Five Ways to Focus on Parenthood and Live Your Happiest Life Right Now

by Todd Patkin

We parents feel pretty good on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. But at other points in the year, you might squirm a bit because you know you probably aren’t in the running for “World’s Best Dad (or Mom).” If that’s the case, cut yourself some slack. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent—and you can start improving the relationship you have with your children right now.

When you invest in your kids, you’ll be rewarded tenfold through the joy they’ll give back to you. However, if you’re just going through the parenting motions, you’re missing out on an untapped source of happiness. Here are five ways to improve your parenting style right now.


Simply be present more of the time. First and foremost, you’ve got to be with your kids to influence your relationship with them. Allowing your job or the errands you need to run to take precedence over time spent with your kids is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. You can’t script or schedule the majority of life, so you need to be there to catch the special, opportune moments with your kids.


Plug in—emotionally. Kids are smart, and they know when your mind is elsewhere, even if they have no idea that you’re specifically thinking about business or bills. If this happens consistently, they’ll begin to feel less important, and your relationship will suffer. When you’re with your children, all of you needs to be there.


Let your kids be themselves. As a parent, make a genuine effort to discover who your kids really are and commit to supporting them on their paths. Trust me—your kids will be happy adults only if they too learn to love and be okay with themselves as they are and for who they are. So even if you wanted your son to be a star athlete, you’d better love him just as well if he prefers the arts, and be cheering loudly at all of his concerts.


Bigger isn’t always better, especially with children. If you’re feeling parenting guilt for any reason, you might be tempted to think that buying the latest and greatest gaming system or planning a Disney World trip will make up for your misstep. However, doing “normal” things with your kids on a regular basis will mean more to them and forge deeper connections than the occasional extraordinary event.


Be happy! Remember that your kids will develop their priorities, outlooks, and attitudes based on yours. So please, make a conscious decision to be a happier parent each day by pursuing activities that you love and that will make you feel better about yourself. By doing so, you’ll give your children the best chance of growing into content, positive, and fulfilled adults.


Ultimately, being a great parent is less about following parenting manuals and more about just being with your kids—physically and mentally—and loving them unconditionally every day. Really engaging with your children is one of the most fulfilling things any parent can do.

Todd Patkin grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. After graduating from Tufts University, he joined the family business and spent the next eighteen years helping to grow it to new heights. After it was purchased by Advance Auto Parts in 2005, his focus shifted to philanthropy. Todd lives with his wonderful wife, Yadira, their amazing son, Josh, and two great dogs, Tucker and Hunter. He is the author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In.