Parenting is an ongoing, lifelong learning process. Just as your child makes mistakes while stumbling along, we as parents do too and quite frequently. As long as we step back and learn from them, these minor hurdles do their bit to make us better at parenting with time.
I consider myself lucky to have a large number of parent friends whom I meet quite frequently, thanks to the playing sessions of my little ones. On these occasions of dropping and picking up, we tend to get chatting for a few minutes every now and then over a cup of coffee (now who can say no to a weakness like that!). On these cuppa conversations, here are three bits of ‘learning from experience’ – parenting tips I would like to call them – which I gained from like-minded parents of kids like mine.
- Keep it simple and focus on what matters – simple, but significant.
It lies in the everyday tasks and activities that you do with your kids. Playing ball, washing the laundry and hanging it up to dry, watching a sport together, ordering in pizza or even making a messy homemade pizza in your own kitchen – these are simple and yet significant activities that can be a wonderful way to spend time together with your kids. Come to think of it, I have fond recollections of most of these back from my own childhood.
- Your children will follow your example, not your advice.
Parents will be parents; we’ll keep telling our kids to do a certain thing in a certain way and repeat ourselves not once, not twice, but zillions of times! Nothing wrong, especially since it comes naturally to us in front of our kids. But it helps to remember that kids learn best by example. When we are wrong or have messed it up, we should own up to our mistake and apologize. They will do it too. Reading before bedtime is for parents as well as kids. Mom has work on her computer but he shuts it down when bedtime is near; the kids will then also know they have a fixed duration of time for their online games and need to switch off the tablet once time is up. Dad cleans up the kitchen after meals; kids do their own share and clean up the dining table. The easiest way to reinforce good behavior in your kids is to show them the way to behave yourself.
- Let them be.
I know this particular point is easier said than done, but it tends to become very important especially in the younger years. One of the world’s leading child psychologists, Alison Gopnik has penned down a wonderful book called The Gardener and the Carpenter. To quote her: ‘The human mind is more like a hand than a Swiss Army knife. A human hand isn’t designed to do any one thing in particular. But it is an exceptionally flexible and effective device for doing many things, including things we might never have imagined.’ The key is to allow your kids to mold themselves into what they want to be, rather than us chiseling them into what we feel is right. Guide them along the way, definitely; but let them be what they want to, eventually.
Food for thought!