15 Things You Should Give Up to Be a Happy Parent

How to be a happier parent: ditch what's on this list...

You want to be a happy parent—but your countless responsibilities make this goal challenging!

Don’t lose hope just yet. I have a list of 15 things that keep you from happy parenting. Read through them. Be honest with yourself. Then let them go. Allow yourself to be a happy parent for your child—and yourself!

Here’s a list of 15 things you should give up—and then watch your happiness take off:

1. Give up “supposed to”

We were conditioned by our own early family experiences to believe that parenthood or childhood are supposed to look a certain way. But if you hold onto the way things are “supposed” to be, you may miss enjoying how they actually are. Be willing to question what you prioritize as a parent and why.

2. Give up keeping score

What does your mental score-card keep track of: which parent does more? Who’s most consistent? Which mom contributes most in your child’s class? Who’s most involved in your homeschool group?

Keeping score wastes energy. Just do what you feel inspired and able to do. Don’t feel obligated by others’ contributions. Don’t obligate them to live up to yours.

3. Give up force

As a parent, you have a responsibility to set boundaries. But if a child consistently resists a certain boundary, don’t just force them to comply. Ask yourself and your child, “Why?”

Think of yourself as your child’s trusted and effective guide, not their dictator. When they experience you as their guide, they’re more likely to listen, which means less struggle and frustration for both of you.

4. Give up yelling

If you’re not a yeller, this one isn’t for you. But if you tend to yell when you’re feeling upset, consider this question: has yelling strengthened your relationship with your child—or not?

Yelling usually happens in anger, and it often frightens and intimidates children. It destroys trust and a child’s feeling of safety. Pay attention to times and circumstances when you yell and then commit to changing those scenarios in the future.

5. Give up your need to look perfect

Hear me now: there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Embrace your imperfections. Laugh at yourself. The best parents are willing to always learn, change, and improve.

6. Give up worry

Compulsive worrying doesn’t make your child any safer. It doesn’t make you any happier. And it teaches your children to live in fear. Release your worries, and cultivate gratitude for your child’s safety in the present moment.

7. Give up one-size-fits-all rules

Every child is unique. What works for one won’t always work for another. Certain standard rules apply across the board (for example, everyone needs to speak respectfully). But consider the possibility that being a fair parent doesn’t mean doing the exact same thing in the exact same way for every child.

8. Give up the food fight

If you demand a certain number of bites from your children, you set yourself up for struggle at the table—and you set your children up for struggles with food later in life.

Guide, direct, encourage, and prepare healthy food. Let your child voice their preferences. Focus on healthy overall patterns, rather than forcing a certain regimen at a specific meal.

9. Give up your role as events coordinator

If you feel like parenthood is a treadmill you can’t keep up with, you may be taking too much responsibility for your children’s time. Make plans that support your children’s development, but don’t map out every minute for them.

Downtime is supportive for many children. Moments of boredom allow children to take responsibility for their own time. Make resources available, and then let your children create the experience they want. You’ll all be happier.

10. Give up unhealthy self-sacrifice

As a parent, you generously give love, time, and attention. But you shouldn’t give up your core self just because you’re a parent. When you ignore your basic needs, you teach your children that when they grow up, they shouldn’t take care of themselves.

11. Give up guilt

Parents sometimes fall into the self-sacrifice trap because they feel unnecessary guilt. Guilt can be useful if you use it to recognize where you need to make changes. But overwhelming, paralyzing guilt that makes you feel worthless as a person or parent doesn’t accomplish anything. You are enough, just as you are.

12. Give up one-sided decisions

As the parent, you often have the final say. But you and your child will both be happier if it’s not the only say. When it’s appropriate to do so, involve your child in decisions that will affect them. By enrolling children in the decision-making process, you’ll empower them to make their own good decisions in the future.

13. Give up negative messages

So many messages are repeated to children: you’re too loud, you’re too quiet, you ask too many questions, you’re exhausting, you’re demanding, you’re too talkative, you should make more friends, quit moving, speak up, settle down, smile more.

Try this instead: comment on the exact same behavior in a positive way. For example, you can see the trait of, “You’re too talkative,” as “You really make friends easily.”

14. Give up your own childhood story

What did you experience that you most want your children to avoid? Being teased at school? Lack of money? Feeling not-enough? Your fears may actually set up that same pattern to be re-created. Don’t trap your children now in your fears of the past. Let them go. Create what you want, not what you don’t want.

15. Give up on giving up

I’ve heard from parents who worry that they’ve damaged their child, or that they’ve made a mistake that will last a lifetime. I’ve said this many times:

It’s never too late to be a better, happier parent.

Whether your children are 4 or 40, they respond to genuine love from their parents. The effects of mistakes may take a little longer to overcome if your child is older, but it’s never impossible to show up as the happy, supportive parent that you are meant to be. Don’t give up! You have everything you need to be a good parent.

Ok, deep breath.

It’s time to let go of whatever keeps you stuck and let the happiness in!

My book, The Child Whisperer gives you the tools, information, and knowledge you need to empower you and your children so your whole family is happier and experiences more cooperation.

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    1. Great question, Amy. Thanks for asking.

