If you’re lucky, it might take only 40 years to master this parenting thing. My kids are 30 and 34 and we still have our moments. Master parent? I’m always learning, applying, reevaluating and course correcting… and most of that is about me!
We laugh about children not coming into this world with an owner’s manual. But what if they did? Do you believe everything would go smoothly?
The process of raising children begins with trial and error. Soon you develop a sense of what is most effective and customize for each child. The results may not seem fair to them, but the goal is to give each one what s/he needs to grow and thrive. That takes an open mind, flexibility and a big dose of courage.
Sometimes there are small wrinkles and even train wrecks. Why? We are not machines. We are not playing a game with specific rules, rewards and penalties.
We are human, and humans are imperfect and unpredictable. We are easily influenced by emotions, beliefs and perceptions.
Logic and reason are all well and good; however, when something is triggered in you or your child, watch out. If your child believes he’s not good at something, no amount of praise will make a difference. If you’ve had a long and frustrating day, even the hint of an attitude can set you off. Sometimes we are strong, and other times we feel fragile. No manual can accommodate all this.
The structure of the family impacts how children and parents grow.
Four children growing up in the same home will respond to life differently. They’re impacted by birth order, their parents’ growing experience, expertise, and exhaustion. There’s no comparison between the experience of an only child and one with siblings. Inside and outside the home, our world evolves and carries us along.
No two children are exactly the same.
I believe that each of us is born with a certain temperament that impacts how we adapt and grow. And while we are capable of change, we are who we are at our core.
I was a quiet child, more comfortable with adults than with my peers. In social groups I was on the sidelines. At 16, I saw that while I was in a social setting, I wasn’t socializing, and made a conscious decision to change that.
As an adult, I can hold my own, but the truth is that I still prefer small, intimate groups. Being alone is fine, too. So while I have adapted and acquired some great skills, the child in me is always with me.
Our upbringing and experiences program us with fears, triggers, and protective behaviors. The trick is recognizing when we’re in one, and deciding to move out of it. We can create a manual of awareness, tools and strategies to move us along.
With our children, time and experience will help us develop appropriate and effective responses for each one… and hopefully, they will start their own journey of reflection and growth.
Be patient with yourself and your kids. This parenting gig never ends, nor does our growth as parents. Becoming a master parent? It’s a journey, not a destination.