Being a parent is hard work.
Don’t worry; I’m not going to start listing all the things we do as parents, because that’s not the hard part – or rather, the hardest part. The hardest part is trying to ensure your kids learn life skills; the types of skills that will be ingrained in them, and stay with them throughout their existence. Ones that they look back on and one day realize why we thought it was important to teach them, or guide them.
Those skills include (but are not limited to):
Negotiation – I think my kids have this skill already. They know how the give and take and know that compromise can work for both sides to end up feeling happy and satisfied with the outcome. Even if that means that outcome is a cookie and a clean playroom.
Decision Making – This is something we are working on. The Little Bird often seems to get overwhelmed when it comes to making a decision, regardless if it’s about her breakfast choice, clothes to wear or book to read at the end of the day. I think that part of the blame lies with too many choices, and part of the blame lies with her confidence. We’re working on that. She’ll get there, I have no doubts.
Confidence – This skill takes many forms and it is something that I think you never stop learning. Having the confidence to do something on your own, having the confidence in yourself or having confidence to speak up and defend yourself are things that come with time. Knowing it is okay to speak up, try something and understand your self-worth isn’t something I expect my three and five year old to have now, but I hope to foster that inside of them. I want them to be confident girls, have assurance in themselves and their abilities now and throughout their lives. I hope that D and I have started fostering this by teaching them to do things on their own, like going on the potty or reading on their own, writing their names, and standing up for themselves against another kid. There will be more challenges as the years go on, but this is something I hope my daughters have in themselves and in each other.
Problem Solving – Figuring out a solution to a problem, no matter how small or how big is important. While it frustrates me to have somebody give up or not try at all, I hope that my kids can learn the steps to problem solving. I think that involves some of the above skills such as confidence and decision making, and of course it also involves experience. The more chances you have to solve a problem, the more confident you become in trying to solve other problems.
Collaboration – While they are independent creatures as babies, kids learn to play together and understand that there is a lot of fun to be had when there are more ideas in the mix. And while bad things can also happen when there are too many opinions, there is a point where working together can have great results. I hope my kids understand that when they play together, and later on when they have group projects in school and cross-functional teams at work. Learning to work with others and collaborate for the greater cause is an important skill.
Empathy – I am a strong believer that pity is sometimes a wasted emotion. Unless you are doing something to help somebody else, you really shouldn’t feel pity. I’d rather see action to change a situation. To me, that is different than feeling sympathy. Both of these emotions are important and while I know that both my girls are both sympathetic and empathetic, I hope that they can learn to balance those emotions with the ability to step in to help and make a difference.
Flexibility – This is a hard skill to understand as a little kid, I get that. When you are three and five, you just want something when you want it, how you want it and where you want it. Waiting isn’t an option. Otherwise it is accompanied with many tears and the occasional foot stomp. I hope to teach my kids to be flexible, patient and understanding. Stuff happens in life, and sometimes we need to be a little flexible in how, when and where we get something. I ensure that I follow through on my promises, so they learn to be flexible. That while they may have to wait until tomorrow, or the treat they want isn’t what I have, they are learning that if they can be a little flexible, that it can have a good result in the end.
Integrity – The jury is still out on how to teach this to my kids. I think this may be a learn-by-example type of skill. It is important to keep promises, act with the utmost respect, and be polite, respectful and honest. But integrity is all of that and more. So for now, we’ll start with the basics of keeping your word and no shady business. I don’t like it when people (little people included) are sneaky. I would much rather have them ask me for a treat, than try to sneak one. My kids know that lying and stealing are not tolerated, ever.
So, like I said, it’s hard being a parent. There are no handbooks, people. But sometimes I wish there were.
Most of the lessons we try to teach our kids happen so quickly, that we don’t have time to bucket them in the above categories. I just want them to turn out to be good people. Have skills that can transfer from their social lives to their school lives to their business lives. And if we don’t lay the groundwork for a good foundation now, how can we expect to have a solid skillset later on?
My husband and I may not have all the answers, but we are trying. We are challenged daily, finding a balance between the ways we were parented versus the ways that we read about how we should parent. The only think I know is that our gut tells us the right answers, and I hope that I can teach them the skills to have their guts lead the way too.