We spend so much time of our young life in school learning the skills that are supposed to prepare us for the career we will have one day. But one thing I've always felt the least prepared for is the hardest job of all of them—how to be a good parent. No one teaches you how to deal with a toddler who has an unexpected tantrum or how to comfort a child when they wake up crying from a bad dream. Everyone knows how to make those cute babies but then we are left to fend for ourselves in figuring out what to do with them, how to talk to them, how to raise kids who will turn into good people (and not a-holes), and how to deal with every stage of life your kids go through…
Recently, my friend Audrey (who is one of the most present and creative parents I know) told me how she and her husband have an annual vacation where they go away for the week and spend the first two days without the kids to talk about how they are doing as parents. It's alone time for her and her husband but also a chance away from home to evaluate what's working and what's not in their parenting. Then they go pick up the kids and bring them back for the rest of the week for a family vacation all together. I love the fact that they assess themselves as parents because most of us just assume that if our kids are generally happy that we are doing a good job. It's like their annual review but for the job of parenting.
Audrey inspired me to re-think some of the ways in which Bob and I parent. We think we do the right thing most of the time but the right thing isn't always so clear and is ever-changing as Ruby gets older. She's had a hard time adjusting to her little sister lately and has been acting out because of it. On top of that, three has been the most challenging year yet for us. As we try and help her navigate her emotions, what upsets her, and how to talk to others, I often find myself getting impatient and demanding.
Whenever I find myself in a crossroads in an area of my life, it usually helps me to find a new book that might shed some new light on ways to do things that I may not have thought of. I've just started reading How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber. I'm only partway through, but so far it's helped change the way we talk to Ruby when she gets upset or when she's not listening. Instead of trying to immediately get her to stop reacting or to tell her not to do something, we're trying to be calmer and give her a chance to talk, too. It's been helping us to try and remember that she's just three and I can't always rationalize her behavior the way I would for an adult. In some ways it sounds so simple and obvious to let a kid tell you how they feel, but no one prepares you for how to react on the fly in various situations with kids when you need to act/think/respond quickly.
Parenting is one of those learn-as-you-go skills. There's no class, internship, or prep work that prepares you for the real stuff, the nitty gritty of it all. So, I'm trying my best to keep doing what works for us and our kids and also to take advice from books or trusted friends in areas where things aren't working so well.
Have you guys come across any life-changing parenting tricks/tips lately? If you're a parent, do you do assessments of yourself as parents?