Last week we talked about how stressful it can be to raise kids. Things like sending them off to school in the morning, getting through the homework hassle, mealtimes, and family gatherings can all create stressful situations for the parent.

baby-17343_1280I laid out how Fantasy Parenting can be the source of this problem. With fantasy parenting, the parent is making judgments based on how s/he thinks things should be, and not how they are.

If you’re not sure whether or not you are engaging in fantasy parenting, take a few minutes to answer these questions.

I worry about my child’s safety:

  1. always
  2. sometimes
  3. never

I experience strong anger when my child defies me:

  1. always
  2. sometimes
  3. never

I experience intense disappointment when things do not go as planned:

  1. always
  2. sometimes
  3. never

If you answered A to any of these questions, it is likely that you engage in fantasy parenting, at least some of the time.

Reality Parenting is a healthy, mindful approach that focuses on the way you, your child, and the world actually are. Not a fantasy of how you wish they were. Reality parenting is helpful because it allows you to react to situations with less emotion and more intelligence. Taking fantasy out of the picture reduces stress by reducing disappointment and creating an opportunity for patience and reflection.

Reality parenting is based on an acceptance of yourself, your child, and the world as intrinsically flawed entities that will never be perfect. This doesn’t mean that improvement can’t be made. Rather, that progress, and not perfection, are the measure of success. Reality parenting requires you to change the script of thoughts that run through your head, which is not a simple thing to do. Here are just a few scripts that are a part of reality parenting.

I CAN teach, talk about, and motivate my child to clean up after himself.
I CANNOT make my child into someone who always cleans up after himself.

I CAN take precautions to keep my child safe.
I CANNOT protect my child from all harm.

I CAN teach, talk about, and motivate my child to be kind to others.
I CANNOT control my child’s decisions.

I can already hear some parents protesting. You may be wondering: Why is the reality parent so passive? Why does s/he feel that s/he has so little control? Shouldn’t a parent be proactive about solving problems?

Yes, a parent should be proactive. Please go back and read the “I Cans”, and you will discover a very proactive person. The reality parent is working to teach hard, talk about, and motivate their child to demonstrate desirable behaviors like cleaning up and being kind to others. At the same time, the reality parent is aware that s/he only has control of the input in this situation. The outcome is up to the child.

The same attitude is true when it comes to the health and wellbeing of the child. The parent is in control of the input, but understands that the outcome is not in his/her control.

The reality parent is not a quitter. If one strategy is not working, s/he will try another. But the reality parent does not operate with the illusion that s/he can control the child or the world. That is a fantasy. All the parent can do is work with the reality that exists.

For those of us who are people of faith, reality parenting makes sense. When one believes in a Higher Power that controls much more than a human can, reality parenting is a practical outgrowth of that faith. For everyone else, reality parenting can be more challenging, and yet it still makes sense.

On the surface, reality parenting and fantasy parenting can appear very similar. Watching a parent, it is often impossible to detect if his/her actions stem from an illusion of control, or from a practical grasp on reality. It is only the parent who knows what is happening in his and her mind and heart. One can always choose to keep on working with a fantasy and continue experiencing stress, anxiety, and frustration. Or one can learn to embrace reality. And with that embrace comes the enormous boon in peace of mind.

I hope this article was useful to my readers. Feel free to respond with questions and comments. I welcome your feedback.