I’ve always said the number one rule of parenting is consistency. And, I still believe that’s true. But, as important as it is to be consistent, there’s one thing even more important: doing our own work first.
What does it mean to “do our own ‘work’ first?”
As every parent knows, parenting is work (and lots of it!). But, often, we focus so much on the work of making our kids behave, or improve, or be better, that we forget to do the same.
Until we see our own faults, strengths, mistakes, limitations, expectations, it’s always going to be a challenge to parent our kids. We won’t be able to model the things we want them to do. We won’t be able to be consistent, or practice any of the other parenting success skills we want to learn. Until we do our own work, we won’t feel successful as parents.
I learned this skill years ago, when my kids were little (and before I had so many). I began to see the irony in asking them to do something I wasn’t doing. It didn’t feel right to expect my kids to work on becoming their best, if I wasn’t doing the same. For example, if I don’t want my kids to complain, I’d better curb my own complaining. If I want them to follow their hearts and pursue their dreams, I’d better get pursuing; I’d better show them how. It’s great to expect great things for our kids. But, isn’t even better to model great things for them?
Why is it so important to do our own work first?
1) Doing our own work first helps us improve. And, the more we improve, the better parents (and people) we will be. Parenting is as much about growing parents into better people as it is about helping children grow.
2) Doing our work provides a model of self-improvement for our children. Do we want to discipline our kids to be better, or inspire them? Do we want them to have to figure it out on their own, or show them the way?
3) Doing our work gives us understanding and insight into our own values, beliefs, and expectations, helping us be more effective as parents. For instance, it’s hard to set consistent rules, structure, and discipline when we’re not clear on our own limitations and expectations. (How many times have we said, “If you do that one more time, we’re going home!” but didn’t really mean it, so didn’t follow through?)
I’m lucky. I’ve always believed in self-improvement, 100%. I naturally look for ways to be better, and I’m continually working on something or another. But, when it comes to parenting, I always have room to improve and often see the need to step it up. This doesn’t mean I have to feel like a “bad” parent. No. In fact, when I find something I’m doing wrong, I do my best not to judge myself, but rather to see it is a positive step in helping me be better, and therefore, in being a better parent for my kids.
That’s the first step in doing your own work: Be willing to see what your “work” is. If you’re not sure, ask yourself the following questions (I ask myself these all the time!):
- What are my strengths, as a parent and personally?
- What are my weaknesses?
- What kinds of behaviors am I modeling for my child(ren)? (health-wise, temper-wise, character-wise, etc.)
- Is there work I need to do, but have been putting off or been unwilling to do? If so, what is it?
- How does putting off my own “work” affect my parenting skills, and my child(ren)?
Second, choose one thing to work on, and start today. We’re not seeking perfection here—just a willingness to do your own “work,” to consistently seek small improvements. Ask yourself the following:
- Am I willing to give 5% more effort today to being the best I can be, as a parent, and as a human being?
- How might this 5% affect my parenting skills, and my child(ren), over the course of their lifetime?
- What is one thing I can start working on today that will improve me and help me become a better parent? (Write it down and put it somewhere you’ll see if often.)
It’s not as hard as we think. Even 5% more effort to do our own work first can have a magnificent parenting payoff down the road.
Disclaimer: This is not meant to make anyone feel like a “bad” parent!
In no way am I trying to lay a guilt trip on parents, or to say everything our kids do is the fault of their parents. No. I do not believe that, and that is not what I am saying. We parents certainly don’t need anything else making us feel “not good enough.”
Instead, I’m saying maybe we all need a little nudge to look more closely at ourselves—to improve, acknowledge our weaknesses, increase our strengths, and to show our children what personal growth and self-actualization really look like, so they will want to follow in our footsteps.
Do Your Own Work First, and Discover Parenting Success!
As long as we are honestly checking in with ourselves and working to be our best, we will be doing our best. And, that is definitely good enough. It’s not only bound to make us successful parents. It’s bound to help our kids feel a little more success in life too.
More “Parenting Success Skills Top 10” to come!
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/square-head-shot1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Clinical Psychologist, Mom of 6, Postpartum Couples DVD Producer, Non-Profit Founder, and expert on Parenting, Women’s Emotions, Pregnancy & Postpartum, and Grief & Loss, Dr. Christina Hibbert loves songwriting, learning, and teaching what she learns. She’s definitely learned a LOT about parenting so far, but still has a LOT to learn![/author_info] [/author]
Do you agree it’s important for parents to “do their work” first? If so, why? If not, why not? How does this affect our parenting and our children? What are some barriers you think prevent parents from doing our work? What “work” do you see a need to do in your own life? I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment, below!
Parenting Success: It’s More About the Parent Than the Child