When I became a parent—or rather, as soon as I was visibly pregnant—everyone seemed to have advice for me. Whether I asked for it or not, I was inundated with other people’s opinions about childbirth, breastfeeding, sleeping, strollers, soothers, baby carriers, bouncy chairs, tummy time, etc. Although I have been on the receiving end of much (oh, so very much) unwanted advice, I have also heard some stellar pieces over the seven years I’ve been a parent.
Here are four gems that have stuck with me, informed how I parent, and are pieces of advice I am truly thankful for.
Kids Need To Experience Their Own Emotional Milestones: As much as I don’t want to see my kids get hurt, be disappointed, get frustrated, or feel anger, I need to let them experience their own emotional milestones without trying to make these difficult situations go away. Instead, I’m trying to teach them coping skills and ways to process their circumstances. A wide range of emotions is the reality of life. As much as I'm tempted, if I bubble wrap my kids I know it will come back to haunt them—and me—in the years to come. But through supporting them as they learn to deal with certain emotions, I hope they’ll be able to cultivate a deeper understanding of themselves, and learn healthy ways to cope in difficult times.
Only Make Promises You Can Keep: It’s tempting to make a promise for later that will get me out the door on time or that will help avoid a monumental temper tantrum, but if I make promises that I don’t keep, I risk my kids learning that they can’t rely on me. The person who gave me this advice modeled it so well with her children that I’ve adopted her line. “I would like to say yes, but I don’t want to make a promise I can’t keep. Let’s revisit this later when the time is right.” It has helped me immensely and I hope that my children know they can take me at my word.
Don’t Compare: It’s so easy to look at other kids and compare them to mine. This baby sleeps through the night, that toddler walked at ten months, this kid never ever fusses in public, that kid eats everything on his plate, this kid goes to bed without a struggle, that kid knows how to count to 100, this kid started to read chapter books at age five, and that kid is a faster runner than his mum. It can be crazy-making if we compare. Because, as I know (or keep re-learning), there will always be people who are stronger at certain skill sets than I am, just as I might excel in areas that other people don’t. My kids are their own individual personalities, with strengths and weaknesses just like all of us. The more I accept and embrace them for who they are—not for who I want them to be—the more they will feel confident and supported in being fully and completely themselves.
Let Yourself Make Mistakes: We’ve all done things as a parent that, upon reflection, weren’t necessarily the wisest of choices. I’ve lost my temper at little things that weren’t really a big deal, I’ve had expectations of my kids that far exceeded their ages or capabilities, I’ve pushed the limits of bedtime and messed with a schedule that worked. But through all of these choices, I’ve learned, and I make a point of telling my kids when I’ve made a mistake. I view parenting—like life—as a continual work in progress. And I hope my kids see that it’s okay to make mistakes, because that is how we figure out what works in life.
How about you? Have you had any great advice since becoming a parent?
If you’d like to hear about what I’ve learned from some of my other mistakes, read how I almost didn’t listen to my daughter, or the results of my happiness study. I’ve even discovered a few things about love.