Become a Happier (Read: Better) Parent

April 12, 2012

Why do I hold myself – and my kids – to standards that make everyone crazy?

It is helpful to understand our preconceived notions of what constitutes a good parent. If your expectations are too high and unrealistic you will be making lots of unnecessary demands on yourself. This will contribute to feelings of inadequacy and then, probably, anger. If you can eliminate those expectations, or at least become aware of them, you will find you are much calmer and happier…which, in turn, means a better parent.

I found that I was working under the influence of the following  unrealistic expectations:

  • My kids should always look neat and clean.
  • My house should always be neat and clean.
  • Dinner needs to be served on time every night.
  • My kids should be quiet and well-behaved at our Shabbat meal.
  • Dinner needs to consist of the major food groups and my kids need to eat all of it.
  • I should always feel happy when I parent.
  • I should never feel frustrated or angry with my kids, and if I do I am a bad parent.
  • My kids should sit nicely in shul.
  • I should use all opportunities to stimulate my children.
  • If my kids behave I am a good parent. If they don’t behave I am a bad parent.

So, if you think that your children should always look neat and clean (you might not even be aware that you have this expectation), you will be fighting a lot of battles with your kids. There will be lots of anger. If you think that every moment you are with your child you should try to stimulate and educate them, you will be pretty frustrated with yourself when you are tired, annoyed and low on patience.

If you think your kids should act perfectly at your Shabbat table, you will likely feel overwhelmed by the spilled wine, challah crumbs everywhere and kids fighting.

So take a few minutes. Are your expectations of your parenting reasonable or are they almost unattainable? Create a more realistic picture of what makes a good parent. It might help you get to the root of your anger and get rid of it for good.

We also need to look at the expectations that we have of our children. They may be unrealistic as well.
We might think:

  • My child is smart and should get good grades, nothing less than an A.
  • My child should love davening (praying).
  • My child should always feel happy. It she is sad, then something must be wrong with me.
  • My child should play sports and be good at it.
  • My child should dress a certain way.
  • My child should get out of bed right away.

Upon examination, we might find that some of the expectations we hold are quite silly. If we can modify them a bit we would be a lot happier.

  • My child sometimes gets tired, hungry, cranky and moody.
  • My child is just learning how to daven.  If she sees me davening with real kavanah (concentration), eventually she will follow suit.
  • My child can still be considered smart even if she does not get all As. Her talents and strengths may lie in non-academic areas.
  • My child might have two left feet but is still a valuable person. His talents and strengths may lie in different area, like academics.
  • My child will feel a whole range of emotions, because she is human.
  • It is my job to help my child learn how to manage his emotions by letting him own them and feel them.
  • My child has her own style, as long as it covers all appropriate areas, it will be okay.
  • My child needs some time to lounge around in bed. I will schedule accordingly.

Try to take the time to determine whether your expectations – of both yourself and your child – are unrealistic. It will help you pinpoint the source of some of your angry feelings. You will then be in a much better position to let them go.

Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP, works as a Parent Educator for Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau facilitating How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk workshops as well as workshops based on Siblings Without Rivalry. Adina also runs


The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.