Updated: Sep 30, 2019
‘I want to give my baby the best start in life’ and ‘I want my child to be happy’ are two of the phrases I hear more often when speaking to future, expectant parents.
Research confirms that the transition from being a couple to becoming parents has an increase in life satisfaction, and most parents go into pregnancy with an open heart and lots of enthusiasm.
But here are my questions:
Why is it then, that parents start with the highest intention to give their children the best start in life and truly wishing for their happiness, but they unknowingly sabotage those very aspirations?
Why is it that only the minority of parents maintain that same level of enjoyment past a couple of years?
One of the answers to both these questions is:
Lack of Parent Education.
I know what you may be thinking: ‘But doesn’t being a parent come naturally as soon as baby arrives?’ and/or ‘What about my parent instincts?’
Consider this: 'Every other occupation, from driving a truck to performing surgery, requires months or years of training. Only for the job of raising children do we expect that love will be enough. But, sometimes it isn't. Parents also need skills.’*
And yes, instinct rocks! The problem begins when we start confusing intuition with other things, such as trauma, unconscious beliefs, knee-jerk reactions, lack of emotional regulation and the list goes on…
So what is Parent Education?
It is knowledge - information, tools, resources, skills, mentorship, trouble shooting and ongoing support to create a fabulous family life.
As expecting parents we would educate ourselves to be a parent before baby arrives. This will include:
Doing our inner work, what I call A collection of wild colour,
Doing our parent research (points A-D below),
taking a first-aid course, understanding the four pillars of child development ,reading
As new parents we continue growing and evolving by understanding socioemotional intelligence and emotion coaching, redefining discipline (future newsletter topic!) , getting to know our unique, individual child, taking are of our needs, keeping the long-view, it means being one it not two or three steps ahead.
And the great news is that Parent Education (which is different than childbirth education**) is readily available:
A) Talk to parents of older kids.
Parents you gravitate towards - the ones you observe and respect for the way they relate to and speak to their kids, the way they are with them.
Ask them for one book recommendation and check it out. You may be able to borrow a copy from your local library if you don’t want to commit to buying it yet.
Or better, borrow their copy.
You can also ask them a few questions:
If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?
What wouldn’t you change for the world?
What are your top three mistakes as a parent?
What are your top three high moments of parenthood?
B) Spend an hour (or as much time as you can manage!) in a park, playground or at a friend’s kid’s party and observe.
We are not judging how other parents are doing their job. Parenting is not a competitive sport. This is about deciding which direction our wind is blowing - as a starting point.
C) Can you babysit for a friend?
Spend the day (or as much time as you can manage) with their kid(s). Acting in a parenting role, with that intention in mind, will start informing you about what you enjoy and what you find triggers you (and explore why is it that triggers you).
You’ll begin to gain an insight into the role.
D) Take a parenting course.
The same way you wouldn’t expect to wake up one day and know exactly how to sculpt or play the violin or be the top chef of a three-hat restaurant or play a sport, you can’t expect to know to be a parent out of the blue. Parenting is a skill – regardless of age – and like every skill, it takes knowledge and practice.
With this point though, my only advice is to educate yourself about the education! Many evidence-based parenting programs endorse treating kids and relating to them as if you were training a dog.
Remember your baby is a complete human being from day 1. You are guiding a human being.
How would you treat another human being? How would you like to be treated?
And last but not least, as Robin Baker says, ‘You don’t have to figure it all out in the first three months of your baby’s life’ but...
It is important to be aware that being a parent goes beyond learning how to change a nappy/diaper and feeding your baby.
And ideally, we prepare ourselves before baby arrives but of course, preparation and prevention can come any at stage.
Love the questions.
Not having an answer to a question straight away is a good sign! It means you are not succumbing to knee-jerk reactions and unconscious beliefs.
Here’s to embracing family life fully, to having the courage to seek answers and making informed decisions.
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*Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, Authors of How To talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk** Childbirth education provides information and support for pregnancy and birth. Some cover physical aspects of early parenting such as care for baby and parents (feeding, sleeping…)