Friday, September 20, 2013

ASK GAY: 2 pieces of Parenting Advice

Yay! Can I tell you how excited I am to be doing another "ASK GAY"??!
It's been too long, and I must admit, these are some of my favorite posts to write.
Kind of projects me into a completely made-up life that I sometimes like to pretend I live-- where people come to me for advice on a regular basis and in turn, we just get to chit chat!
I'd be good at that in real life!

Ok, so allow me to bust out the ASK GAY button and make this sesh begin officially...

If you could only pass on two pieces of parenting advice, what would they be? 

Ah ha! I love this question because it really made me narrow down and prioritize what I think is both important and most effective when it comes to parenting.

(Disclaimer: Before I start, I have to admit what I think one of the absolute hardest things about parenting is. And that is that your rarely really know if what you are doing is effective. Meaning, often times we don't see the results of our work. (I'm assuming that will come years down the road.) And the results of our work don't always represent whether or not we were doing the right/best thing. Meaning, if a kid turns out awesome, it isn't necessarily because he had awesome parents that were doing everything "right". And on the contrary, a kid can grow up to be a tyrant in spite of awesome parents who made some solid parenting decisions.)

Okay, with that disclaimer out of the way, I'm going to share the two lines of thought that have really helped me as a Mom.

1) Remember we are teachers.

Our primary job as parents is to teach them: we're teaching them how to take care of themselves, how to function socially, how to solve problems, how to get along with others, how to stick up for themselves, etc, etc, ETC! I mean, for real, the list does not end! We are teachers! And most important in that role as teachers is not as much to teach them what NOT to do, but more importantly, teaching them what TO do. Human nature is that we want to be doing something. So that's what we should focus on when parenting.

There are numberless influences telling the kids what not to do:
"Don't touch that!"
"Stop jumping on the bed!"
"Don't hit your brother!"
"Stop talking like that!"
"Don't throw eggs at cars!"

There's no shortage of people defining the rules as what NOT to do.
We need to set ourselves apart from that group and in addition to telling them what not to do, we need to teach them what TO do.

For example, when I would see my littles starting to draw on the table or chair or wall, I would ask them, "Where do we color?.... Yes, we only color on paper," and then help them draw on the paper. This acknowledges the fact that they want to draw (again, they want to be doing something) and then shows them a positive way to accomplish their intention.

Instead of simply yelling, "Don't hit your brother!", I try to offer a positive, more effective way of dealing with his frustration... "Use your words. Tell him you're mad. He doesn't know what you're mad about if you just hit him. Give him a chance to work with you." This technique acknowledges their intentions and/or frustrations, and then teaches them how to channel those intentions in a positive/effective way.

Imagine if you're kid's teacher walked around the class during writing time and was all, "STOP making your b's like that." With no further explanation. With no acknowledgement that he is trying really, really hard to express something, to make a's just that he often forgets what side that little circle goes on. Nope, none of that is offered, simply a demand to stop doing what he's doing. Obvious nonsense, right?!!
Food for thought!  

So #1- be a teacher.

2) Remember we're planting seeds.
This piece of advice came from my good friend, Anneli, and I've thought about it often. The idea of "planting seeds" has served as a great mediator when I'm faced with many a parenting situations. And let me tell you why.

Isn't parenting about telling your kid what to do and then they do it?
Success and failure is then very clearly lined out for you:
if they obey- success. If they don't- fail.
Fail as parents that is!
Well we'd all be failing parents if this were the measuring stick.
On this note, I think it is sometimes hard to determine what our expectations should be in relation to what we ask of our kids.
Do we have to be completely militant or a complete push over?

For instance, when you tell a kid to sit at the dinner table and don't move an inch, should our expectation be that they actually don't move for the rest of the meal? Do you struggle about what to do when they move all over and are up and running again?
I do.
I feel like I can be a military parent, or I can be a complete push over. 
And while neither of those titles are appealing to me, it used to feel like those were my options.
If I said, "Sit and don't move," I had to discipline if anything other than the specific demand was done. Or I felt like I had to completely ignore the fact that they didn't listen to a word I said-- in fact, did the exact OPPOSITE-- and we'd all continue on in our own little world.

Well, the idea of just planting seeds has merged the gap being militant and push over and helps in answering the question of appropriate expectations.
When I tell my kids something or ask them to do something, I am stating the ideal, thus planting a seed.
I don't have to expect them to right away achieve the ideal. (i.e.: use your words, don't hit, pick up your plate without me asking, be a good brother/sister, worry about yourself, etc.)  Each time, we can expect them to do a little better than they were doing before and that probably means not complying with 100% of what we asked them, but it means getting a little better than what we were getting before. 
That is improvement, which to me implies success! Moving in the right direction, baby!

 As they get older (think teenage years....), it might mean not complying at all. But we can still play a positive role by reiterating over and over the seed we're trying to plant. I hope that after repeating the ideal time and time again  that when the time comes when they're on their own, making their own decisions, the seed will have taken root and blossomed. 

What I love about both of these pieces of "advice" is that they are transferable to most situations- they aren't isolated to specific scenarios. Rather, they can be applied time and time again. The other thing I love is that they are both timeless principles. They can be applied to babies and teenagers alike.

So there they are!

And as a bonus, here's more good, simple advice!

What piece of advice would you pass on???

***if you have a question for ASK GAY, please email me at

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