      These resources may be supportive to you in answering that question:

      Could Your Inner Child Be Sabotaging Your Success? (blog post) http://www.finerminds.com/personal-growth/could-your-inner-child-be-sabotaging-your-success/

      Could Your Inner Child Be Sabotaging Your Success? (radio show recording that expands on that post): http://thechildwhisperer.com/inner-child-success/

      Clearing Your Childhood Issues (CD series): https://ct.liveyourtruth.com/store/ct/cdsdvds-carol-tuttle

    1. Don’t be too hard on yourself, first of all. That releases the pressure and change will come more easily. Maybe you should ask yourself why you yell. Many parents e.g. forbid their children to yell while screaming at the top of their lungs themselves. Is there a pattern in your family?

      I was frightened to death by yelling adults when I was little, it was way too loud and threatening. Imagine a person three times taller than you yelling and wanting to “discipline” you. Later I learned that not all of them were aggressive, some of them were just temperamentally different. But it took me some time to figure it out. There’s only one thing you shouldn’t do: Expect different rules for yourself than for your children. Apologize if you yelled unjustly, never take it for granted that you are allowed to do it because you are the adult. They will learn from you and do it themselves, or they might really hate you for it.

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  2. So reg point no. 8 on food fight- I don’t understand how I should do that. My 9 m.o. is not old enough to tell if he is full. So as a parent, I see to it that he finishes the usual quantity before he goes back to playing/sleeping. And of course in trying to forcibly feed him I unknowingly end
    up doing point no. 1, 3,4, 6 and so on.. 😀

    So my problem is: I want him to look fwd to meal times as he grows up and want to start early but that is clearly not happening.

    1. trust him. he truly does know when he doesn’t want to eat anymore. you don’t need to feed him. put some food on his high chair tray and let him go at it. give him the chance to learn to trust his own body.

    2. Thanks for the question, Gunjan! Like Laura Blair suggested, at such a young age, your child knows when he is full. His body knows what to do.

      Here are a few additional resources to support you:

      5 Ways to Prevent Childhood Obesity: http://thechildwhisperer.com/obesity-weight-radio-show/ (This radio talks about how to help your child listen to and trust his own body.)

      17 Easy Dinner Table Tips: http://thechildwhisperer.com/picky-eater-tips/ (This blog post talks about picky eaters in particular, but it does offer practical tips for any child. If you don’t know which Type of energy your child naturally expresses, The Child Whisperer book will walk you through it.)

      May you experience success as you support your child in listening to and trusting his body.

    3. A 9 month old is absolutely old enough to know when they are full! Newborn babies know when they are hungry and when they are full. Forcing a baby to eat is NOT GOOD! At that age, food is more an introduction anyway. They should be getting almost all their calories from breastmilk or formula. Feed a variety of flavors, textures, colors, temperatures, etc. so baby can get a feel for eating and learn about all the different varieties of food. Don’t ever force them, they will let you know when they have had enough, usually by turning away. Just say ‘all done?’ and end the meal session.

    4. Your 9 month old absolutely knows when he is full. He is actually the best resource to determine his dietary needs, some days he eats more and some days he eats less. Just like the article says, provide healthy options. I am constantly reminding myself not to get into a power struggle with my 2 y/o over food. I put food in front of him and he chooses what he wants to eat or not eat. I do not give him the cookies he knows are in the cabinet that he is asking for. He will not go hungry. I am setting boundaries by only providing certain options, while at the same time giving him the power to choose. I like this article as a reminder. I am currently reading Parenting with Love and Logic, to remind myself how to apply the bigger concepts to daily events.

    5. To everyone who is stating that “Your child knows when he is full.” I just want to point out that is not always true. If it were up to my child, she would never eat (I’m not exaggerating here, she has a g-tube). Gunjan, if you are worried, please contact your pediatrician. He might tell you there is nothing to worry about. But, he might want to follow your child’s development more closely. At the very least, he can give you some pointers.
      As for this list… On the whole, it’s a great list, even for parents who have children with special needs. But, when it comes to my child’s eating, I think I’ll follow the recommendations set forth by my child’s speech therapist.

    6. Most younger children know more easily when they are full because they haven’t been taught to “eat up”. If the eating habits are truly out of the ordinary one way or the other, then you should seek help. But usually, children tell you very honestly what they like or don’t like. It is like a science project to find out about it. 🙂 The only thing I wonder about is the “mood swings” about food. Moms don’t have the time nor the money to give in to any food request that might change from one second to the next, especially if there is a tantrum involved. How do you deal with something like that?

    1. I raised 3 normal children myself, and I thought just like you. Then the 4th was diagnosed ADHD…. I would never judge like you again. If you’re not helping an ADHD child with medication, you’re not being a parent… you’re denying that your child has a mild neurological issue that he can and should be helped with.

