4 Ways to be Your Best Parent Self When Parenting is Hard

Photo of nine month baby crying, isolated
Image via iStock

Being a parent can be hard. Every day there are moments of joy and love but there are also usually moments of serious frustration. When your little one is a newborn the exhaustion can be overwhelming, in the toddler years their desire for independence can make your life tough, and, as they get bigger, their challenges do too.

When you're having a tough time, or your little one is acting out, it can be hard to be the kind of parent you envisioned yourself being when you were pregnant. It's during these tough times though that being your best parent self is most important. Follow the steps below to help you be a fantastic parent even when the going gets tough.


Baby crying in his nanny's arms
Image via iStock

Practice empathy

Think back to the last time you were really angry. Maybe someone lied to you, or you didn't get credit for something you worked hard on. Even though your little one is likely upset about something that seems insignificant, like the color of their cup or the fact that it's time to leave the park, the feelings they are experiencing are exactly the same as the ones you feel too. Remembering that your little one's feelings are as valid as yours is a great first step towards reacting how you would want someone to react to you.

Mother disciplining daughter
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Remember, it's not about you

When a toddler hits or bites or yells how mad at you they are, it can feel really personal. No matter how much it feels like they're doing something to you, try to remember that most often their big feelings don't have anything to do with you at all. The fact that they are showing them to you means that they know you're someone they can trust and that they're probably looking for your guidance or help.

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Image via Sara McTigue

Remember how old they are

One year olds are one. Two year olds are two. Three year olds are three. As obvious as it seems that young kids are young, remembering this can help you set and maintain realistic expectations. Two year olds simply can't be expected to listen the first time every time and three year olds can't be expected to be respectful at all times. When you keep your expectations in check you're able to praise great behavior and feel a lot less frustrated by non-optimal behavior that's totally age appropriate!

happy little boy hugging her mother; closeup
Image via iStock

When they act out, push for connection

This can be by far the toughest thing to do. Often, when our little one is acting out it can be tempting to send them to their room or punish them but, often, what works best is to take some time to connect with them. Give them a big hug, ask if they want to take a walk, or take the time to tell them how much you love them. When you pour love and attention into your child (especially when you least want to) their behavior will usually improve much more quickly than if you isolate or punish them.

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Most parents work hard to be the best they can be. While it's easy to be a great parent when your little ones are being well-behaved, by following the steps above you can help be your best parent-self even when things get tough!

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4 Ways to be Your Best Parent Self When Parenting is Hard

Julia Pelly has a master's degree in public health and works full time in the field of positive youth development. Julia loves hiking after work, swimming during the summer and taking long, cuddly afternoon naps with her two sons on the weekends. She is writing a memoir on pregnancy, motherhood, and sisterhood and lives in North Carolina, with her husband and two young boys. ... More

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