to be perfect; I just have to try my best and trust that in the end, things will work out.
And I believe that: Things will work out. That cranky two-year-old will become a snuggly three-year-old. That stubborn 10-year-old will become a teen who stands up for what is right. That 17-year-old who is battling for independence will one day tell you that he’s grateful for the person you allowed him to become. Motherhood is so very hard, but so very rewarding.
QUESTION: If a friend asked you for your best parenting tip, how would you respond?
CHALLENGE: Choose one of Kristyn’s five tips to improve on this week. Write a sticky note for yourself and put it somewhere you will see it multiple times a day. This time next week, look back and see how you have done. Did you see any improvements in your life or your relationships? What will you continue to work on the next week?
Edited by Cathryn Matheson and Amanda Lewis.
Image from Shutterstock with graphics by Julie Finlayson.