Parenting is a lot of things.
Exhausting. Emotional. Terrifying. Challenging. Lots of other words I am too tired to think up on my own today on our second snow day leading into a weekend.
Suffice it to say, it’s hard.
But, it’s also beautiful, fulfilling, heartwarming, and precious.
I’m grateful daily for the blessing that is these boys. Even when I am side eyeing them for hot boxing us in the car with an unclaimed stinky fart, or screaming at them to unhand one another while they’re fighting over something basic I feel the gratitude deep into my soul.
It is precisely the depth of these emotions that has me constantly wondering if I’m doing it right. Or at least right enough that they can grow up and live happy, fruitful lives without having to live in my basement forever.
As I sit here watching Dude 3 play a science app while sneakily wiping his snot on my couch pillows, I can’t help but question my choices –do I require enough, but not too much? I a good role model for morality? Do I inspire them enough, encourage them enough, discipline them enough and fairly? Are my expectations high enough, but not too high? Do I talk to them about important issues in the right way? Is the ratio of vegetables to carbs and proteins on their plates each night correct? And should I have let them have cookies and milk before bed last night (probably not, but they were warm and fresh and they brushed right after)?
Constant worry. Constant questioning. Constant wonder.
It’s the burden of motherhood (and fatherhood? Although DudeDad’s motto is largely “it will be fine” so maybe not?) that I have chosen to bear.
Thankfully, there are things like science and the Internet out there to make this journey less insurmountable.
And, while there is no handbook to follow to help you know how to respond to every instance, there is a pretty great body of research on the topic of good parenting from which you can glean a few choice behaviors likely to make your parenting life easier and your kid’s life better.
The Science of Parenting: 8 Things Good Parents Do According to Science
Pay less attention to their phones.
I love my iPhone as much as the next mom, but we’ve also created no-phone zones (specifically during meals) when none of us are looking at our devices. Researchers McDaniel and Radesk were able to specifically link parents’ phone attention to children’s bad behavior.
Basically, when you spend time looking at your phone instead of your kid, your kid acts up in order to get your attention. They don’t care that the attention they receive under these circumstances is most likely not the awesome, loving kind they truly desire. They really just want your face in theirs instead of your phone.
More info here: Parents Trigger Bad Behavior by Looking at Their Phones
Let their kids fail.
And dwell on it a bit too. Ohio State researchers discovered that when people fail and then think about how bad it felt, they are unlikely to repeat the same mistakes.
For parents, this is hard. You never want to see your kids down on themselves for things. But, in the long run, spending some time thinking through their mistakes instead of being told to brush it off may help them. Note: this is not to be confused with shaming. Just let them have a moment to ponder when things don’t go their way.
Learn more here: Letting Kids Wallow in Failure May Actually Help
I know this is a controversial one, and I’m not here to judge your life, but according to science, kids who experience corporal punishment struggle as adults. They are not only more likely to be violent and aggressive when they’re older, but are also more likely to subject their husbands and wives to such behaviors as well.
Get the deets here: How Spanking Affects Later Relationships
Teach their kids how to interact with others.
Social kids are happy/successful/smart adults. A 20-year study found that parents who teach their children how to interact with others (adults and children) are helping them develop the skills they need to be highly capable adults. In fact, the study noted that, “socially competent children… were far more likely to earn a college degree and have a full-time job by age 25 than those with limited social skills.”
What’s that mean for parents? Your kid doesn’t have to be Mr. Popularity or anything, but those mommy and me classes you loathe entirely, might actually pay off one day!
Read more here: How to Raise Successful Kids
Kids who are subjected to parents who don’t get along with each other (whether married or divorced) aren’t as well adjusted as children in families where there isn’t this parental conflict. In fact, researchers note that kids from a single parent family may actually fare better than those who come from a two-parent home where the parents fight often.
The argument for successful co-parenting is super relevant here –no matter what happens between you, if you want your kids to grow up happy and well adjusted, you’ve got to figure out a way to get along.
Learn more here: The Effects of Divorce on Children
Have a growth mindset.
Not familiar with the idea of a “growth mindset” yet? It’s actually a pretty awesome philosophy that encourages kids (and adults too really) to achieve. To make a long story short, a growth mindset is based on the idea that effort and hard work can actually pay off because intelligence and personality are not fixed traits you are born with. These basic qualities (intelligence, character, creative ability) can be developed and grown into something more over time. No one’s potential is a foregone conclusion because you can’t know what may be achieved with passion and years of dedication and hard work.
For parents, maintaining a growth mindset when it comes to your kids means that you give them support and opportunity to succeed. You encourage their development, allow them to fail so that they may learn from it, and never subscribe to the idea that your child lacks potential.
Take care of themselves.
A recent study determined that it doesn’t matter how much time you spend with your kids between the ages of 3 and 11 when it comes to determining your child’s academic achievement, behavior and emotional well-being. It also found that time spent with your child can actually be detrimental when you, particularly as a mom, are feeling stressed, sleep-deprived, guilty, or anxious during that time.
What’s that mean for parents? I think the wise Aziz Ansari said it best, “Treat yo’self!” Getting time to refresh and rejuvenate will allow you to be less stressed and more able to spend quality time with your kids which, when it comes down to it, is way more important than the amount of time you’re spending with them anyway. Your parenting will be healthier if you are.
Learn more here: Making Time for Kids? Study Says Quality Trumps Quantity
Countless studies have determined that more than any time you devote to your children, the most important factors in determining their future success are income and mother’s educational level.
So, been thinking about going back to school? Do it! Want to get a better job? Go for it! Your kids will thank you one day when they realize how real the struggle truly is.
Read more here: Making Time for Kids? Study Says Quality Trumps Quantity
Want to know more about what good parents do? Check out this post: 12 Things All Good Moms Do