What is the most valuable thing you learned from being a parent?
I think I paid closer attention to my children than anyone else ever, in fact, I’ve told many people that the key to parenting is exactly that, paying attention. When you know what’s going on and you know your children, the rest isn’t rocket science. What that taught me that’s so valuable is how very different people are from each other and how they change over time. My son and daughter are very different people, wonderful in their own unique ways, with their own set of challenges, skills, and preferences. Maybe I should have known that’s how people are, but I never paid close enough attention to notice until it was my job to be a parent.
I began really listening to people in order to find out how they viewed the world, their work, and their ideas of fun and happiness. Not at just one point frozen in time, but how they changed as they grew older and wiser. It was particularly useful at work and as I got a deeper understanding of each person, I developed a sense for what they were not saying, leading eventually to being able to “read a room”, fill in the gaps, and help calm nerves. In some of the very large and critical projects, that saved as much time as it did wear and tear on people’s nervous systems.
Children move from phase to phase as they grow up, which is good because just about the time you were sick and tired of their current behavior, they change and go on to the next one. Each phase requires something different as a parent, sometimes cracking down, other times cheering on, but you need to always be listening and thinking for new ways to help. You also learn what’s important and what’s not. The importance usually involves really permanent, poor choices. But most bad choices are temporary in nature, just bumps, not cuts. Let them take their bruises and deal with the consequences. Dealing with little problems while they’re little teaches them to deal with the bigger ones that surely await.
The last thing to share is one of my favorite sayings, “No is a complete sentence.” As a parent, I really don’t have to explain why all the time. Life is full of choices, but whether you’re going to take out the trash isn’t one of them and I’m not going to argue about it. When I just say “No” you may not like it, but I’m not going to change my mind or elaborate. Perhaps giving you the chance to figure out why I said “No” is a good exercise, because life is full of telling yourself “No”.
There is nobody on Earth that loves and cares more about their children than their parents. If you think your parents are tough, just wait for life in the real world. No one wants you to be happier, successful, loved, and safe than your parents.