You learn a lot once you have a baby, but the life lessons go beyond simply how to raise kids. The challenges of parenthood come with the added benefit of teaching you how to be a better family member, a better friend, and a better person. Below are seven valuable relationship skills you can pick up by interacting with your kids.
1. YOU’RE LESS LIKELY TO SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF.
When you were younger, your temper might have gotten the best of you more than you care to admit. Oddly, though, once you’ve spent enough time around kids, there’s exponentially more to be frustrated by (permanent marker doodles on the wall, refusal to eat green beans, and so on) but you’re way less likely to lose your cool. As for that “Don’t make me count to three?” parenting cliché? Research has shown it actually works. The neurological anger response lasts less than two seconds. After that, the impulse to explode has diminished, and you can mete out justice accordingly.
2. YOU BECOME MORE PATIENT.
It’s a running joke that once you become a parent, you never eat a hot meal again. Caretakers are, by virtue of what they do, putting someone else first. Thankfully, there’s good news for those who no longer expect instant gratification: Studies have shown that a little patience can reinforce the value of something so that you have greater appreciation for it when you do get it. More importantly, the act of waiting yields even more willingness to wait. In essence, being patient makes you that much more patient.
3. YOU SEE THE POTENTIAL IN EVERYONE.
Watching your child learn to share, or doing something kind for another person, can help you perceive the whole world differently. Researchers have a name for that feeling you get from witnessing some form of human goodness: “moral elevation.” Studies have found that it inspires optimism and makes people want to be better themselves. Perhaps that’s why you always end up rooting for all the kids on the soccer field—even the players on the opposing team.
4. YOU BECOME MORE FORGIVING.
Children have short memories: It’s easy for them to forgive and forget. Adults? Not so much. But according to one study, there’s major incentive to follow your kid’s lead after someone (or something) has upset you. Psychologists tested adults over the age of 66 to determine their ability to forgive, and the longitudinal results showed those more forgiving in nature tended to live longer. It’s a good reminder that letting go can literally give you more time with your family.
5. YOU’RE MORE LIKELY TO STICK TO A ROUTINE …
It doesn't take long to realize that one of most crucial aspects of raising kids is maintaining consistency—not just when it comes to discipline, but in bedtimes, diets, and caregiver schedules. History has shown that some of the world’s most successful people were able to get that way by sticking to a routine of their own. By being smarter about how you use your time, you’ll be able to get more done—and spend more time with the people who matter most.
6. … AND BECOME A MORNING PERSON.
Lazy Sundays may be long gone now that you have kids, but being forced to get up and at ‘em has its perks too (we swear!). Research has shown that morning people are far more likely to carry that proactive, go-getter momentum with them throughout the rest of their days, getting more done in less time. Which, of course, leaves them with more free hours for loved ones.
7. YOU LAUGH MORE.
Kids naturally (and often unintentionally) spread merriment wherever they go. Time and time again, research has demonstrated that laughter offers not just physical and mental health benefits, but it’s also a key driver in strengthening relationships, diffusing conflict, and promoting group bonding—all vital for a happy family.