Parenting can be a touchy subject to write about. While many may seek advice, if they hear something that does not exactly jive with their mindset, they may get easily offended. Similar to working in education, parenting is one of the most challenging, but most rewarding jobs in the world. Managing mini humans who very quickly develop a mind, attitude and style of their own, and quite often push you to the limit, is not an easy task. However, seeing them grow and watching them learn is truly a beautiful thing!
I am in no way a parenting expert. My own kid stays up after the average bed time, during busy times (like when I’m writing this blog!) he gets more screen time than he probably should, and on those very long days sometimes there is no bed time story, and instead two stories are promised for the following day. There is no parent handbook and we all do our best (even on the long days!). However, meeting with countless families through the years as an educator and counselor, there are a few reoccurring themes which always seem to have similar outcomes – ASSUMING being the first!
I have a hard time thinking of the word “assume” without thinking of the common phrase that goes along with it! Not that the phrase holds true; however, when we assume we may ruin relationships or we may fall short of providing our kids the appropriate supports.
While we do make accurate assumptions such as our kids will learn to walk on their own or our kids will learn to talk eventually, there are some assumptions which may not be so accurate. If your child is in middle school or older, think about the times you have thought, “He should know how to be organized by now” or “She should have known that was not going to work out well.” Though the obvious comes across as obvious to us, it is usually through experiences, whether they be good or bad, where we learn life lessons. Also, although our kids may need to fail at times, as parents there are things where we need to teach our kids directly, so they do not fail unnecessarily.
When I taught second grade I would introduce each area of the classroom and even each material students were to use through a process called guided discovery. “What is this item? A pencil. How do we hold a pencil? What do we use a pencil for? What are things we do not do with a pencil? What do we do when we see a pencil that is not ours, or when it is on the floor? What do we do when the pencil gets so little we can’t hold it right anymore?” It may sound mundane to spend 15 minutes asking these questions of pencils, erasers, crayons, scissors, etc. However, when you spend time to lay the foundation at the beginning of the year (or when your kids are young), in the middle of the year (or when your kids get older) while they may need some reminders, the reminders may be shorter, and the behaviors may be changed more quickly because the groundwork has already been done.
Our kids need to be directly taught, retaught, and need to be provided different strategies throughout the year on concepts such as:
how to be, become and stay organized
what is time management, what does it look like, and how do you master it
how to be a good friend and what to do when those around them are not being good friends, or are unkind towards them
what to do when they are stressed and feel like they cannot handle it all.
These are common themes that at times parents and educators alike become baffled over (understandably so!). We must remember while these mini humans grow, they are still children for a long time before they become adults.
Along with not assuming kids know how to do the obvious, we should be aware how quick or slow we are to believe or accuse our kids of some behaviors. Before believing our kids are guilty by association, or innocent until proven guilty, take the time to listen, without judgment or interruptions. A colleague’s son was once being accused of mean mistreating behavior in school by another parent. When she came to me for advice she was livid. I told her before handing him over a plate of consequences, to simply ask if anything happened with the named peer and to listen to his version of the story without accusation. The next day my colleague informed me she was glad she gave her son the chance because after speaking with him and another parent, the first story she heard was completely wrong and she found out her son had been wrongfully accused.
Vise versa, there may be times where we are quick to believe our kids without having all the details of the situation. We want to be sure we listen to all parties involved so we do not feel embarrassed if our kid is not being honest. When confronting a challenging situation, give your child the benefit of the doubt to tell their version of a story, and of course keep in mind kids will be kids and may fib from time to time.
Let’s give our “mini humans” the opportunity to be treated the way we would like to be treated. Not only are we then fair and kind to them, but we also foster an honest and caring relationship with our kids, and teach them how to be kind and empathetic to others.
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Counselor De Jesus
Vanessa De Jesus Guzman is a former teacher, school counselor and licensed associate counselor serving children and families in the northern New Jersey area. To learn more visit www.freetobemindful.com.