3 Reasons a Little Selfishness Makes You a Better Parent
by: Jim Urban, LPC.
Admit it, you’ve been there (and by the way, so have I). You love your children and want the best for them. You run yourself ragged trying to give them everything they need to succeed. Their birthday parties are the talk of the town, the affirmations you give them are constant, and you never fail to take them to every possible activity, even if it means skipping the gym, date night, or that get-together with your friends. You might even believe that your fatigue and exhaustion is the price “good parents” must pay.
But what if I told you this approach to parenting is not only unsustainable, but likely to have the opposite intended effect? What if our good intentions are misguided and likely to handicap our kids?
The truth is our kids DO require a ton of time, focus, and energy…that I don’t deny. But how do Mom and Dad find the energy to keep up this marathon called parenting on a day-by-day basis? Does it do our kids any good if we are stressed out to the point that we are cranky and irritable, sharp in our tone, and pushed to the limit? No one intends to gain 20 pounds or acquire a drinking problem, but I know many parents who experience those problems because they are too stressed.
So, without further ado, here are 3 reasons becoming a little more “selfish” makes you a better parent:
1. Healthy parents tend to raise healthy kids.
Most parents would agree that the “do as I say, not as I do” style of parenting doesn’t work. We can all think back to some of our friends from childhood who picked up bad habits from their parents despite their parents’ pleas to behave differently. A key principle to remember is this: Values are Caught more than they are Taught. What our children see in us ultimately has the biggest influence on their behavior. If they see parents who stress-eat, they will probably do the same. If their parents have a habit of yelling when they’re angry, they will probably do the same.
One the other hand, if Mom or Dad prioritize a few minutes of their day to invest in their physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health, they are far more likely to catch those good habits. Maybe our kids NEED us to go to the gym, get together with a girlfriend, attend church, or take a few hours to go hunting with our buddies.
2. Happy parents tend to have more influence with their kids.
Parents who take the time to invest in their self-care tend to be happier, and that result looks a lot more appealing to kids as they get older and become more independent. Think about it: if we are so burned out and exhausted that we can’t enjoy life, why in the world would our kids believe us when we try to convince them of “the keys to happiness?” When we try to persuade our teenagers that using drugs, running with the wrong crowd, and acting out will lead to unhappiness, and yet we’re miserable, our message tends to lose some credibility. If we want our kids to find happiness in healthy outlets we need to do the same for ourselves.
3. Connected parents tend to connect well with their kids.
Being a connected parent can mean having a strong connection with your spouse or partner, having connections with friends and other parents, and/or having a connection to God. When we know as adults that we are not alone, that others are in our corner, and that other parents are experiencing the same challenges, our love buckets get filled. When our love buckets are filled we tend to have more patience, compassion, empathy, and grace with our kids. All these side effects of having full love buckets give us the very tools we need to stay connected with our kids.
So, what do you think? Is it time to get a little more selfish? Doing so will lead to finding the strength and patience needed to be more giving, more loving, and more connected with your kids.
Tell us what you think in the comments below.>