People have reduced parenting to an extensive set of rules.
Don’t do Y.
Frame things in terms of Z.
Adopt strategy A for discipline.
Adopt strategy B for rewards.
Keep in mind these 11 Axioms about C.
Always buy U.
Never buy V.
And so on.
And then people are still on Facebook and Twitter about how many rules there are and how bad their kids are anyway and how it’s such a struggle and they need a big glass of booze and so on.
It’s all nonsense. Rules don’t make for better parents or for better kids. They miss the point. There are exactly two steps to successful parenting and happy kids.
(1) Internalize the fact that you are the adult parent and they are the kids, without confusion or hesitation.
(2) Take joy in parenting.
Lots of people can’t do #1, and even more can’t do #2.
Oh sure, everyone says “I love being a parent!” but then the follow it up with “But I hate tantrums, messes, battles over television, lying, fighting, having to lay down the law strictly…” Loving being a parent is not the same thing as loving parenting. Loving parenting means that the tantrums are adorable, the messes inspire a cozy glow, the battles over television are amusing and humorous, the lying is cute, the fighting amuses you, and the strictness feels—in that moment—like love and love only.
Because those are the things that parenting is made of. If you do not love those things, enjoy them, find them to be interesting and fun and an inspiring challenge to grow, etc. then your parenting is not happy parenting. You may love being a parent, but you are not parenting happily. And parents are always parenting. And kids are happy when their parents are legitimately and authentically happy. So given that you’re parenting basically nonstop when you’re a parent, if you’re not happy when parenting, your kids ain’t gonna be happy either. And if you don’t know that you’re in charge and they’re not, then you’re going to get run over, whether everyone is happy or not.
Those two points are all that it’s about. Be the grown-up and take joy in parenting, and everyone is happy and everything that has to get done gets done. Fail to take absolute, moment-by-moment pleasure in the everyday parenting tasks and challenges from your children and nobody will be happy. Fail to be the adult in the room or to be conscious of that fact and nothing will get done.
The rest is just… the rest.