(a) you have more stuff to do in your busy life, and
(b) you feel guilty for being inadequate.
In fact, it might result in you doing less and feeling better!
2 years ago my New Year’s Resolution was to “do less, better.” The idea was to take a bunch of stuff off my plate to focus on the essential. When we do too much we water ourselves down. Red becomes beige.
By taking a step back, refocussing our approach, and making ourselves less busy, we actually accomplish more.
So no matter your background, I hope this is a help as you try to improve your kids’ lives, just like I’m trying to improve mine:
1. Eat Dinner With Each Other Facing Each Other
Gadgets and screens off. I know that with activities and modern living supper together every day can be hard to do. But try to make it the norm. What happens (or doesn’t happen) around the table might be a metaphor for your life.
2. Let Your Kids Get Bored
We often over-stimulate. And we think we’re being bad parents if our kids are under-programed or “bored.” But some boredom is actually… good!
Boredom draws kids into places of play and imagination. Remember that cool robot you made one lazy Saturday afternoon, or that now-embarrassing poetry? It probably sprouted through tedium. Growing up, some of my most creative moments blossomed from the garden of But-I-Don’t-Know-What-To-Do.
3. Nurture a Love of Reading
Shelves of studies tell us that lots of reading in the home gives your kids a head start with almost everything. And when you take the time to read with them, they’re also being surrounded by emotional and physical assurance.
Plus, it’s fun! My wife Laura makes regular trips to the library so we always have a fresh stock. Here in Barrie you can get out 35 books at a time. Our kids fall asleep surrounded by pillows and books.
4. Prioritize Your Spouse
Someone once said to me that the best thing I could do for my kids was to love their mother. When kids are small, neglect can creep in simply because you’re exhausted and it feels like you’re in a war zone bunker. But by serving the one you love, you’re loving the kids you raise.
5. Parent Your Kids
Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you parent. In All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting, Jennifer Senior chronicles cultural changes since World War 2 that have impacted how we parent (or don’t parent). It’s a tough, changing dynamic out there. “Discipline” seems like a dirty word; but it’s not about yelling—it’s about cultivating character. And your kids will love you for it.
How does this save me time and make my life easier? Well, if you’re having discipline challenges with your kids you’ll know that it exhausts and frustrates you. Go get the video called “1-2-3 Magic” for some help with a caring and effective approach to raising your kids (and to stop pulling your hair out).
“Renewal happens when you pause on purpose.” So says Max Lucado. We are actually pre-programmed to rest 14.28% of the time. Let’s call it the 1-in-7 principle. (Wink wink.) But it’s the lost art, and our kids are suffering. Worry and exhaustion seem to be on the rise in kids. True rest helps. Create a fortress from the noise. I really don’t think that “fortress” is too strong a word.
7. Teach Them To Pray
If you don’t teach them to pray, who will? For one, prayer is perhaps the most powerful tool draw your kids closer to God. As they grow it will also remind them that they were made on purpose and for a purpose.
Plus, when you teach kids to pray for each other, and for those in their life, you are teaching them about empathy and that life isn’t a story only about them. You’ve got to de-centre to centre yourself.
8. Listen To Music—Good Music
Music inspires dreams because it puts wings on words. There is something brilliantly human about melody and rhythm that helps us connect with others and aspire to something great. In my mind, money spent on songs or instruments is never a waste. Go ahead, make music, turn it up and dance your hearts out. Why not? You’re daily routines are already making a soundtrack to your kids lives.
9. Don’t Sweat Good Mistakes
Good mistakes are scrawled with good intentions. And each trip-up can be a teaching moment. So take it easy on yourself. But more importantly, take it easy on your kids. Use failures as an open door to dialogue. Maybe share some of your own struggles. It will draw you closer as a family, and remind your team that you’re trying to do this life thing together.
There’s nothing like being wrong in the best possible way.
10. Eat More Ice Cream
If you’re lactose intolerant skip this one.
Maybe I should have ended my list with something about eating healthy. (But you already know that.) Or maybe exercise—but hopefully you’re doing that too. I had wondered about challenging you to cancel a few of your official activities. But I think that’s implied.
Eat more ice cream. Don’t chintz. Get the expensive stuff. Okay, maybe not every night. Maybe. But enjoy this thing called life. We were made for joy. Soon your kids will be having their own kids, and we’ll wish we spent more time chatting or playing in a big field eating delicious ice cream that is half smeared on our faces.
Can you hear the laughter?
So, “do less, better.”
Improve a kid’s life and change the world.
And you might gladly discover that you’re not so grown up after all.