THREE LESSONS IN PARENTING FROM THE CHILDREN

From the time I found out I was pregnant to this exact moment, I’ve wondered what I’m supposed to be doing as a parent. And as much as I love motherhood, there is nothing in the world that scares me so much. What if I do it all wrong? What have I missed? Do I really have any power in molding who they will become?

If Acton Academy has taught me anything about being a better parent, it’s this one important idea: Trust the children. Look to them for answers to important questions.

So I did just that and came back from my deep dive into “how can I be a better parent” with three lessons from the children – my own and many others.

Without intending to be my teacher, children have taught me how to live better, thrive as a parent and even become more creative. How did they teach me? Simply by being children.

Lesson One: Live in the present.

Besides the fact that this is the only way to have a spiritual, creative experience, it is also the only way to be truly with another person. All children are smarter than we give them credit for. They intuitively know when we adults are not fully present. This awareness triggers in return a simple dismissal of us. Why should my children waste time being fully present with me if I am not doing the same with them? (This lesson works for marriage and friendships, too.)

Lesson Two: The true way to love someone is not to coddle but to listen.

This connects back to Lesson One because I must be fully present to truly listen. Listening is the gateway to understanding another human – especially a child. To understand someone is the greatest expression of love. Rather than coddle and fix things for my children, I really must stop everything more often and listen to them. (Especially to the messages that have no words.)

Lesson Three: To play is to be fully human.

“Wanna play?” I watch as children in parks who don’t know each other confidently extend this rather profound invitation. Imaginations take over and off they go. Real play has no objective. It is not goal-oriented. It is not self-conscious. Real play teaches us how to explore, embrace uncertainty, enter into our imaginations and creatively connect to others and self. I’m terrible at playing but I want to experience this childlike freedom so I’m going to follow their lead. If anyone asks me to play, I hope I’ll say yes.

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