Ep. 69: Happier Parenting
KJ Dell’Antonia, author of How to Be a Happier Parent, joins Andy for a look at how to get happier while parenting. It’s time for parents to stop thinking about their kids so much and get back to what makes them happy! After all, if you’re not happy, can you truly expect your kids not to notice?
Full Show Notes
In the hustle of parenting teens—driving then from activity to activity, keeping an eye on their screen time, feeding them, checking their grades, nagging them about homework—a lot of parents look around and realize, it isn’t fun. Where did things start to go sideways?
Many parents, feeling like this pattern of stressful parenting is not what they signed up for. So they make a list of all the things they could do to insert more fun into parenting…only to realize that that would be a awful lot of extra work.
This is exactly what KJ Dell’Antonia, author of How to Be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life, and Loving (Almost) Every Minute of It, discovered on her parenting journey. Instead of trying to insert fun things into her already packed family schedule, KJ decided what she really needed was some more happiness.
The first step to becoming a happier parent is to step back from the martyr mindset: the belief that, as the parent, everyone else’s needs come before your own. The martyr mindset is a sure-fire way to be an unhappy parent because you will always always come last.
The second step is to take a look at all the activities you engage in and assess how to insert some more happiness. Maybe that means you get a carpool going with some fellow parents to avoid spending 5 hours driving to and from your kid’s club sports practice. Or maybe it’s blocking off an hour or two on a Saturday to indulge in a hobby or long walk. Or maybe it’s inserting a new rule that no one is allowed to say dinner “looks gross.”
In my interview with KJ this week we discuss ideas and strategies around happier parenting, including:
- How to avoid being “that parent”
- Dinner rules for increased happiness (and sanity)
- Why “all or nothing” is the best policy for your attention
- Sibling arguments distilled into four main pain points
- The importance of time for “doing nothing”
KJ is in the thick of parenting her own teens and with the wealth of information she has at her disposal, listeners are in for a thought-provoking treat! What would make you a happier parent?
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Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview
1. Being a Role Model for your Teen:
In my interview with KJ she mentioned that if a parent isn’t modeling happiness (or just is downright unhappy), kids and teens will be in nooo rush to become adults—it looks miserable!
But it’s hard to just flip a switch and “be happy” because your kids are watching. Ideally, happiness is genuine. And knowing that teens have extra sharp lie-detectors, they will be able to see right through the masks.
This exercise will focus on how to bring more happiness into your current parenting style in order to flow from the inside out with happiness.
Pick three areas of parenting that right now, for lack of a better word, suck. Jot them down. It could be cooking dinner, driving kids around, being interrupted when you’re trying to work. For each situation, brainstorm for five minutes a list of changes that would decrease suckiness and increase happiness. For cooking, perhaps it’s the dinner time complaints that really make cooking unenjoyable. Or maybe when driving your teen you’ve been allowing them to choose (annoying) music. Make a new policy and institute it next week! If your teen is resistant, explain why you are instituting it and enlist them to brainstorming additional ideas with you.
2. The Sibling Arguments and How to Prevent Them:
About KJ Dell’Antonia
KJ is an author, writer, and podcaster. She is a former New York Times reporter as well as contributing editor to Slate. She wrote and edited the Motherlode and Well Family columns for the times from 2011-2016 and 2016-2017, respectively. Her first book How to Be a Happier Parent was the product of her years of work and research into the parenting realm. KJ currently co-hosts the Am Writing Podcast (with our recent guest Jessica Lahey) and her second book, The Chicken Sisters, due out in April 2020, is her first foray into fiction.
KJ lives on a farm in New Hampshire with her husband and four teens. She is adamant that the family does not need any more animals besides their two miniature horses, nine chickens, cats and dogs.