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3 Tips for Easier Parenting

Parenting can be exhausting. Here are some rules of thumb.

Key points

  • Every child is different and every parent has different values but a few rules of thumb can make parenting easier.
  • Defaulting to moderate permissiveness rather than helicopter parenting is easier on parents and ultimately better for most kids.
  • Avoiding excessive materialism and giving bad behavior limited attention while praising good behavior can also help.
No author listed, CC0, Hippopx
Source: No author listed, CC0, Hippopx

Many parents find parenting exhausting. Here’s a composite example:

We’re always tired. We both work because that’s the only way we can afford a middle-class lifestyle, and besides, we enjoy working. Actually, working is easier than parenting. The kids are exhausting: getting them to come to dinner, arguing over what to wear, stopping fights, getting them to do homework, getting them in the car seat, soccer practice, ballet practice, and in the morning, they’re often jumping on our bed wanting attention. It never stops. And we have typical kids. Our neighbor has a special needs child and that parent is even more frazzled.

Every child is different and every parent has different values but the following rules of thumb, guiding principles, can make parenting easier.

Default to moderate freedom

Yes, extreme laissez-faire parenting is ill-advised, especially for a child who tends to have poor judgment. But generally, it’s wise to err toward more freedom and less helicoptering, allowing freedom to explore, make mistakes, and learn to rebound, whether from falling off a bike or suffering the consequences of not doing homework. Of course, it’s usually wise to encourage good friendships and discourage, if not prohibit, bad ones, and to nip such problems as drug abuse and eating disorders in the bud.

Default to praising good behavior and modestly disparaging the bad

For example, the “terrible twos” are marked by temper tantrums. Those are the child's understandable but unacceptable efforts to establish agency and test the limits. The wise parent tries to muster the restraint to merely say things like, “That won’t work. You’re a big boy now, so you know it’s right to come to the dinner table.” Then ignore the child. That doesn’t reward the tantrum: The child doesn't get dinner until s/he comes to the table—s/he won’t starve. Also, by not arguing about it, you aren't giving the child the reward of attention.

Prevent excess materialism

I’ve seen parents and grandparents try to show love for their kids by buying them far more toys, clothes, etc. than is reasonable, including expensive brand names. That lays the foundation for a lifetime that's driven by materialism. Just as the dog owner who can’t resist overfeeding their begging pooch, thus creating an obese, unhealthy pet, the parent who often succumbs to “Please, I want those Nikes, I really do. Puhleeze?” is making a mistake. Giving in not only costs you money and effort to buy the stuff but encourages ever more such pleas and shallow values.

The takeaway

Again, one-size parenting doesn’t fit all. And being a parent is unavoidably difficult—it's among our most self-sacrificial acts. But those three rules of thumb can make parenting easier while actually benefiting the child. Sometimes, there actually is a free lunch.

I read this aloud on YouTube.