4 Reminders for Awesome Parenting

“Every day, everywhere, our children spread their dreams under our feet.  And we should tread softly.” – Ken Robinson

Ok, this is a post about parenting which can be a touchy subject.  First of all, I would never tell someone how to parent.  This isn’t parenting advice, it’s a way of thinking that can be used in parenting.  It’s not about the kid’s behavior, discipline, or how to react when your child does something that doesn’t even seem possible.  I wrote this as a reminder for myself, and I’m excited to share it with you.  Parenting is tough, and I am far from perfect, but these 4 reminders sure have helped me on my parenting journey.

Don’t emotionally attach to a vision

My wife is an amazing Mom.  She understands this concept, and she reminds me of it often.  See, as parents we often times have a vision of what an event or situation is going to look like.  We spend a month planning their birthday party and we envision how it’s going to go and how amazing it is going to be.  Then the big day comes, and the birthday girl is cranky, she doesn’t like the outfit you picked out for her, she thinks the cake tastes yucky, and the decorations keep falling down because Dad bought the cheap tape.

With kids, things almost never go as planned.

The kids just want to have fun.  They don’t really care how much time you put into it because time doesn’t really mean much to them.  They don’t really care that you spent x amount of dollars on this party or on this vacation because money doesn’t really much to them either.

As parents, expecting a day to go a certain way can lead to disaster.  Of course, kids needs structure in their lives, but as parents, we also need to be able to go with the flow.

Don’t emotionally attach to a vision of how things should go, instead, savor the present moment.

By emotionally attaching to a vision we will almost certainly be disappointed in some way because things never go as planned.  Just embrace the present moment, provide a little structure, and savor all the surprises and randomness that comes with being a parent.

Our spoken words become their inner voice.

As parents, we generally understand this, especially when it comes to keeping them safe.  If we drill into their little minds enough times to “look both ways before crossing the street” or “don’t touch the stove it’s hot” or in the case of my son “don’t dive head first off the couch” eventually our voice will be heard without us being around and they will make the right decision.  At least, that’s the goal.

But we often neglect this concept when it comes to things like their creativity, their curiosity, or their self-esteem.

The words we say to our children as they are learning, as they are attempting new things, or as they are expanding their comfort zone, have huge impacts.  The words we say without thinking will become the voice in their little heads next time they attempt something.  Mindset by Carol Dweck is an amazing book to learn more about this.  Mindset can be found in the Book Recommendations tab

Our world is big, theirs is small.

This advice seems to apply more to younger kids (I have a 5 and 2-year-old), but I think there is value in it for many ages.

Our worlds are big.  See, every day we have a million thoughts running through our heads about how to pay the bills, how to reach our goals, how to deal with that coworker that always seems to say the wrong thing, how to stop justifying eating so many warm cookies because it’s cold outside, and so on.

Our children’s worlds are very small.

I was running late for work one day and my daughter asked me to play Barbie with her.  I told her I loved her but that I had to go to work, and that I would play with her when I got home.

When I came home that night after a crazy day at work, my daughter hugged me and quickly asked me if I was ready.  She had Barbie dolls in hand, and it still took me a minute before I even realized what she was asking.  She took something I said in passing and she held on to it all day long.

In our big world, seemingly inconsequential interactions with our kids can easily be pushed down into the “no big deal” category of our own mind.  But in their tiny world, our conversations have a huge impact.

Parenting 101 teaches us to have empathy with our children.  A big part of doing that is trying to understand their perspective and realizing that their world is so small.

The test comes before the lesson

One of the few universal truths in the world is that parenting is hard.  It’s beautiful and fulfilling, but it’s also full of firsts and at times, those firsts are hard.  Remember, while your newborn grows into a toddler, then a child, tween, teen, and on into adulthood – every first for that child is also a first for you as a parent to that child.

It’s hard because it’s new!  There isn’t a true dress rehearsal for parenting.  Academically, we study material and then we are tested on what we learned.  In parenting the test comes out of nowhere, and we learn the lesson in hindsight (most of life works this way).

Babysitting, being an Aunt or Uncle, having pets, these are all great preparation for parenting, but nothing truly prepares you for 3 a.m. diaper changes, the sounds of crying when you are incredibly sleep deprived, your shirt becoming a paper towel to dirty hands and snotty noses, the first day of school, their first date, the fear of injury as you watch them play sports, and so on.

We all experience these emotions in some way, but it’s just different when it’s your own child.

Understanding that the test comes before the lesson gives us permission as parents to stop trying to be perfect all the time, and to forgive ourselves for not always knowing what to do.  It’s ok to feel overwhelmed and confused at times.  You are taking a test without the study material!

Having said all this, I still feel the most important advice any parent can receive is to enjoy every second of it.

I’m not a perfect Dad, far from it.  This article is a reminder for me as much as it is for you.  I share this article with humility, respect, and a deep love and appreciation for all the parents out there trying to be the best they can be.

Make it a great day,

Kevin

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Sources used for this post: Mindset by Carol Dweck.  More information on Mindset by Carol Dweck can be found on the Book Recommendations tab.

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