Someone asked me, after reading my last blog entry, what I thought the most important thing in parenting would be. This person found that my approach was “refreshing” and helped her to relax more about her own parenting skills.
There is no one most important thing. There is no quick little trick one can do. It is more of a long combination of things that sometimes work when woven together with care. So here are a few of the strands…and again I do not in any way think that I am an expert on this. But these have worked for me in the past, and more importantly for my children.
- Show up. I don’t care what a person’s work schedule is or what a person’s relationship status is with the other parent of the child. Show up. No excuses. Make your kid your priority. That means that whether or not you feel like it, you just do it. Whether or not you enjoy the selected activity, you show up for it. Believe it or not, I learned this from my own father…as messed up as he was. He was the type who would not want to attend the Xmas pageant that I was in, or the honour choir performance or the drama production. So often he would not go. I felt that…deeply. And then when he would go (most likely because my mother, who always DID show up, hauled him there by the ear) I felt that as well. It was not a great feeling because he was not authentically there. He was there out of obligation. And often after whatever the performance was, he would find some way to insult my abilities. So I learned from my mother the importance of showing up, and from my father I learned about what it feels like to a kid when a parent doesn’t show up, or when they show up without any desire to be there. So SHOW UP.
- Give them a “Yes I Can” outlook on life. Yes, we do need to be cautious around open flames and such. That is a no-brainer. But when it comes to tasks and to projects and to trying new things…we need them to know that not only can they try this out but that likely they will ROCK that thing (whatever it may be). This builds a sense of self-confidence. At the same time, it is important to not push them into activities that YOU want them to be in just because YOU either always did that or always wanted to. When my kids were studying music I wanted them to have a love for music. This did not necessarily mean that they had to toil over their music practices. I would definitely be there to take them to their classes (this particular one was designed for parental participation) and I would help them with their practices, but I did not want them to stress out about it. Stress is why I quit my music lessons when I was young. I wanted them to want to plunk something out on the piano as they breezed by on their way through the room in whatever other play they were into. And mostly I just wanted them to know that they could try it out and see how it felt.
- Let go of all the stupid gender rolls that our society bombards us with. If my kids wanted to play with trains, trains it was. If they wanted to play with dolls, dolls it was. There is NOTHING that is off limits when it comes to exploration in play. The more exploration a child is permitted, the more intelligent on all levels they become.
- Encourage creativity. We live in a world where companies like Lego and Play Mobile offer a vast amount of sets of things to create a vast amount of money in their pockets. Although I like stuff that encourages kids to play and to build, I have issue with someone who charges hundreds of dollars for a thing that is built and then only does one particular thing. Get a starter kit. Then let the kid have the empty facial tissue boxes and empty toilet paper rolls and empty plastic containers and see what they can come up with to build. And let then get their bony little butts outside to play in nature. It is amazing how quickly a hut gets built out of seemingly nothing.
- Be honest with them. This does not mean to be hurtful in your honesty. It just means that you will be honest with them about things, people, situations etc and that this can be communicated at their level of understanding. This way they learn that you will always be straight with them and that they can come to trust that. Again, it builds their own sense of self-confidence because it shows them that your opinion may not match that of the masses and that you are okay with it not doing so because you are going to be authentic and not turn into a sheep that gets herded around by public opinions. This leads into being able to communicate that “I don’t care that everyone is doing it or that everyone has one, you don’t need it and I am not putting my hard earned money into it.” This teaches them the value of the dollar and respect for the energy that it takes for their parent, and later for them, to earn their living. It stops the sense of entitlement in its tracks.
- Do what you say you are going to do. Speak your truth and live it. Non of this “do as I say and not as I do” crap that so many implement into their parenting. Mixed messages are what will surely mix up a kid. And when that happens we have no right to feel indignant or angry that they made an unhealthy choice for themselves.
- Let them find their OWN spirituality…if they have one. It is alright to practice whatever it is that you practice, but do NOT assume that your child has to do the same thing in the same way. There are many paths up Sacred Mountain, each of which leads to the top. So if they choose a different spiritual path, then at least they HAVE a path.
- Don’t expect them to do what you do for a living. There are STILL farmers that I know who expect their children to farm when what their child actually wants is to do something like becoming an astrophysicist. For heaven’s sake. DON’T HOLD THEM BACK.
- Accept whomever they choose to love. This also means accepting your child for whomever he or she may be. Too often conflict gets played out because someone’s choice in a “special friend” or a “life partner” does not match their parent’s expectations of what their child’s life is supposed to look like. This does NO ONE any good. Love has no limitations. So learn quickly to accept whomever your child loves and allow yourself to bring him or her into your heart as well. Trust that you actually DID your job as a parent and modelled to your child what a healthy relationship looks like. Then know that this is what they will be going for. And know that it also may take them a few shots at it to find the perfect fit. This does not mean that you hold your love for their current partner back until such time as your child comes to their senses. So what if it doesn’t last? Love that person anyway. Everyone in the world needs more love. You do too. So if you love that person then he or she will come to love you back, regardless of where the relationship ends up.
- Last but not least, show your child love and affection. It does not matter what gender they are, they all need it. And distribute that love and affection evenly amongst siblings. Some kids are more challenging than are others. LOVE THEM. Let them know as well that you are proud of them. Remember, no matter what happens, YOU chose to have a child. They did not choose to be your child. That is something that happened TO them. So do your best to love them, respect them, and help them to have as happy and fulfilled a life as they can.
So there you go. Just a few thoughts on the matter. I hope that helps.