      1. It all depends. Really. ADHD is such a touchy diagnosis. There are so many factors. For a quick example; I was personally diagnosed with it as a child, my parents choice to keep me VERY active with sports, volunteer work, chores, etc, rather than drug me. My nephew was diagnosed with it, my sister chooses to let him stay in and play video games, Ridelin works miracles. I am thankful that I was not put on medication because as an adult I do not need any medication still. If I was put on that track of medication as a child, I can contest I would still be on it. I would love to point out another important factor for ADHD…. DIET. Processed foods,high fructose corn syrup, food coloring, etc should be avoided at all costs. A diet change can make or break medication, especially now. Not knowing all solutions and options for this neurological issue is denying your child with proper help.

        Oh, I should mention, I am too, a mother of three, so I’m not just judging and trudging on unfamiliar territory. And I worked with the disabled, children and adults the same amount for many years, so I know there isn’t just one answer to so many scenarios. I also know doctors and pharmaceuticals do push medication, that’s how a lot of them make money. Watch out for those awful side effects too, sometimes they’re worse than the reason they’re being taken. Okay okay I’ll stop.

        On a completely different note: Great article! I may print in out and stick it to a wall. That way my boys can see some of my goals 🙂

  3. I have two very strong willed children.Everyday feels like a power struggle, I give in and then feel resentful. Both sons have become very over weight, both love food, both will not eat the healthy food I make, even when they are given choices or asked to help. Everyone wants a separate meal and I am tired of having a restaurant in my house.When I give choice, they fight. When I don’t give choice they fight.

    1. If you have space and time for it you could ask them grow a little garden for a “science experiment”. I was able to take advantage of my child always wanted what I had. Me picking from our garden has helped my child want to at least taste the veggies from it. Your boys may be too old, but I don’t know… I gave the veggie to my son, asked him if he liked it and then told him what it was. Even when he didn’t like it, when he saw me in the garden he’d want another one and taste it again. He’d only eat the bite or sometimes spit it out (and I’d try not to get mad 😉 ) But now he eats most veggies! Every time he wouldn’t taste a veggie or fruit from the store I’d plant some in my garden and it has worked every time so far! (Cucumber, peas, tomatoes and we did carrots this year, they taste so different from the store! 🙂 ) SO! For the experiment- Pick your veggie and plant. After they come up take your kids to the store to purchase the store-bought version of what you grew. Have them leave the kitchen and you cut both up and put on two plates. Have them taste them both and see which one they like better. Then reveal which one they picked! If it was only one bite… they did it! But, you may be able to play it off as… “that was our problem! You just don’t like store-bought carrots, you only like fresh ones!” If nothing else, they get the reward of doing something hard 🙂 I don’t know if it’ll work but give it a shot if you’d like!

    2. It might also be that you are very tensed when it comes to food, and they fight because are a kind of mirror for your inner struggle. Kids often are. And maybe you should also think about your childhood or their dad’s childhood. Was any of you as strong willed as they are? How was that dealt with, or how would you as children have wanted to be dealt with? Children are not to be fought, and their health and life is on the line here. I get that you feel resentful for giving in, and you shouldn’t because parents often are “lone outposts”. Forgive yourself for it, but also see it as a learning experience. Why do you give in? Because you were brought up strictly and never wanted to be like your parents? Because you are just tired and want peace? Do you plan to give in from time to time, or does it just “happen”, i.e. do you have control over your “exceptions”? Whatever it is, find out about it and resolve it. And ask for help. Take cooking lessons with a nutritionist, sometimes outsiders make a huge difference.A doctor can also explain to them what might happen if they don’t change, they are old enough to understand. If they are so strong willed, let them take some responsibility for their actions and guide them. If they really love food, they will love to learn about it. Otherwise they just love the unhealthy stuff, and that needs to go in the long run. And if nothing helps, cheat. Puree veggies into their meat sauce, bake brownies with beetroot or applesauce, change things slowly. Fruit smoothies are delicious, you can even make ice-pops out of them. There are many great tips on many websites and on YouTube.

  4. I need to give up yelling!! As a kid everyone in my family yells and we are very loud but Portuguese people are LOUD.

  5. How in the world do you do #10, when you are the parent of young children? They are so demanding… I love them but I definitely feel like I’ve lost myself, I just feel like their slave

    1. Hi Michelle, thank you for your question and your desire to be a child whisperer to your children. If you have not done so already, Carol recommends listening to this podcast and visiting TheCarolBlog.com where she has many blog posts to support you in honoring yourself in relationships. If you have additional questions, we welcome you to call in live to Carol’s Better Parenting Radio podcast Mondays at 1:00pm MT and Ask Carol – she loves to take live calls. Thank you for this opportunity to serve you!

  6. I really appreciated this article, thank you. I have 4 kids so it’s hectic but I’m trying my best to be the best mum I can. However once a month, during PMS, I turn into the wicked witch, and it seems to be worse and worse (I’m 40) I can’t stop yelling, being grumpy, angry for the smallest thing. I’m totally horrible and probably scares my kids! It has to stop. I do exercise, I eat well, I sleep well and I just don’t want to take this hormonal medication as it has so many side effects. If anyone have any hints or tips for me, I would be extremely grateful. Thanks in advance.

    1. Karin,

      This is a great question to ask Carol either by emailing [email protected] (include your Energy Type and your kids ages and Types). Or call in to the live broadcast on Mondays at 1pm MT. (347) 677-1963.

      Thank you!

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