Parenting has a ton of nuances.
You’re doing it even when you’re not doing it. You’re doing it, especially when you’re not doing it because little eyes are watching you. And also, you’re practicing those characteristics you’ll call on later when you are parenting.
It’s not the big moments, but the incremental tangles and triumphs that lead to what you become as a parent – and what direction your child takes as a result.
This list could have been 55 things, but I kept it to five. Let’s talk about it. Feel free to add to these five, or bring up an observable aspect of your own. Parenting has changed my life and shaped what I’ve become as a coach and a writer and so much more.
I see these things in my kids, but also in those I coach and even little rugrats you cross paths with at Target or Trader Joe’s or Trinity Church.
These are five I’ve by no means mastered or even conquered a corner of. But I know they’re important – like green beans and smoke alarm batteries – and isn’t that a big part of the battle anyway?
It’s cool when I get the younger sibling of a former player. They’re like their brother or sister, but different. Like a burrito from a different restaurant. It’s important to recognize that. One mom recently talked to me about her second son coming to my team.
“He’s not Brendan*,” she said about Kameron*. “He just doesn’t have the talent or drive his brother does.”
Only, I’d seen him really busting it in practice. Who knew what Kameron could do if he could just walk the soccer path on his own? Well, a hat trick, maybe. That’s exactly what he did in his first game. Three goals!
*-names changed, of course. Or are they?
Do this: Tell your kid you have their back. And then have it. Forever.
It’s the next step of unconditional love.
Believing in your child might not bring all the goals she sets. Not having confidence in her might hinder her from believing she can. We know how gratifying someone’s faith in us has on our psyche. Imagine that’s from a parent you love and admire.
It builds early on when we encourage kids to take chances and give their best. They remember that stuff.
Do this: Ask your child what their expectations are. If they’re low, ask why. Maybe share a story from your childhood in which you were able to exceed your own expectations.
I challenged Hayden and Camdyn and their belief in mermaids. You’ve never seen a mermaid, have you? So why believe? It took a moment, but Hayden delighted in answering, You’ve never seen the Rockies win the championship, have you? So why believe?
Touche, kid, touche.
Our mermaid-Rockies conversation was a fun one. A child can sense that you anticipate good outcomes (it won’t rain for the party, we’ll get there in time, you’ll make new friends), and it becomes more common in their mindset, too.
Do this: When something goes wrong, find the positive. If plans for a fun day get canceled, frame it as a chance to do something else they really wanted to do instead.
It’s best when we display it ourselves.
We have bad days. So do kids. Give them a break. I’m not saying don’t hold them accountable, but understand. Sometimes it’s a rough week in class. Sometimes it’s a kid who has trouble getting a sweater over her head. Life can become frustrating.
When a kid acts out, I try to see if they’re good first – if something has put them in a bad way. We can tackle the tough stuff together.
Do this: Get on a kid’s level and ask, what’s going on? before you growl about how it’s not cool to hurl a bowl across the floor. At least give the kid a chance to vocalize before it’s an automatic trip to timeout/taking their phone.
5-TIMES TO SAY ‘NO’
This is the toughest for me. I’d drive all night to make sure my girls are delivered anywhere safely. Sometimes, it’s not feasible. We can’t say yes to every whim, especially. If it works, I’m behind you, I’ll say.
there’s that line between moving heaven and earth for a kid and not being able to do something, they have an understanding – and appreciation – for not only what we do for them as parents, but that sometimes we simply can’t.
It also helps to make plans a group effort. If it seems a parent is doing all the work – making plans, packing snacks, looking up schedules – we’re more a servant than a leader. Get them involved in invested if it’s something they want to do.
Do this: Be sure a child knows the logistics. We’ll have to get up early or This means we won’t be back in time for practice – what would your coach say? Sometimes, I’ve found, the ‘no’ comes from the kid when they weigh the consequences.
What do you think? Have examples you’ve seen of these five as a parent? Have any that you’d add to the list?
