When I talk to parents of sassy, spirited, and strong-willed children they use one word to describe themselves: exhausted. I can totally relate and I think you can, too. It is a tiring to be a parent of a sassy, spirited, and strong-willed child. First, you have their intense emotions to deal with, then you have the constant disciplining, most likely you also have power struggles, high energy, and button-pushing as well. This can leave ANY parent feeling completely drained.
In today’s episode we talk about parent self-care, how critical it is, and the three most important things you need to do to stay sane while raising your sassy, spirited, or strong-willed child.
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In case you don’t know what self care is, here is a quick definition for you:
Self-care is any activity that you do voluntarily which helps you maintain your physical, mental or emotional health. It can help you feel healthy, relaxed and ready to take on your work and responsibilities.
Why self-care is critical
There are so many reasons self-care is critical.
Taking care of yourself is critical to your mental and physical health. It is what allows you to be the type of parent you want to be. It’s also what allows you to feel happy and content even though you are raising a more challenging to raise child.
When you are running low on self-care, it becomes really challenging to care for your kids. You may find yourself being less patient, less engaged, less happy, and a less effective parent all around. While it is SO hard to give yourself permission to care for yourself while there is so much demand on your time, it is absolutely essential for your long-term happiness.
The Three Most Important Things You Must Do to Care for Yourself
- Eat well: we need good fuel to be able to keep up with your little sidekicks! Let’s face it, they have more energy in their pinky fingers than we do in our entire bodies! If we neglect eating well, we won’t be able to keep up, we may get sick, our blood sugar will be low, and we will all be HANGRY! I know that no one wants to be around me when I’m hangry.
- Exercise: Ah, the “E” word. Luckily, for self-care you don’t need to do anything crazy rigorous to release happy endorphins. Studies show that a daily fifteen minute walk around the block reduces stress, depression, and anxiety. We can all do fifteen minutes. Do yoga, jog, walk, bike, punch a pillow, whatever. Just find something that you love and get moving!
- Sleep: Mike talks about this in our episode, but I wanted to add that I went to a conference taught by a neuroscientist, and the studies behind the need for sleep were incredible. Just like exercise, getting adequate hours of sleep can reduce stress, depression, and anxiety significantly. We often cut into our sleeping time staying up late enjoying “no kid” time. I wish we didn’t have to choose between adequate sleep and more episodes of This Is Us, but the reality is, we do. And if the scientists were to tell you which would keep you happy longer, they would tell you to ditch the Netflix and go to sleep.
How to Find Pockets of Time for “You Time”
It’s OK to have a designated quiet time everyday. This won’t work for everyone’s schedule, but if you can make it work for you, do it. Establish a half hour that you teach your child to play on their own while you do something that is strictly self-care. Oh, this is so hard for me. First, getting my child to play on their own is tough, but if you do it consistently you will eventually train them. Second, I have a tough time sitting down to read a book when I have dirty dishes on the counter. However, we now have permission from a therapist to TAKE A BREAK.
Other Pockets of Time
You can also use times when your kids are watching a show, playing with friends, taking a nap, or down for the night to care for yourself. You might even want to identify some times when your kids are occupied and classify those as self-care times. It might be more likely to happen if you schedule it in.
Mike suggests finding someone you are comfortable with to babysit your children so you can be “kid-free” from time to time. Sometimes I don’t want to find a babysitter because I am worried that my child will misbehave for her. When I asked Mike about this, he suggested finding another mom of sassy, spirited, or strong-willed kids to swap babysitting with. After all, that mom will completely understand why you need a break and how to deal with tougher kids.
I also have a gym membership that includes day care. I keep my workouts pretty short just in case my child is having a rough day in the day care, but it gives me a much needed break.
In full disclosure, my neighbor runs a great day care in her basement and I drop my child off there once a week. While she’s there I enjoy a day getting things done in peace and she enjoys a day of fun, friends, and crafts. It’s a win-win and it’s cheaper than therapy for me.
Master the Art of Ignoring
It is totally OK to get yourself some earplugs or put your earbuds in to listen to music. You can crank it up and keep your eyes on your child without having to listen to any whining.
Shame: The Nemesis of Self-Care
While some parents don’t take enough accountability for their child’s behavior, other parents take too much. This can easily lead to shame. Shame is that voice that tells you that not only have we MADE and a mistake as a parent, but we also ARE a mistake. That not only HAVE we screwed up as a parent, but we ARE screw ups. As parents of sassy, spirited, or strong-willed children we get more opportunities than most to feel this way.
To help alleviate shame, we have to stop taking ownership for our children’s actions and only take ownership for our own. Below is a list that Mike and I created about what you can take ownership of.
What you can take ownership of:
- Being consistent. We have hammered this point home in our previous episodes. Your job as a parent is to be consistent with the following:
- Enforcing your rules
- Following through with consequences
- Pointing out positive things about your children
- Connecting with your children
- Making it right when you make a mistake. You will NOT be a perfect parent and imperfect parenting moments are a perfect time to model taking ownership for your behavior, apologizing, and righting a wron.
If you are doing the things listed above, you can sleep well at night knowing that you did everything you could do. Your children may still misbehave, but that will be because of THEIR choices, not your parenting.