Im a mother of four – my oldest is away at college and my youngest just finished first grade. Im also a parent educator and author. I have looked back over the past nineteen years and contemplated the things Ive learned about raising children. I would like to share with you a few important things I wish someone had told me when I was first starting out as a mother.

The big picture is more important than any one action.
From the time your baby is born until the time your child leaves home as a young adult, the two of you may have over 100,000 hours to interact and connect. It would be impossible for all of those hours to be blissfully happy. There will be plenty of rough spots, anger, and mistakes ? both on your part and your child?s. To even attempt perfection would be ludicrous, yet most of us criticise ourselves over every negative situation.

Raising a child requires that we make many decisions every day. What is more important than any single action is your overall philosophy and approach to raising your child. When love is your foundation, parenting skills are your structure, and your goal is to raise your child to be a happy human being with whom you can have a pleasant lifelong relationship, then it is likely things will turn out as you hope.

Relax more and stress less.
Oh, my! The millions of little things Ive stressed about over the past nineteen years! Messy rooms, dirty faces, lost toys, peas not eaten. Not a single one of these things means anything today. Those trivial details make up a large part of life, but when they cause a disproportionate amount of angst they conceal the joys that children bring into our lives. So, view the little things for what they are ? little things ? and don?t let them get in the way of taking pleasure out of every single moment of family life.

Enjoy the play more.
Be willing to join your little ones in their enchanting play a little bit more often. You don?t always have to have one eye on the clock during playtime. Far too often you may feel guilty for playtime ? something ?more important? is waiting to be done. If you were to make a list of all those oh-so-important things that have interfered with playtime in the past, I?m sure the list would appear just a little bit foolish. The important things all got done, I?m sure. And I?m certain that a bit more playtime wouldn?t have caused chaos. And once your child is a busy teen, or a young adult moving out of your home, you?ll realise that the most important thing of all was that playtime spent with your child.

Give yourself more credit for what you do right, and don?t examine so intently the things you do wrong.
We all make mistakes and life is never perfect. Even when we don?t use our parenting skills, even when we are too stressed, and even when we don?t take enough time for playtime life is usually plenty good enough, because we?re probably doing more things right than we realise. Family bonds truly can fill in any gaps with a love that transcends mistakes. A caring heart and a warm embrace can make up for less-than-perfect moments. And if you try to be a good parent, the odds are definitely in your favour that you will succeed.

I suggest that you do your best, learn from your mistakes, and appreciate that you are doing a grand and important job. Give yourself a pat on the back, and give credit where credit is due. You are doing a better job than you think.