When we need them most, life lessons seem to have a way of finding us.
Sometimes a simple shift in perspective is all we need to create a powerful impact on our relationships with our kids.
So, here are six parenting lessons I’ve learned on my journey, which have brought me closer to my son and made this parenting gig a whole lot easier and more joyful. I hope they may help you too.
1. Childhood is a short season.
Our children are little for such a short season. Before we know it our babies are walking and talking, getting their own snacks and calling Nanna on Facetime.
We blink and they’re five and then twenty-five and we sound like our own parents when we ask, “How did you get so tall?”
So, create memories. Prioritise experiences. Be intentional in your choices. Hold them a little tighter. Linger a little longer.
Because short of finding a loophole in which I can press an imaginary pause button and stay in the wonder of my son’s littleness the best solution I can find is to simplify…which brings me to…
2. Sometimes doing nothing leads to the best of something.
Simplify, simplify, simplify and see where the magic of your child’s imagination leads.
Revel in the messiness of your days.
Surrender to the chaos of new motherhood.
Forget about all the doing, the buying, the organising, the scheduling, the enriching and focus on simply being with your child.
Opt out of the crazy race towards adulthood that childhood has become.
Find a way to say YES to your kids as often as you can.
Create space for your kids to follow their passions and to define their own dreams.
This is their childhood and in our fast-paced, results-driven society, it’s our job to protect it and make sure they have one!
3. Play and playfulness are so undervalued in our culture.
When I read Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen it shifted my perspective and helped me change the way I approach challenges with my son.
Playfulness is the shortest distance between us and our children.
Have a sense of humour.
Risk public embarrassment often – I promise you’ll be surprised at how little it happens and how much others delight in you delighting in your child.
Be silly and have fun. If we can let go of our egos that often tell us that we need to be the ‘serious adult’ and just lighten up, life with kids can flow so much easier.⠀
Play and playfulness are tools I use every day – I don’t know how I’d parent without them.
4. Let go of the need to be right.
A counselor once said to me, “you can be right or you can be in a relationship, you can’t always have both”.
So often, especially with kids, it is better to be kind than to be right.
It’s not a matter of being permissive or letting kids do whatever they want all the time – we have a responsibility to set and hold firm boundaries with loving kindness when they test their limits.
But, sometimes our culture asks far too much of little kids. So, let’s meet our kids where they are and prioritise kindness, compassion and connection.
5. Stop labelling
Rainy weather isn’t bad, it’s just is.
Feeling upset isn’t bad, it just is.
A wakeful baby isn’t bad, it just is.
A tantrum isn’t bad, it just is.
We complain about other people judging us. We feel victimised when they do it, yet we do it all the time without realising it. We judge our children – positively or negatively – for being too slow or too distracted or too dreamy. And we judge ourselves – constantly – for our perceived shortcomings as parents or partners or daughters.
One of the best antidotes I’ve found is the power of observation, to simply say what you see, without any judgment. To narrate your day as it is in the present moment, without inferring the reasons for somebody’s actions, especially kids. Why? Because they always surprise us – assume your child has the best of intentions.
It takes practice. But it’s worth it. When we let go of the idea that we need to assess things that don’t matter, it gives us the space for those things that do.
6. Little things matter to little people.
Sometimes the things our kids want seem trivial and unimportant in our productive adult world.
But to them, their things mean the world.
Their toys, their dreams, their play, their passions and their emotions don’t hold any lesser value just because they belong to a smaller person.
When they stumble, physically or emotionally, they don’t need to hear “you’re ok” or “nothing to cry about”.
They need to know that their emotions are valid.
That when they’re hurt we will sit with them and allow their tears to fall.
That we will always hold the space for them.
That we are their safe place and with us, they always belong, no strings attached.