Maryann Bucknum Brinley

167 Cooper Avenue
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043-1810

973-202-5909 (cell)

The Secrets of Happy Parenting

More than 16 years ago, I wrote a book about the secrets of happy parenting. My children, Zach and Maggie, were still children then but the world was just as complicated for parents trying to be happy. In fact, I have researched and written a lot about pregnancy and parenting issues – once from the perch of the director of the Infants and Children’s Laboratory at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Zach is a father of two now. His son, Finn, is 2 ½ and my granddaughter Charlotte just turned 1. Now, Maggie is pregnant with her first, a daughter who will be born sometime around Dec. 4. I am deeply in love with this role of grandmother. So as I look back at parenting and my daughter Maggie looks forward, I have decided to launch a blog, retooling some of those secrets I shared way back when and, at times, examining parenting from two different generational points. Maggie, a wonderful writer as you will discover, is a nurse at New York University’s Langone Hospital.

Happy Parents Aren't Perfect

Maryann Bucknum Brinley - Monday, September 23, 2013

Perfection is an unrealistic destination neither you nor your children can ever reach. Life is really, honestly, no kidding, a work in progress…always! Think about it this way: There is no state of perfection on the map and if you continually go looking for it, you may miss the really good stuff – and spoil your trip. Relax and enjoy the ride. At the end of the day, are you really going to say, “Oh goodie. I got through my to-do list,” especially if you haven’t found the time to laugh with or tickle your toddler?

In fact, “perfect” parents and yes, grandparents, (and we all know a few) pay a high price in their quest for perfectionism. Families, however, pay an even higher price because living with someone who wants to achieve perfection is exhausting for everyone.

Perfect parents are never quite satisfied and are the kind of people who hold strong opinions about how they and everyone else ought to be living or doing things. They seem to have an endless list of opinions, suggestions and ideas for everyone on everything from diapers to the care and feeding of families at every turn. You can’t help but disappoint someone who is aimed at perfection.

Are you a “Yes, but” kind of parent? Here’s what I mean by this:

* Your child gets dressed on his own and heading out the door. You say, “Yes, that looks nice but why don’t you wear the pink sweater with those pants?”

* A report card comes home with three As and two Bs and you can’t stop yourself from thinking or saying outloud, “What happened with those Bs?”

            If you are never quite satisfied with your own or your children’s efforts, your kids are less likely to put forth any effort at all soon enough. It’s easier not to try than to be criticized. Get rid of that “Yes, but” approach.

* Give unqualified compliments.

* Always remember: Criticism deflates and diminishes self-esteem.

* To inspire and motivate kids to reach their highest potential, celebrate their efforts.

            All families go through periods of dysfunction. But I really believe that children growing up in less-than-perfect households learn to cope better with the pressures of adult life. You don’t need to protect or correct children from every crisis or every mistake.

Remember: Perfection = Stress

            Parents sometimes torture themselves in a quest to be consistent. I don’t think it’s really possible to be consistent all the time. Aim for consistently normal. Your child’s world is not going to fall apart because of your mistakes, your moods, your imperfections or your human frailties if you enjoy being a parent more often than not.

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