Parenting 101: Things No One Told You Before Having Kids

I can vividly remember the moment that I found out that we were expecting our first baby!  I cried tears of joy and prayed prayers of thanksgiving! The thought of being a parent was just amazing to me, and I could not wait for all of the many joys and wonderful times ahead.  Because I had worked around and loved children my whole life, I went into this whole parenting thing thinking it couldn’t be that hard to raise a sweet, obedient, and responsible little person.  Fast forward 9 months or so to the first night we were home with our new baby. He wouldn’t sleep. He kept spitting up his milk. I couldn’t make him stop crying. Like many other new parents, the thought crossed my mind, “What have we signed up for?”

If you’re a new parent or seasoned parent, I think we all can agree that parenting is often a roller coaster of ups and downs, joys and heartaches, victories and struggles.  It’s filled with the best of the best and the hardest of the hard. We all go into parenting blindly and spend many of our days wondering if we’re doing this whole parenting thing right.  So without further adieu, here are 5 things that no one told you before you became a parent:

1.Parenting is a completely selfless job.

Infants require food every few hours, diaper changes between feedings, rocking and holding and bouncing.  They require multiple laundry cycles run everyday and many sleepless nights to care for them. As children grow older, parents sacrifice work in order to care for sick children, brain power as they constantly deal with sibling chaos and school projects, and sleep as they stay up late to fold clothes or make lunches for the next day.  Rarely does a parent hear, “Thank you for all that you do.” Yet, because we love these little people, we love them and serve them. If there are days that you don’t really feel like giving of yourself for your children, you are not alone. If there are days you long for your children to say, “Thank you so much,” then join the club! Parenting is hard, but as our kids grow older and we can finally begin to hopefully see some of the good fruit beginning to grow in their lives, it makes all of the giving and sacrificing worth it.  Look for the good growing in your child, even if it only comes in glimpses, and celebrate that. It will help you to continue loving and giving to your children as you recognize the positive things going on in their lives.

2. Your child will not always do, choose, or act like you want them to when you want them to.

I pretty much thought that my kids would be perfectly obedient, never throw public tantrums, and would never talk back.  Why? Because I would be such a good parent that I would teach them not to do these things and they would listen and obey.  Boy, was I wrong. I quickly learned that I actually had very little control over my kids. I couldn’t make them not hit their sibling when they were mad.  I could discipline them for it and hope they wouldn’t do it again, but I could not make them make a certain choice. As parents, we can set boundaries, discipline, and point our kids in the right direction.  We can teach them the right choices to make and talk with them about having good character. But, at the end of the day, they are responsible for their choices. That is why these years that we have them in our homes are so important.  It’s their training ground for life. Our job is to pour into them, guide them, correct them, and love them through their many mistakes. It is okay to let our children fail or make a mistake. Use these times as teachable moments. When your child makes a wise choice or uses his or her will for good, praise him or her!  These are steps in the right direction.

3. Your kids will say mean things and hurt your feelings.

I remember the first time one of my children told me I was the meanest and worst mom in the whole world.  I was devastated that he would say that to me. After I walked away, shed a tear or two, recomposed myself, and went back to talk with him, I quickly realized that he was just blowing off steam.  Kids will say mean and ugly things when they are emotionally charged. Sometimes these comments are meant to get back at you, and sometimes, kids are just reacting without thinking. Regardless, as parents, we have to remember not to take these comments too personally.  Have you ever said something really awful when you’ve been emotionally charged, even as an adult? We have to remember that these are just kids. They’ve only lived on this earth a few short years. Children often react without thinking and certainly are not very mature in handling their emotions.  When your child says something mean or hateful to you, try not to react. Let them know that you both need some space and come back to them once everything has settled. Then, talk through the issue. Talk to your child about why he or she said those words or felt that way. Be willing to forgive your child.  It is ok to let them know that their words hurt you, but remember to forgive and move on.

4. Much of Parenting is Trial and Error

Every family is different. Every parent is different.  Every child is different. Parenting strategies that work with one child, may not work with another child.  What works for one family, may not be what’s best for your family. Your friend may rave about the newest parenting strategy that worked with her child, but you find that it completely flops with your child.  This is the beauty of parenting. We are all learning, we will all make mistakes, and we will all parent a little bit differently. Find an older adult in your life, one that has successfully parented kids, and ask them to give you wisdom.  Find a group of parents who seem to parent similarly and swap stories and learn from each other. Reach out for counseling or professional help if needed. Try new things and be willing to make mistakes. Ask your kids to forgive you when you’ve messed up.  Let them know that you are human too. Making mistakes and learning from them is how we grow and figure out what works. If you are not parenting perfectly, then you are just like every other parent who is trying to figure this whole thing out. Asking for help to get ideas and strategies that may help your family is a perfectly wonderful thing to do.

5. Parenting is the Most Rewarding Job on the Planet

There’s something about rocking that baby to sleep and feeling the rise and fall of that little chest as your child breathes.  There’s nothing like watching your child perform in the school play for the first time and nail all of the lines. There’s something about watching your child stand up for the underdog or tell the truth even when it’s hard.  These are the parenting moments that we all live for; the ones that give us those glimmers of hope when we feel like we may not be doing it right. The rewards of watching our children grow and learn and soar far outweigh the hard and confusing and difficult moments.  Love your child today for where he or she is today. Celebrate the victories, no matter how small, and know that there are a whole lot of other parents out there trying to figure it all out just like you.

If you are struggling in your parenting journey, would like some help navigating through sticky parenting situations, or would like to help your family have a more positive and peaceful culture, then the therapists at Water’s Edge Counseling would love to help you.  Feel free to call us at 912-319-5552. We love working with families to help bring peace and joy back into their homes.