Things I Would Tell My Younger Self about Being a Parent
Published on: January 14, 2020
Sally is a children’s author, blogger, and an experienced mother. She shares her parenting insights with our readers.
By Sally Flint
This year our youngest daughter left home in Bangkok to go to university in the UK. Her sister left home two years ago and is now spending the third year of her university course as an Erasmus exchange student in Spain. My husband and I are very proud of both girls and are happy that they are in their own young words ‘living their best lives’.
There’s no denying though that we miss both girls terribly. As such we seek out and soak up the advice of other ‘empty nesters’ on how they have survived and even enjoyed the experience of their children leaving home. These parents speak with the wisdom of hindsight, the empathy of experience, and the humor of having ‘come out the other side’ relatively unscathed! It is in this vein that I share the following parenting advice with my younger self.
Be a Good Role Model
Small children copy the behavior of their mums and dads. If they see you being affectionate and caring as a family unit they will also demonstrate loving behavior. It sounds obvious but it is easy to forget just how significant a role model parents are. I would tell myself to keep in mind that children are little sponges. Of course, show your vulnerabilities and flaws to your children, but counter this by living the values you want your children to have.
Trust Your Instinct and Act on Concerns
Nobody knows a child like their parent does. Be a good listener of both what your child says and how they seem. An upset tummy or unwillingness to go to school may be your child’s way of demonstrating that they are worried about something. I would tell my younger self to trust my instinct and always act on concerns raised.
Earn the Respect of your Child’s Teacher
Let your child’s teacher know that you trust and value their expertise. I’d remind my younger self that teachers are, during the day in loco parentis for your child and you should work as a team to support their wellbeing.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
It doesn’t matter if your party bags are less impressive than the kids down the street, or if your child’s home learning project leaves a bit to be desired. I would tell my younger self not to waste valuable hours, days and weeks worrying about things that are ultimately unimportant and will have no bearing on your children’s future.
Do Sweat the Big Stuff
Sometimes when your children have their friends over to play, the friend’s values may be at odds with your own. You might feel that the visiting children can lack good manners or are plain mean. ‘Naughtiness’ can be defined as the point at which parents no longer find children’s behavior acceptable but everyone has their own definition of what ‘acceptable is’. With this in mind, I would tell my younger self to communicate clearly to children and parents, especially in my own home what our family behavioral expectations are.
Don’t Judge but be Supportive
As a caveat to the above point, I would also tell my younger self to be very wary of judging other methods and styles of parenting and to be open-minded. It is important to remember that no one’s child is perfect and that includes our own. As children grow up they will inevitably make errors of judgment and make poor decisions. Always give the support and demonstrate the kindness that you would hope to receive in this situation.
Don’t Try to Fix Everything all the Time
There is a saying that a mum can only be as happy as their least happy child. I think this is true and it is tempting to try and fix every small problem for them. I would tell my younger self to encourage my children’s development with the social skills and tools needed to solve their own problems. I’d definitely tell myself not to add to their anxiety by talking non-stop about whatever problem they may be incurring. Having said that, if a concern escalates, as I’ve said above, I would never ignore a problem my child couldn’t resolve themselves.
Forget the Guilt
With the best will in the world sometimes as parents we are desperate after a long day, for our kid’s bedtime and some ‘me’ time. In addition, we sometimes simply lose our cool and act as spoiled petulant children ourselves, rather than responsible parents. If this is an occasional feeling or occurrence then I’d tell my younger self not to feel guilty about it and accept that as parents there is no need to be perfect. If this is a constant state of mind then I’d tell my younger self to seek professional help.
Look to the Future
Our children are often quite privileged and dare I say it, pampered. There is often a housekeeper or nanny on hand to wait on our children hand and foot. I’d remind my younger self to manage this situation very carefully and to always ensure that my children’s behavior towards their nanny is impeccable. I’d remind myself that if my children go to university they will need to cook, clean and fend for themselves. They won’t thank you for it if they are not prepared.
And finally …
The final thing I would say to my younger self is to Enjoy the Ride. Before you know it you’ll be sitting in your kid’s bedroom, holding their favorite soft toy, shedding a tear and checking your phone for the hundredth time to see if they’ve texted. You might even be filling up your time chatting to your younger self!
About the Author
Passionate about education, reading, and writing, ex Secondary teacher and Librarian, Sally Flint is a children’s author and an enthusiastic blogger. In Book Chat and This and That, she frequently posts from the perspective of a fifty-year-old, fun-loving mum on all things family, book and education-related.
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