Tired of the idea that parenting is always hard, journalist and mom of four KJ Dell’Antonia researched and wrote a book: “How to Be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life and Loving (Almost) Every Minute.”
Now, she’s coming to town to discuss what “happier” realistically means. Dell’Antonia will join local author Bonnie Rough at Phinney Ridge Books at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20. Here, she shares four ways to become a happier parent.
Can people really choose to become happier parents?
So much of being happier is about making a choice. Parents who describe themselves as happier set out to intentionally soak in the good.
Humans are naturally inclined to look for bad stuff, to search for the tiger behind the bush. But there aren’t that many tigers in modern life.
It’s not that bad stuff doesn’t happen; it’s that you don’t want to miss the good moments. It’s not exactly about gratitude. It’s more of a noticing and focusing my attention when things are going well.
Like when I’m singing along to the car radio with my kids? That kind of moment?
Yes! Notice it and soak in the good for a few seconds.
It’s also about when I’m feeling terrible, too. I can figure out why I’m feeling bad and if it’s about the email I received an hour ago, I can either deal with the email or chose to not focus on the email right now.
What’s the second thing that happier parents do?
Parents who describe themselves as happier were more involved on a day-to-day level of parenting kids when their kids were younger. As the kids evolve, these parents encourage independence and the parents are less involved with those minute, daily tasks.
It’s that line: Where can you let them make the mistakes? You want them to screw up on your watch.
You want your daughter to not get off the phone late at night so she’s too tired the next day. Then you can help her figure out what went wrong instead of having her figure it out when she’s away at college. We want to give them room to screw up while we can help them fix it.
What's number three?
Parents who describe themselves as happy don’t put their kids needs above their own needs. Like what’s for dinner or where you’re going on vacation and what you are doing on vacation. Cook what you want for dinner and they can eat it or find something else to eat.
The problem with parenting is we learn to do it with babies, and they need you to take care of everything for them all the time. We think we always have to parent like this, but we have to change as our kids get older.
Our needs should weigh equally with our kids’ needs. Sometimes our needs are actually greater: we need a break, so we can parent our kids [from a better place after we recharge].
What’s the final thing that happier parents say they do?
They keep adult perspective.
Part of the job of being a parent is letting kids know they’ll always be another test, another soccer team, another best friend, another college. These sound like huge things and they are huge things, but as adults we know it is going to [eventually] be okay. It’s not going to be the way your child envisioned it or even the way you envisioned it, but it is going to be okay.
We forget that sometimes. We panic when they don’t make the soccer team. But if we lose our minds, then our kids have the burden of our happiness on them, too.
I’m not saying don’t empathize, but I am saying its our role to give our kids perspective and to not freak out when they’re freaking out.