Parenting Advice for 2021: Do Less, and Do it Less Well

MarcilieChores, Organization, Parenting and Management, Work / Life BalanceLeave a Comment

It’s been one heckuva year for parents and to be honest, I’m exhausted!

I’m a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions, but this year, the thought of coming up with them makes me want to lie down and take a nap. 

I know I have plenty to learn, and there are so many ways I can grow. But after 10 months of trying to live, work, and parent in a pandemic (and everything else), I just want to not go backward. Or really, just not go backward like a big, heavy boulder rolling down a hill, squashing living things in its path.

And then, just as I was feeling bad about not wanting to make 2021 resolutions, my favorite unconventional life coach, Martha Beck, showed up in my inbox.

She told me exactly what I needed to hear: “Do less. Fail more.” Her words reminded me of a mantra I held from about 2012 – 2015:  “Do Less and Do it Less Well.” (I guess failure was too much of a stretch for me then.)

At the time, I was recovering from “Mom-It-All Syndrome,” a term I coined that refers to Moms (and parents in general) who push themselves to excel at every role they play: Mom/Caregiver, Professional, Home Decorator, Chef, Lover, Friend, Community Builder…fill in the blank.

Talk about exhausting! 

Being a “Mom-It-All” is impossible at any time but throw in a year and a half of pandemic living and any striving “Mom-It-All” will drown in guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy. No thanks!

I have to say that I did do less and I did do at least some things less well during those 3 years and even beyond. (This mantra inspired the 4 D’s to Lighten Your Load which I wrote about in May 2020.)

Right now, my old mantra feels more relevant than ever. Therefore, it’s my goal for 2021 and my best parenting advice for you, too:


Do less. Do it less well.

Yeah, there are some things you’re going to want to do really well. OK, fine. But be choosy. Your energy is precious and must be protected as we push on toward the light at the end of the COVID tunnel. 

If you have 2021 resolutions, that’s wonderful! Write them down and then, if you like my advice, cut it in half. And then permit yourself to take “turtle steps.” 

“A turtle step,” as Martha Beck defines it, “is a step that takes you toward your ultimate goal, but is so tiny you could do it easily on your worst day. A day when the water heater breaks, your entire family has chickenpox, and the dog needs surgery because he ate your neighbor’s Rolex.”

If you’ve resolved to stop yelling at your kids, perhaps a turtle step could be to just start tracking how often you yell. That’s it — just track it. Or to yell, “I’m really angry!” instead of the usual contents of your yelling just once/week.

If you’re resolved to create more kindness and connection in the home, your turtle step could simply be to give more hugs. Hugs are simple but powerful turtle steps!

One way to turtle-step toward progress is to enroll in a class or hire a coach. Then the class or coach can help you along rather than your having to use so darn much willpower.

If more peaceful parenting is on your list for 2021, consider joining me for my 8-week Positive Discipline series where I will consistently remind you that your goal is to make progress, not attain perfection. 

Peaceful Parents, Cooperative Kids, an 8-week Parenting with Positive Discipline series starts Feb. 3 via Zoom. Join me or spread the word! Early bird discounts expire on Jan. 18 ($40 off.) 

Other resources to help you inch toward your 2021 goals:

How to Succeed in 2021: Do Less. Fail More. By Martha Beck
Why It’s So Hard to Keep Resolutions + 5 Ways to Make It Easier. By Marcilie Smith Boyle
Year-Long Resolutions Don’t Work. Try Micro-Resolutions Instead. By David G. Allan

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