How to pull yourself out of a parenting rut

Experience has shown me that people can be placed into two categories: people who want to be nothing like their parents and people who wish to be half as good as their parents.

People in the latter category admire their own parents for giving them everything even when they were parenting upon hardship. They talk about how hard their parents worked to put food on the table and to give them a good education.

They looked back on their childhood with fond memories of quality time with their parents despite their parents long work hours, and said that if they could be as half as good as their parents, then they would be good parents.

Interviewees in the former category, however, recalled their parent’s harsh disciplining style of smacking, whipping with a jug cord or belt, or locking the kids in cupboards as punishment. They talked about how their parents always yelled, and often, they said, their parents fought.

People in this category acknowledged that while they ‘turned out okay’ they vowed to be nothing like their parents.

Instead, they wanted to give their children a different childhood to their own. They wanted to be less authoritarian, less strict but still have boundaries, and they wanted to practice a more empathic approach to parenting rather than enforcing the harsh and mythical attitude of ‘toughening them up’.

There is also a sub-group, a third category if you like, of parents who were parented very harshly as children and who’s parents used punitive discipline techniques such as hitting who continue to parent exactly as their parents because ‘I was hit and I turned out okay’, but this sub-group is for another discussion.

But, experience tells me, that regardless of the category, a person at some point in their life, find themselves parenting less effectively than what they hoped.

They may find themselves yelling, when they vowed never to. They may find themselves using bribes, when they know how ineffective they are long term. They may find themselves putting their children in time out, swearing, hitting or crying at their child, knowing full well this is not how they want to be.

There are many factors that contribute to a parent finding themselves in this situation.

Stress, sleep deprivation, lack of support, mental health issues including anxiety and depression, guilt, frustration, maladjustment to change, are only a few areas that impact a person’s functionality to parent, but are very common.

But there is a way out of the rut.

There is a way to get control of parenting again by following these steps.

1. Overcome the fear of judgement.

Whether you are the parent not parenting the way you would like, or know someone else in that situation, once we acknowledge and understand the context that has led a parent into this situation, we can look upon them (or ourselves if that’s the case) without judgement.

And when a person parents without the fear judgement, they are,

  • more comfortable at being able to trial different parenting strategies to see which one is best for their child at that point in time, and
  • able to talk openly about their struggles with others as a means of releasing stress and/or seeking advice and guidance. After all, some of the most practical parenting advice comes from other mothers.
2. Surrounding yourself with a tribe, a community, or a support network

Related to this point is creating a community that enables you to speak openly about your struggles. When you can openly say to them, ‘I yell at my child and I hate it, but I don’t know what else to do’, and receive no judgement, you know you’ve found a good group of people.

They in turn will be able to give you empathy and tell you what works for them, or put you in touch with a good resource that has helped them.

3. Read, read and read some more

That brings me to the next point, read, read and read some more about strategies to help you stop yelling.

I have a whole module dedicated to just this in my online course, but there are also many parenting websites out there that will equip you with strategies that suit you and your family.

But you’ll need to read a few before you find one that you’re happy with. After all, a skilled parent with lots of different strategies under their belt, will be able to recall a variety of strategies from their memory at any given time.

4. Make time to release stress a different way

My experience as parenting assessor tells me that many parents yell because they take their stress from another part of their life, out on their child. A strategy that may help these parents, is to make time to release stress a different way. This may be by socializing without the kids, exercising, reading, writing, having a bath, sleeping, watching tv or many, many other ways.

But parents will say, ‘I don’t have time to have ’me time’’. Well, my answer to that is simple. If a parent isn’t parenting the way they would like to and they’re taking their stress out on their child through yelling or hitting (for example), there is no more important time than right now to have ‘me time’.

Go fill up your cup again so you can have some resilience in the bank for those days that are really hard. You deserve it and your child deserves it too.

5. Do stuff that makes you happy

Following on from this is, do stuff that makes you happy. It is so easy to get caught up in the automatic nature of parenting.

How many times have you felt that days and weeks whiz past and all of a sudden you’re back at Sunday again?

Plan ahead to do things that you enjoy and make you happy. Experience tells me that when a parent is a happier person, a child will feed off this and be happier too.

6. Give yourself permission to not be a perfect parent

But after all is said and done, arguably the most important thing you as a parent can do to pull yourself out of a rut is to give yourself permission to let go of all your ideals of parenting.

Give yourself permission to let go of all the ways you think you should parent, let go of all the ways you would be parenting if you were functioning off all cylinders, give yourself permission to just get through each day.

When the pressure is off to be a perfect parent, you may find that you and your child, like the parent you naturally are anyway.


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