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A 1-minute Habit That Can Change Your Life as a Parent

by Meghan Fitzgerald

Even though we each parent unique humans, in unique situations, in our unique ways, much is universal about parenting. We share a common brain architecture that makes us wired to connect to and care for our children. The sounds “papa,” “dada” and “mama” are the sounds uttered for parents in nearly every language, reminding us that our babies are wired to teach us in similar ways, too.

Parents also share a sense of responsibility to do the best—the very best for our children. I still tear up at the saying “as soon as you have a child, your heart walks outside of your body.” Something changes when the parent switch is flipped, and that drive, however it looks for you, is life sustaining and more powerful than you could imagine before you experience it.

I’ve also wrestled with the incredible responsibility I feel to get things right for my kids, and I know so many of us do. When you layer your other commitments on top of parenting—work, being a good partner, extended family, and community—this time of raising small people while being a person in the world can feel overwhelming. So often, I end the day recalling the many things I didn’t get to do or that I wished I had done better—and I know I am not alone.

Last year, around this time, Brian sent me an article entitled, Why You Should Stop Being So Hard on Yourself, and it got me started on a brave, new habit. First, even though we are designed to focus on danger and negativity (it’s pretty helpful for survival), it’s actually not good for our mental and physical health to ruminate on self criticism. In addition to being bad for us, focusing on where we’ve gone wrong makes us less productive—rats! If we want to do more, we should focus on what we have accomplished and what went WELL and focus as little as we can on where we fell short.

So, what’s the habit? As often as you can, ask yourself, “What went well in the past 24 hours of parenting?” Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes, you have to look past moments you know were not your best to find the tiny nugget of success, sweetness or affirmation. But, at least one is always there—and, those moments put wind in our sails.

We asked this same question of our Leader community. We’ve shared many of their answers below—a crowdsourced wave of parenting success and joy. We hope reading over them can bathe us all in the wonders of parenting. And, we wish you a year to come of focusing on what you’re doing well. Most importantly, we celebrate you for all that you do as a parent, big and little, each and every day!

“What went really well in the past 24 hours of parenting?”

Yesterday was the first day my youngest didn’t cry and cling to me at drop off! She was still really nervous and frantically waved until she saw me get in the car, but it was a big step after months and months of working on it!

I got myself and my girls ready in time to sit down together and read a book before sending my oldest off to school and getting my work day started! ❤️

My adult daughter sent me a text for helping her cope with an emotional situation. Listen to the little things while they're little; they will come to with their big things someday.

Honestly, as weird as it sounds, this was my feel good moment. Sam is teething and was SO UPSET that he couldn’t fit into this small basket. There was nothing that could be done to console him - he didn’t want anything I offered. But we both rode out the moment together with me just there honoring his emotions and supporting him through it. I felt good that I let him express the emotions in a safe way AND that I didn’t get too stressed into making it about me and how uncomfortable it can feel to see your child upset. He made it through. He moved on. He’s still fiercely independent, and this won’t be the last of these moments haha.

My oldest son joined a running club, they're doing an accumulative marathon where they have to add up 25 miles leading up to the actual race day. He's been running every day, no matter the weather. We've been out running in the rain and when people ask him why, he gives them a confused look and says "why not? It's just rain”I cannot be more proud of my "all weather" children ❤❤

Mornings are always hectic in my house. I wake up late, dad takes too long in the shower, brother has to use the potty last minute...boom we're late for school most days. Last night the boys helped me prep their lunch boxes, and we ended up having a before bed snack while doing so (which helped prevent the "mom i'm hungry" before bed routine). I felt so good this morning because that one thing was done. I feel better because I felt like I set a good example for the kids regarding prepping and planning for what was expected to be a difficult time. I can't say we can do that every night plus they were still late due to traffic but it was still a good morning! Smiles all around!

These close in age cuties chose to match and I didn’t even know it, they left the house in sweatshirts and were so excited to show me at school pick up! Happy to share matching kindness messages feels like a win ❤️

As we snuggled up in bed together last night, my husband was telling our son - who will be four in August - what a good job he did being a good listener, and working together to get his teeth brushed, and to get ready for bed. Our son looked at him and said, “and I’m proud of you, dada, for being so kind and helping me!” Our hearts could hardly stand it. Of course, because he’s just too sweet, but we were also so grateful and proud to see evidence of what we pour into him...the encouragement and affirmations...he internalizes them, and he pours that same love and encouragement back out. It’s beautiful to see, and so encouraging for us as his parents in several ways.

I walked in on my son (9) last night helping his little sister (7) read a rather difficult passage in her book. This is a child that just a few months ago refused to believe he even COULD read, and is now reading Harry Potter on his own. So proud of him. He literally taught himself AND his sister to read. I've done nothing hehe

My newly 3 year old is really struggling with her three-ness AND is still adjusting to life as a big sister. She’s been communicating with a lot of screaming and other difficult methods of expression. 🥴 We’ve really been working hard helping her navigate these big feelings. Today while I was nursing, my big kid wanted me to see something she made outside. I braced for the fallout when I told her I’d be there once baby was done. But instead she said, “MOM. It’s just really hard to wait. 🎈🎈🎈

In our house, we say grace before we eat. My son (2) usually knows to wait until we bless the food before we eat and tonight he put his hands together and bowed his head over his food and said (in the most confident little voice) “tee two for my eat” 😩 my heart melted ❤️

Painted and spread kindness rocks for a wildish challenge.

My daughter said it was a pity we had to cancel Tinkergarten due to thunderstorms. Means she likes it, I dare to hope …

I introduced my youngest to whip cream in the mouth. He saw it on tv and was ecstatic to try it at home. Getting to say yes always me feel good.