Yup. That covers it. Guideline six is something like “See above for when children become adults” or “Adjust above for when children become adults” or is that “You don’t stop being a parent when children become adults but all the guidelines change because parenting an adult is almost tougher because adults aren’t children yet they will always be your babies.” So says the mom whose baby is in boot camp and realizes he’s all grown up, but wants to hug him and remind of all those things that are important in life: make friends, change socks frequently, floss—you know. Sigh. The parenting switch doesn’t automatically flip once they leave the house.
Kids now are like when you see the baby geese but they’re bigger now, not quite the same feathers as their parents, but bigger, you know? And they can do things but they lack the experience and wisdom. They don’t always want our experience and wisdom, but if they do, we have it. Other times, they have to go and get their own. And we have to know when to let go and let them.
It doesn’t matter if they’re in goal or in boot camp, though, they are our kids!
Do you think they remember that—that they will always be our kids, no matter how big, how successful, how older? A nudge call out reminder😉
I think they learn this more as they get older!
these are a wonderful list, Eli. all are so important. I guess I’d say, ‘know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em’ when just letting some things go )
Thanks, beth – I wish I realized all these the whole time, but I didn’t. Holdin’ them and foldin’ them is exactly how we should describe it all!
You are such a wonderful parent, Eli, and that always comes through in your posts. Also I love that you have these really deep, meaningful conversations with your kiddos. It’s shaping them to be amazing young adults.
I am kind of sad that there are parents who preface that boy #2 isn’t the same as boy #1. Uhm, like duh. No two snowflakes are ever made the same, but that doesn’t mean that one is less than the other in any way shape or form. Maybe that’s not what this mother was implying, but I feel like it’s not a nice way to do an introduction, IMO. That said, I love your metaphor of children as burritos.
And your daughter’s response to Mermaids is GOLD.
Thanks Charlotte. I never know what’ll happen when we stop and talk, me and these girls. They’ve helped shape me into a better adult.
I could even see a parent emphasize a child’s strengths, or virtues, not lack of skill or drive. I grew up with negative bias and it’s a tough tape to destroy.
Why put limitations on a kid? I once told Hayden I felt she’d one day own a business. Wouldn’t you know it: She’s about to pursue a degree in business. I’m not saying I’m why; but it’s better than telling her she won’t make it.
You should have seen Hayden’s glee as she made her mermaid point!
Yes to all of these. Especially the saying no part. It’s especially hard when your kid has been sick for several days and you want to move heaven and earth to make him feel better. But sometimes we have to be the tough guy. Love this so much friend!
Thanks, Beth. Saying no is tough, but saying yes to everything is devastating. It’s one thing to want a child to feel better – it’s another to want to give them everything, just to spoil them.
Tough love is good love. So glad you liked this!
Understanding good kids have bad days is paramount. Great list!
Understanding good grown-ups have bad days is as paramount as understanding it for kids, too. Glad you liked this, Mimi!
Where were you and your wisdom years ago when I needed it?!? I was guilty of comparing my boys, especially when they were teenagers. Fortunately I saw the light, and like to think I’ve made my amends to all of them.
I was still racking it up, Kathy! It took a while. I used to say words the way Madison did as a baby until she told me, “no daddy – you say it right.” I never did that again!
We’ve all seen the light, my friend.
Such a great list. No. 1 is so important. Being compared to others as a child is something that can sting many years later and I don’t think everyone realizes this.
Your daughters are fortunate to have such a loving and sensitive father for their dad.
Thanks, Anthea. Unconditional love rocks the house. If only we could remember to laud their strengths, not the kids’ weaknesses.
I’m fortunate to have these kids to teach me!
Little Guy graduated from Gr. 8 last night. Today I wrote about shopping for grad clothes (his, not mine…too many tears shopping for mine). lol I really struggled with tolerance and optimism that trip, but it had a happy ending. (And a lot of secret eye rolling – both of us!) 😉
You need to write about the art of secret eye rolling! This could unite the world.
Age is just a number!