Tag Archive | parenting decisions

Lessons We Learn from Our Children

By Jen Ashenfelter

Our children are amazing. Their accomplishments are inspiring. Their achievements in the classroom, on the playing field, in a performance, or out in the community make us proud parents.

These days—compared to when I think back to my years in school—the parenting trend is to involve our children in a multitude of sports and activities as well as nurture a well-rounded honor student. Whether you subscribe to the tiger-parenting philosophy or your approach is less hands-on, as parents it’s our responsibility to prepare our children for the future.

Sometimes our children’s efforts are self-driven because they are naturally competitive, thrive on the positive feedback, or simply enjoy what they are doing.

Sometimes it’s not that easy. As parents, we cheer them on, share our wisdom gained from years of experience, dish out advice—wanted or not—or basically lay down the law to motivate and challenge them to do better.

My youngest and I had a nice conversation recently which made me smile and got me thinking. To set the background, students can choose a musical instrument in fifth grade; he decided to play the trumpet. Having never expressed an interest in playing an instrument before, we had many in-depth discussions about his decision and the resulting commitment. He didn’t waiver in his decision. The trumpet was rented and the lessons began.

If we quit too soon, we may never know our potential.

If we quit too soon, we may never know our potential.

Many times I could be heard saying, “I want to hear you practicing that trumpet.” By the time Christmas break was over, he got off the bus one afternoon and announced he wanted to quit playing the trumpet because “everyone” was allowed to quit, and he felt it was taking up too much time.

(What? The kid has nothing but time. And who is everyone? Wait, I don’t care about everyone; they are not my responsibility. Would you jump off a bridge if everyone was doing it? You gotta love the everyone argument; I’ve used it myself back in the day. And then it bubbled up and spilled out of my mouth, that voice of a mother…)

My response was a firm “No” with a reminder about the commitment he agreed to for the school year, and I expected him to do the work as required by the teacher to earn a good grade. I knew he was frustrated over the time and practice it took to sound good. Who wants to sound like a dying cow in public? The fear of failure and public humiliation can be paralyzing—just quit before it reaches that point. But that was the end of the conversation and we began to hear him practice more often during the last month.

Our recent chat:

C: I’m going to work on getting 140 minutes of trumpet practice this week. If I practice for 30 minutes on Saturday and Sunday, that’s 60 plus 80 minutes during the week…that’s 80 + 60 = 140. (Students are expected to practice 80 to 100 minutes a week.)

Me: Ok, that’s great! Do you think you are getting better with all this practice?

C: I think so, but I still have trouble with the high notes.

Me: Maybe you should devote a few minutes of each practice to just the high notes?

C: Yes. On the weekends, I could do 15 minutes on the high notes and 15 minutes on the songs.

Me: Sounds like a good plan to me. See how it works out. (huge smile, fist pump when he left the room)

By simply not letting him quit and challenging him to honor his commitment and push through the frustration, something grabbed hold. It was his decision how to handle the situation. I’m proud of him.

At that moment I realized a few things. As adults, who challenges us? How many times do we give up on something new because there’s no one above our authority to encourage us to push on? What can we learn from the accomplishments of our children when we challenge them to do better?

Sometimes it’s what we teach our children and what they teach us in return!

  • To challenge ourselves as much as we challenge them
  • To choose how we will handle a challenge and create a plan to rise above it
  • To put our best effort into everything we do
  • To manage our time wisely
  • To push through the difficult moments—we are stronger than we think
  • To learn from failures and try again
  • To practice, practice…and practice some more—success takes patience and hard work; striving for perfection shouldn’t be the goal
  • To determine when it is the right time to change direction
  • To take pride in a job well done and celebrate success

Do you set the same expectations for yourself as you do for your children? Do you feel you set expectations for your children higher than you do for yourself? What can you learn from their efforts and accomplishments? Next time you are struggling with a challenge, listen to your own advice—or call your mother—and see what happens next!

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The Inexact Science of Parenting

By:  Mary Ann Filler

“Parenting Wordle” created at wordle.net

Have you ever noticed that family members, friends and even complete strangers have very strong opinions about the parenting process?

From the moment the “baby bump” appears, the advice begins to flow about how to best accommodate the little tyke.  All of the “should” and “should not’s” can seem overwhelming for any parent.  Should you nurse or formula feed?  Should you allow a pacifier?  Should your angel be cloaked in cloth or disposable diapers?  Should you leave the house with a new baby or stay cloistered?  Should you make our own baby food or rely on store bought?  When should you begin toilet training? Should your toddler watch TV?  On and on the dilemmas of parenthood go…

When I think back 17 years to those early decisions, I remember wondering if my husband and I were making the “right” decisions for our first-born.  I decided to nurse, but it was difficult.  No one in my family had nursed and there really wasn’t support in our area for nursing mothers.  In addition, my son had colic.  At the time, I remember my very well meaning grandmother saying that I was probably contributing to that condition.  Now, I loved my grandmother, God rest her soul, but the pediatrician stated otherwise.  In fact, the pediatrician said that the colic could actually get worse if we put our son on formula.

My husband and I made other parenting decisions that were, in some circles, frowned upon.  We frequently allowed our son to sleep with us as a result of difficulty he had getting to sleep and staying asleep.  If it weren’t for that decision, I don’t think I would have survived his first year of life!  Still, it was difficult knowing that others did not approve.  Would we ruin his ability to get himself to sleep as some of the “experts” warned?  We also allowed a pacifier to help soothe himself.  Would his teeth be crooked or his speech affected due to this decision?

When it comes down to it, there isn’t one set of “correct” decisions for every parent to follow.  Parenting is NOT an exact science.  Every child is unique as is every parent.  I wish I had been able to smile and nod at the well-meaning advice givers, but many times I became internally defensive and full of doubts as to whether we were making the correct choices.

Parenting in the early years was not a perfect process.  We made mistakes to be sure.  Despite the mistakes, however, I’m happy to report, that our son thrived as he continues to do today.  He gained weight, learned to go to sleep on his own, and gave up the pacifier before it could affect his teeth or speech.  Oh, and despite waiting to potty train until he was close to 3, he learned to use the potty and stay dry day and night.

As our second and third children were born (after gaining perspective from the decision-making process we had experienced with our first born), we were able to relax a bit with those early decisions and realize that we were making the best decisions for OUR children.

BUT, when I think about where we are today with our first son, age 17, I continue to remind myself that every child is unique as is every parent.  We are still making parenting decisions, albeit on a different level.  Should our son be required to work a part-time job?  Should we allow him to drive to school?  How much work should he be required to do around the house?  What are our expectations for his grades?

It’s natural to look left and right to see how our parenting peers are handling these decisions.  In fact, some of our peers may even give us advice, solicited or not.  However, just because a decision is “right” for another family doesn’t mean it’s “right” for yours.  In fact, I’ve discovered that some decisions were appropriate for our oldest son that have not been appropriate for our younger sons.  In the end, the children that we are raising are our responsibility, and we know and love them more than anyone else.

In summary, I leave you with a quote by one very wise Bill Cosby:

“In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck – and, of course, courage.”