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What Barbie taught me about being a parent

Why being a parent is hard, and how to make it easier.

At one point in the new Barbie movie, the creator of Barbie, played by Rhea Perlman, says to Barbie:

"We mothers stand still so our daughters can look back to see how far they have come."

Isn't that what being a parent is all about?

When we become parents, we put our lives on hold for our kids. We stand still so that our children can grow and develop. Our children become our lives.

It sounds wonderful...but the reality of being a parent is that it is hard, and often unrewarding.

For example, today my 4 year old daughter was extremely angry at me, because I didn't want her to play on my phone.

"Ok, then I don't like you. You are useless! You are an X!" she screamed at me, holding her little fingers in an X (being an X is the worst, according to her).

"You ungrateful little girl," I thought, seething.

But before I could say anything, I remembered what Julie King, the co-author of How To Talk So LITTLE Kids Will Listen and How To Talk When Kids Won’t Listen, told me about how she used to manage her own negative emotions when her kids made her angry:

When my kids were younger, I would notice I was going to that place where I felt like I wanted to yell…let’s just say…very unhelpful things.

I wanted to say some loud, hurtful things to my kids when I was really frustrated. One of the things that helped me was to say, “I am so frustrated! I need a break,” and I would go into the bathroom, or sometimes I would go into my closet, which I share with my husband. I would step into the closet and close the door so the kids couldn’t get in, and then I could say some of the nasty things that I wanted to say to them so they wouldn’t actually hear it.

Julie King

So instead of saying anything to my daughter that I might regret, I just said "I need a break," and I went to my room. I sat there for a while, just breathing and calming myself down.

And you know what? When I got back, my daughter came over to me, looked me in the eyes, and said "I am sorry for saying you are useless. You are not useless. I'm sorry."

Parenting is hard. But it can also be so rewarding. I can be such a wonderful, joyful experience.

The thing is, the better you get at understanding your kids, the more fun and joyful it gets. The more you understand what motivates them, the easier it becomes to deal with them.

In my interview with Julie King, she shares why telling your kids what to do makes them not want to do it, and how to use "playfulness" to make them want to cooperate.

She also shares a simple technique to use “playfulness” to get your kids to cooperate, even when you don't feel playful.