Monday, February 20, 2012


Big Guy and I went to church alone last night. The rest of the family had gone in the morning, but we'd stayed home because of a shower stalemate. That resolved itself satisfactorily in the afternoon, so we went to the 8pm service uptown, and I rediscovered two things:

1. Relationships with teens are almost always better one-on-one, when you're doing something away from home.

2. It's often easier to talk side-by-side than face-to-face. That way you're traveling together, headed the same direction. (Friends who live in the 'burbs tell me their best conversations happen in the car. I believe it.)

I knew both those things. Really, I did. But like an embarrassingly large portion of parenting wisdom,  these insights, these tidbits of insight got lost. I ought to write myself a book of all the pithy parenting things I forget, and refer to it when I want to bang my head against a wall. I might re-learn something.

*         *         *         *          *

For many years I struggled with the story of Adam and Eve, because I couldn't believe they could be so stupid. I mean, it was one tree. How hard is that?! Then one day I thought, What if 'all the law and the prophets' was summed up... could I keep that one rule? Could I hold it in the forefront of my mind all day for a single day? Sigh. No, I couldn't. I forget the basics, all the time. (Sorry, Adam and Eve: I misjudged you. I get it now. Most days.)

Even when we have our priorities in order and work hard to align our days with each with them, we forget. Because, you know, that project is due and the kids are squabbling. Or someone said something hurtful and I'm out of sorts. Or difficulties have multiplied likemanic brooms, and the Sorcerer's Apprentice has set them to sweeping crazily at my composure. Or maybe (probably) because the path of least resistance is broad and easy, and I veer onto it, unthinkingly.

*         *         *         *          *

These are some of the things that I know matter in parenting that I forget:

  • touch your children daily
  • say encouraging things regularly
  • ask questions that show you are interested
  • stay quiet if you can't say it with charity
  • focus on responding instead of reacting
  • know their 'love language' -- and speak it
  • assume it will take many times, perhaps hundreds or thousands of times, before they understand and remember basic manners
  • laugh as much as possible
  • make one-on-one time happen
  • remember to notice when they do something right
  • spend enough time with them that random thoughts come to the surface
  • let them see that you, too, struggle
  • let them know what you believe. Often.
  • show them how you think through problems
  • stories of your (and their) childhood are precious
  • new experiences trump new toys
Contribute, please.


  1. Talk to your kid. Not the kid the parenting manuals say your kid should be.

    Other than that, I'm working on the basics, like not forgetting my keys.

  2. Read to them, and let them see you reading too.

  3. The hardest thing is accepting that they grow and change. What they like/love right now may not be of interest in a month or a year. It's okay. Let them let it slide, give it up, move on, find another passion.

  4. Let them practice making decisions about all kinds of things.

    Don't box them in (the extrovert, the hard worker, etc.).

    Praise effort.

    Show them how to overcome fear, step by step.

    Notice how they're feeling and see where it leads ('you seem frustrated', 'you look content' etc).

    Get to know their friends.

  5. Teach them to be good sports, and to play fairly... to pat the other players on the back, and not to rub it in when they win. Teach them to stick-up for each other out there in the world, (even they kill each other at home.)
    And sooooo much more.
    Also: Are you SURE they will learn manners eventually?

  6. When your children are grown and are raising their children is when you really discover whether or not your parenting skills have succeeded.I am happy to say that for the most part my 5 children have/are raising successful children for the next generation. (16) Or as my eldest son says, "All your children have good jobs and nobody has ended up in jail." AA

  7. I think you captured the heart of Deuteronomy chapter six.Talk about [these commands] when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.

    It worked well with our children. They've grown up to become our best friends.

  8. As a corollary to "let them see you struggle", that includes the parents' relationship with each other. Our daughter once asked if we were getting a divorce because we were fighting. We assured her no, we weren't. She should worry about us getting divorced if we ever STOPPED fighting. That meant we didn't care.

    Still, as I always say, our kids grew up to be smart, happy, and good citizens in spite of having us as parents.

  9. Eat and cook together - letting them take over the planning, preparation and cooking as they grow in skills. Teaching good healthy nutrition, frugal life skills and building memories together.

    Thankfully they get to the point where you can say - please cook dinner and they do!

  10. My eldest (11) is the introvert, non-talkative type - yes, I like labels ;)
    Our most productive, open conversations happen when there's only the two of us walking side by side the streets in our city, or at night, when I'm tucking him in, lights out.

    I'm the extrovert, talkative type. So are my other children.
    It has gotten me 9 years of trial and error to acknowledge and cherish this different kind of intimacy. And I'm loving it.

    Marta in Lisbon, Portugal