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Parenting: Making the Most of the Mundane

highchairWhen I was trying to get pregnant, I saw happy parents and children everywhere.  I saw what I most wanted for myself.

Now that I am a parent, I notice how stressed parents of young children often seem.  And I know myself just how demanding (and frankly, tedious) parenting can feel.  There’s so much to get done, and it leaves much less time for what I imagined the rewards to be.

So what if the mundane tasks can be made more rewarding?  What if instead of waiting for the good stuff, those tasks can become the good stuff?Parents often have a tendency to try to race through certain things in order to get to what they’ve deemed to be the bigger ticket items.  For example, it seems like an annoying chore to get your kids to eat their vegetables, and what you really want is to snuggle up with your kids and read a book.  THAT would feel like quality time.

So you sit resentfully through dinner, reminding your kids that they have a lot of things left to do in the night, and that if they don’t finish their veggies, there’s no dessert.  What you want is to spend meaningful time for your kids, but what you’ve got is another battle of attrition.

What’s needed is a shift in the parental mindset.  Kids like some level of playfulness from their parents, and they’ll respond better to that than to a reminder about rewards or consequences.  So instead of dinner being a chore, it can become the quality time.  Think of it as an opportunity to play with your kids, with the added bonus that it will entice them to eat more.  Fun, for small kids, is an in-the-moment motivator, as opposed to, say, a reminder about dessert, which is in the future.

Ditto for time spent driving your kids.  It can be an opportunity to sing, or play games, or otherwise connect with them.  For older kids and teens, it might be a good time to talk about more meaningful subjects because it’s easier for them to have those conversations when they don’t have to make consistent eye contact.

Something to remember is that if you seem negative and unhappy during the mundane tasks, your kids are less likely to want to spend quality time with you later.  If you were grim through dinner and homework, they’re not necessarily feeling like cuddling up with you for story time.

Parenting–especially with small children–is very task-oriented.  So infusing tasks with a happier spirit is where you can really make your mark and grow closer to your kids.  What could be more quality than that?

Parents feeding baby image available from Shutterstock.

Parenting: Making the Most of the Mundane

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2014). Parenting: Making the Most of the Mundane. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Feb 2014
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