Here are 12 valuable parenting lessons I learned the hard way
- Parenting lessons #1. I wish I had let my son out of sight more than I did
- Parenting lessons #2. Don’t encourage their sense of entitlement
- Parenting lessons #3. Don’t stress over what others think
- Parenting lessons #4. Praise effort over results
- Parenting lessons #5. Defer more to your partner
- Parenting lessons #6. Set the rules first
- Parenting lessons #7. Teach by example
- Parenting lessons #8. Do more by doing less
- Parenting lessons #9. Allow them to manage their life
- Parenting lessons #10. Praise your kids for managing adversity
- Parenting lessons #11. Create a fight list
- Parenting lessons #12. Teach them what you know
Parents want to be perfect. I was no exception. As I attempted to be perfect, I learned 12 valuable parenting lessons the hard way. I also learned perfection is a myth.
I always go into reflection mode during summer—when it is vacation time. When my son was in school, the transition from one academic year to another always made me wonder—is he on the right track? What will be different this year?
Now that he is in college and is on the verge of completing his 5-year course, I ask myself the same question. I am also asking myself, have I done the right things? Have I been a good parent? Do I have any regrets?
While I don’t have any regrets, per se, I definitely wish I had done some things differently—in retrospect. You know how hindsight is—always 20/20.
Here are 12 valuable parenting lessons I learned the hard way
Parenting lessons #1. I wish I had let my son out of sight more than I did
When I was a child, I grew up in a joint family and the way I was monitored was nowhere near what we did with our son. Life was different then. Things are different now. And yet, I think I turned out fine. I wish we had let our son out of our radar more often. I know we worried about his safety thanks to all the stories we heard.
We now realize that it would have been okay to occasionally give him space to do his thing, get out into the area to explore it a bit. We didn’t have to know what he was up to every minute of the day. I am grateful that in spite of how we parented him, he’s okay. He has managed his life away from home for five years quite well.
Parenting lessons #2. Don’t encourage their sense of entitlement
In today’s world, most kids assume that they have the right to have or do a lot of things. Stay out late, go out whenever they want, won’t clean up after themselves, skip household chores . . . you know the list is endless. They grow up with a false sense of entitlement, they think they were born into all these things. They take life for granted.
It took me a while before I realized that our son could very well be that kid. I remember being shocked when he threw a tantrum for something. Fortunately, he was in the third grade and we drew up a schedule for his day—with his help—and made sure he earned whatever he wanted. He learned to save. He learned values. And he learned family is important. Most of all, he became kinder.
Here’s a fantastic book by Richard Eyre and Linda Eyre titled The Entitlement Trap: How to Rescue Your Child with a New Family System of Choosing, Earning, and Ownership
Parenting lessons #3. Don’t stress over what others think
It is only natural to worry what others think and for a parent, even more so. But some people can be really mean. They make you feel inadequate. When my son was in school, I would drop him off and pick him up every day. Most days I was dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans and I had no idea that I was the subject of gossip among a particular group of parents. This I came to know much later. What can I say? The truth is, I had 8 black t-shirts that were only slightly different in design and I really enjoyed wearing them.
Well, I do recall feeling bad about the gossip, the staring. But I did contemplate altering my wardrobe, my dress code. Too many people are quick to judge others and it can be a nightmare getting caught in that situation. Best thing to do? Not worry too much what others think. Valuable life lesson!
Parenting lessons #4. Praise effort over results
When our kids are young, we do tend to go overboard over the “good boy” for everything they do. When my son was around five, my Mom suggested that I stop doing that and focus on my son’s effort rather than the results. Golden advice! Endorsed by the then headmistress of the school. Every day, she encouraged the children by telling them to always do their best, focusing on their effort and not on who they are. This enables them to take more initiative, more risk. They learn more. And understand that success depends on effort, not just ability.
Parenting lessons #5. Defer more to your partner
Ah! This is my favorite lesson as a parent. There’s this tendency in households for moms, and sometimes dads to assume that they’re solely responsible for everything in the house. Different expectations, different parenting experiences. While one parent says yes to something, the other says no. Tension builds up, obviously.
