Happy Parents Aren’t a Myth (How You Can Get Closer to the Green Grass that Isn’t on the Other Side) (HPC: E57)

Do you wish “happy” and “parenting” were used more often in the same sentence?

Our guest today is a former NY Times reporter who realized she was hearing way too many parents say that they just weren’t happy, not finding joy in their kids like they thought they would…so she sought to do something about it.

She dug into research and interviewed parents in the trenches and wrote a lovely book that is as good for beach reading as for personal development, and I’m so honored to learn from her wisdom today.

KJ Dell’Antonia will help you see:

  • Why mornings are so important in family life (+ a few options for making them smoother). I almost guarantee you’ll see one of your sloths–I mean kids!–in her stories!
  • The importance of kids doing chores and a few reasons why it feels so HARD to do the CHORE of getting them to do the chores! The “separation” she recommends is groundbreaking if you can manage it…
  • That sibling bickering is not a reflection of your parenting! KJ shares from her own pain watching her daughters drive each other batty, and the expert suggestion that finally changed it all (it had nothing to do with the kids!).

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  • Why screens and tech can be both a source of happiness and strife in families, and the best philosophy for training up kids who know how to use them wisely.
  • That others feel a lot of stress in the kitchen too…there are too many “shoulds” when it comes to food and dinnertime. I call her out on not recommending kids to cook with their parents, and KJ explains the very good reason why she didn’t (even though she loves cooking with her own kids).
  • Why discipline wasn’t actually that hard in former generations, a few reasons it’s the MOST hated part of parenting for many modern moms and dads, and what lessons we want to learn from the past (and leave in the past).

And her message of hope: “Trying is everything when you decide to be a happier parent!”

If you feel like you want to be a little more intentional about enjoying your kids, about finding joy in the act of parenting and not just waiting for it to be over, this is an interview worth listening to! You’ll love KJ’s stories, and I highly recommend her book: How to be a Happier Parent

Happy Parent Video Time Stamps

  • 0:40: KJ Dell’Antonia is a former New York Times reporter, parenting expert and author.
  • 1:21: KJ tells us a bit of her background and how she got started writing on parenting.

The Importance of Mornings for Happy Days

  • 4:22: I really enjoyed reading KJ’s book! Just the first chapter is worth the price in my opinion. She begins by discussing mornings and how they impact the family for the day. Mornings are hard because often you’re trying to get everyone out of the house and on time before anyone really wants to be out of the house.

Everything is stacked against us in the morning. -KJ Dell’Antonia

  • 6:10: Especially when you have younger kids, a lot of pressure falls on the parents to get everyone ready. When your kids are older, they can be more responsible for themselves, or begin to learn from their mistakes.

The goal is “happier.” -KJ Dell’Antonia

  • 7:11: Some of the keys to morning happiness with little kids are: getting everyone to bed earlier and having things prepared and organized ahead of time.
  • 8:05: As kids get bigger you can shift some of the responsibility to them. It doesn’t matter for you if your kid is on time to school: it matters for them. You can let them carry the pressure. You can’t force them to care if they’re on time by yelling, but consequences (missing an activity because they weren’t ready, etc.) can.

Shifting your own attitude won't necessarily change your outcomes, but it makes you happier. -KJ Dell'Antonia

  • 10:16: KJ shares a personal story of how morning drop off plays out in their family.
  • 12:18: Mornings set the tone for the whole day for you and your children. We don’t want to send our kids off to school amidst shouting. That doesn’t serve anyone.

I used to feel like my goal in the mornings was to get everyone where they had to go on time, eventually I realized my goal is to have a pleasant morning. -KJ Dell’Antonia

  • 13:55: We may need different parenting styles for different kids, but checking with yourself and making sure your tone is correct is across the board what all kids need.

Chores Make for Happy Parents

  • 15:07: Chores are a huge point of contention among parents. KJ plants the stake in the ground that kids should do chores. For many reasons, kids are doing less chores now than we did as kids.

We don't see a child's role in contributing to the family as important anymore. -KJ Dell'Antonia

  • 18:18: In some of KJ’s research when asked what they dislike most about parenting, by far most parents said discipline which includes making kids do things like chores that they don’t want to do.

As parents we don’t like taking on the role of enforcer. -KJ Dell’Antonia

  • 19:32: How your kids react in response to chores is not about you. Personality plays a big role in whether or not kids will do chores on their own, need reminding or argue back.
  • 20:34: When asking a child to pick up a towel or empty the dishwasher there are 2 things you want: you want the job done, and you want the kid to do it without complaining, griping and being dramatic about it. Part of you gets critical and angry that you need to argue or repeat yourself. If you can separate these two, you’ll be much happier. They don’t have to like it and you don’t have to stress about them liking it as long as the job gets done.
  • 22:12: In families where everyone is contributing, everyone is happier.

Most of us cut our kids more slack than we realize. -KJ Dell’Antonia

  • 24:27: It can be hard to realize how often we do things for our kids that they can do themselves. It feels easier, and in the short term it generally is easier.

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  • 25:39: We just instituted a chore jar policy in our house. I explain what we do.

Managing Sibling Bickering

  • 26:36: Sibling bickering is a big drain on happiness for lots of parents. KJ shares her story and what she found to be the most impactful in her family. I think you’ll find a ray of hope in this story. 🙂
  • 32:03: KJ’s kids are older, so the above story is more geared towards conflict in older children. She explains some differences with younger kids.

Kids and Screen Time

  • 34:10: We get into screen time and internet usage. Watching a movie with your kids can be fun, but lots of statistics and research points fingers at technology causing trouble within families. Where is the line?

If your kid's whining controls the amount of screen-time they get, it's time to step back. - KJ Dell'Antonia

  • 35:55: Once kids are old enough that they can manage their own electronic devices you need to reevaluate how you handle screens. The goal is not to raise a kid who follows your rules, the goal is to teach the child how and why to regulate themselves.
  • 37:25: Some kids aren’t as interested in screens while some will really struggle with social media, some with gaming and others with TV. It has nothing to do with your parenting whether or not your child is more drawn to screens. There is no one size fits all approach.

Feeling Happy and Confident Around Food

  • 38:55: KJ has a whole chapter about food in her book. She doesn’t really talk about getting kids involved in the kitchen. I asked her if she’d considered that as she was writing that chapter.

We can increase our happiness by picking which “shoulds” work for us and not trying to hit them all. -KJ Dell’Antonia

  • 42:23: Most parents agree that discipline is one of the most unhappy parts of parenting. It didn’t used to be that way. KJ shares why she thinks that is.
  • 45:30: KJ spoke with Ken Ginsburg during her research and shares some of his discipline advice.
  • 47:33: We end with a practical step you can take towards happiness right now.

Remember, these are the good times. -KJ Dell’Antonia

Resources We Mention About Happy Parenting

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Happy parents aren't a myth

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