In the last few days my 2 year old daughter just started telling me ‘I love you mommy’ and really meaning it 💜💚❤️ Besides this her language is growing like crazy, so awesome to watch her grow and learn every day!

My twins are starting to develop the Daniel Tiger, “the first step is to say I’m sorry, then how can I help?” Today my daughter used this with my son without prompting, and he responded. It was so sweet!

My oldest’s journal from the beginning of the school year vs. today. Not only is he *almost* enjoying writing now, but he has improved so much. I would have missed it if we weren’t keeping journals, but wow. I am really proud of the growth he’s accomplished this year!

Took my little ones out tulip picking yesterday. It’s just nice to slow down and do something all together while also teaching them about respecting a garden and growing objects and supporting our towns small family farm.

Hugging my daughter as she cried and validating her feelings and guiding her in deep breathing.

Supporting “tent building” when it was time to make dinner last night. It sure was fun to “camp out” in the bedroom while it was raining! 🏕 ☔️

My 12 year old came to me on her own to open up about how some kids at school were making her feel- annoyed, frustrated, angry and picked on. It’s really hard for her to talk about, identify and express her emotions so this was huge—- and one of the reasons I’m in love with this season of empathy.

We spent 3 hours outside this afternoon with friends...biking, farm visiting and eating ice cream...instead of coming straight home from school for me to jump on the computer for work and O to sit and play with LEGOs inside. I felt so amazing to be able to BE in the moment & BE present in my little guy’s life/world and not worry about what “needed” to be done. My heart is full!

My 4 year old and I finished the spring cleaning of our veggie garden, spread mulch, planted some sprouting potatoes, and added to our compost bin this afternoon. Thankfully the rain held off until we finished and naptime rolled around!

It felt amazing to purge an incredible amount of outgrown toys with my kids yesterday. They were great about only keeping what they truly still love and play with. It also felt wonderful to take them to the library where they took part in a "read to the dog" program and borrowed books with their own library cards. After all that, it was fun to say "yes" to a treat and let them choose a doughnut at the shop.

My two-year-old insisted on pulling the wagon herself after class and I really had to pee. I have amazing bladder control just to make my child happy.

My boy joined our class and after saying “yucky” to mud making...got into it with the other explorers leading the way. So glad I can bring my kids to “work” with me!!

My sweet boy made a "smiley face" during the Faces for Trees lesson and was just beyond proud of himself. I hope he always sees himself for the amazing person he is and I feel proud that his dad and I always remind him that he is!

My son (almost 4) helped me set the table at dinner - without being told. We are military and I solo parent a ton. He told me, “I love helping you mom. It makes me happy.” It was after a rather looooong day, and perfect timing.

I helped both my girls (6 and 4) learn how to ride a bicycle without training wheels ! 💪🏼🚴🏼‍♀️🚴🏼‍♀️🏆🏆. It feels fantastic!

Helped my baby get out in the rain yesterday and wondered together.

Although the guides preferred we cancel yesterday’s class, my girls didn’t want to stay indoors. So, we got outside despite the heavy, wet snow. The wind was more than we expected, but we still had a great time at the park.

I played a board game with one daughter and baked with the other.

My 4 year old asked to build a "contraption" before preschool this morning and we found 10 minutes to invent a car launcher that worked!

I’ve been sick, but I actually cooked dinner last night and both of my kids wanted seconds and ate it all!

Watching my oldest and my youngest sit together for this sweet moment. Love my littles!

Everyone in my family ate and liked their dinner last night AND said “Thank you” to me for cooking it!! WIN! **This never happens.

I got the library books returned before the late fee deadline!

I decided to try story time AFTER milk and it made story time so much more relaxed and enjoyable!

A moment where my son and I really connected when we thought something was super funny and shared a belly laugh over it. 😂😂😂

Yesterday (after leading my Tinkergarten class), I spent an hour in the backyard reading a giant pile of library books to my daughter. I had other things to do, but she wanted the attention after class where I can’t focus on her. It was wonderful.

After a long day and a drawn out after dinner walk I put both my kids to sleep calmly going through our full bedtime routine (with stories and all) instead of being anxious about how late is was or telling them there’s no time for bedtime stories. In the end went much smoother and they probably fell asleep just as quickly (if not quicker) then they would have if I would’ve tried to shorten the bedtime routine.It felt 100X better than a rushed routine just to achieve bedtime by the time I had set in my mind.

We are “micro farming” and I set up a planting station for my daughter this morning, we weeded together while appreciating the pretty “weeds”, went to the beach and she set to collecting everything she saw that was beautiful 😊. We took those treasures and built a fairy house, balanced on logs and ate her first fish and chips together.

I sat down with each of my 3 children yesterday and played what they wanted to play for a bit.

I put off schoolwork for the day so that we could care for, enjoy playing with, and search for the owners of the puppy that came to our yard yesterday.

I stayed at the playground a little bit longer even after it started raining so my toddler could play. ✨🌧

After school they both had so much to say. I just listened. I really just listened to them when they were talking to me. I gave them my loving undivided attention. Then they wanted a special treat. Donuts 🍩 and I said yes! We drove straight to the donut shop and they each picked out a colorful, sprinkally treat.

Mayday baskets with my boys. They loved spreading joy.

We went to the park with friends... happened to be the same park we have Tinkergarten. And instead of the playground, my son lead the charge and got all the kids that met for the play date to climb trees and just PLAY on the field, in the trees- across our “classroom”. It was pretty beautiful to see them doing what they were designed to do- without any prompting by us adults.