After a couple of embarrassing instances, we prevented this by simply deferring to the other, especially when our son pestered us and tried our patience. We learned that we really don’t have to respond to every request our child made. We learned to say that we’d check with each other and decide—and our son learned we were on the same page.
Parenting lessons #6. Set the rules first
Rules are very important to have in place. When we got our first computer, we were all fascinated by the internet. So was our son. He’d beg for 30 minutes at the computer. And of course, we’d have a tough time getting him off it even after an hour. Stupid I know. We quickly learned—I mean decided—we needed to have some rules in place. If this, then that. We rewarded responsible behavior. And he appreciated us for that. It is funny, how, even today, at 22, he follows some part of the routine. Mission accomplished? So never make the mistake of not having rules in place.
Parenting lessons #7. Teach by example
Children see, children do, right? We constantly tell them to put down their devices and yet, we are guilty of not following the same advice. We are all slaves to our devices and spend far too much screen time. We need to switch from the do-as-I-say to do-as-I-do and teach by example, especially when we are parenting teens. We agreed, together, no devices during meals, no devices when we spend time together. It has worked and still works!
Parenting lessons #8. Do more by doing less
Rather than give children everything they want it is better to challenge them figure out things for themselves. It is also a great way to boost their self-confidence. By doing less, we do more for them. When our son was around 12, he wanted to buy a book. Just for fun, I told him I didn’t have the money to spare. I remember being shocked when he did some research for my friend and earned $15. Yep. Children do figure out ways when they are challenged, if they want it badly enough. Let them!
Parenting lessons #9. Allow them to manage their life
As parents, we tend to assume that certain things will not happen unless we do them. We hover. An example? Waking our kids up each morning, even when we know they can tell the time, set their own alarms. Didn’t we teach them to do that? Yeah, guilty! And, yet, we assume it is our duty to haul them out of bed.
Truth is, when we let them, children can do far better than we imagine. But only if we let them. We constantly remind them of the things they must do until they secretly think of it as nagging. We have to allow our kids to run their lives. We’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how capable we are.
Parenting lessons #10. Praise your kids for managing adversity
Ever noticed how the adage what you feed grows is so true of parenting? If we keep nagging our kids about their poor behavior, all we seem to get is poor behavior. I believe it is because we are anxious that our kids should be perfect. What humbug! I learned to be more observant and notice when our son coped with adversity—and praised him, thus encouraging him to build his resilience and confidence. And self-esteem.
Parenting lessons #11. Create a fight list
I learned this from my Mom. We keep getting into arguments especially as our kids grow up. Many things are minor and won’t matter ten minutes later. And there are things that do matter. Why not make two lists, one for things that matter, one for things that are just not worth arguing over? Things that matter? Keeping time commitments. Things that don’t matter? Messy room? Gradually, the aim is to put everything on the not worth arguing over list. I am glad to say it is doable.
Parenting lessons #12. Teach them what you know
In my growing years, I learned everything I knew from my Grandmother, my Mom and my Uncles. No internet, of course. If it was from a book, it was the library. These days, children can get their knowledge from so many sources. Their teachers, their peers and of course, Dr. Google. It seems like there isn’t much left for parents to teach. That’s not true, however. The joy of teaching the skills we have and passing on what we know is invaluable and something our kids will treasure.
I learned that it is really important to spend time teaching our kids basic cooking skills, talking to them about our family history, showing them how to fix things around the house and sharing tips and tricks about life. I remember how excited my son was when he first saw me replace the faucet in the bathroom. He was amazed we could handle that without calling the plumber. While helping our kids be more independent, we also strengthen our relationship with them. And earn their admiration. Yes, love it.
So that’s it. I could probably go on. As I enjoy saying, sometimes children make us better parents. We are blessed to have a loving relationship with our son today.
I’d love to know which of the above lessons you learned. Extra lessons always welcome!