I talk and talk and talk, and I haven’t taught people in 50 years what my father taught by example in one week
– Mario Cuomo
Every one of my parent coaching clients needs one important component of parenting – an appreciation of his or her qualities as a parent. They know very well what does not work and where they fall short, but cannot see what they already have that makes them good parents already.
If you think about it, realizing what they have is a problem for most people, but these qualities are the ingredients kids are made of.
My mom was a chef. She was a simple woman with limited academic education but with a lot of wisdom from years of working in big kitchens and making food for thousands of people.
She taught me it is impossible to go to the market with a list. You never know what the weekly specials are. “You do the best with what you have”, she told me. My mom has made an art out of it. If she went to the market and found a fruit of vegetable for next to nothing, she would buy a whole box of it (there were 7 people in our house). She was very proud of herself for making many different dishes with it and freezing some for a season when that fruit or vegetable was not available.
Parents need to fill a child’s bucket of self-esteem so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes to drain it dry
– Alvin Price
Parenting is the same – you do the best you can with what you have and when I say “what you have”, I mean the mix of who you are, who your kids are and what your circumstances are. In the Be Happy in LIFE parent coaching program, the parents’ skills, abilities and character traits are the basic ingredients for raising wonderful, happy kids.
I parent my kids the way my mom cooks. She opens the fridge and says, “OK, we have plenty of capsicum and lettuce, onion and some corn. How can I make some great food out of them?” I say, “OK, my son likes to write music, he’s friendly and smart, but he isn’t very organized. I’m very organized and very driven, but I can’t write music. How can I make a great kid out of this?”
It works just perfectly. Instead of saying, “Bummer, I didn’t buy any avocado. I could have made a great dish out of it”, I say, “There are wonderful dishes with tomatoes” (I will let you find the parenting parallels).
My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived, and let me watch him do It
– Clarence Budinton Kelland
Many people who come to my workshops expect me to tell them the formula for great parenting. Some of them express disappointment when I tell them at the beginning there is no formula. I can tell them about my “cake”, but the chance they have exactly the same ingredients is 0. I always say that with the 3 wonderful “cakes” I have at home, I could not even copy the “recipe” from one to another myself. Instead, I am happy to tell them about the process.
All children behave as well as they are treated
– Jan Hunt
This part of the make a list series is about this process, or at least part of the process. When people go through parent coaching, they are very judgmental towards their parenting style, but when they complete the workshop/program, they are very appreciative of what they do well and understand that if they focus on what they do well, it grows. It is pretty simple – in life, you get what you focus on and parenting is no different.
Your children will become what you are, so be what you want them to be
– David Bly
I came up with this activity 19 years ago, when I was running a workshop for the parents of the kids in my early childhood center. When I talked about the power they had over their kids’ life, they said they felt powerless towards their young kids, who were only 1½ to 4 years old. Every session, when I gave them information about how to improve their kids’ performances emotionally, physically and academically, they were very cruel to themselves, so one day, I said to them, “You need to come up with 10 good qualities you have as a parent”.
At first, they looked at me embarrassed. You see, when asked to say good things about themselves, people think of it as bragging or showing off. So I said they had to do it, because it was part of the workshop and I volunteered to go first. The parents slowly realized it changed their feeling from being judgmental towards themselves and their kids to feeling empowered. Also, listening to others helped them appreciate in themselves things they never thought were sources of confidence and power.
This was the first group in a line of families whose lives have changed through those monthly workshops with the parents and I realized that my work with kids meant nothing if I did nothing to support their parents.
To be a successful parent, you need to find 100 qualities you have as a parent so whenever you feel a bit frustrated and judgmental towards yourself or your kids, you can look at this list and draw some positive energy from it.
How to be a good parent (or start to feel like one)
- Think of all the qualities that support your parenting. For example, I am very creative, so I look for creative ways to parent my kids and it makes my parenting fun and my kids special.
- Think of all the character traits that you would like your kids to copy. This is easy – you do not have to make much effort, you only need to be yourself and your kids benefit. I am very determined and I think it gives my kids stability and confidence. I sure hope they will copy my determination.
- Think of knowledge you have that your kids can benefit from. I studied how to teach, so my kids never need a tutor.
- Think of possessions you have that will make your kids’ life easy. We have enough computers for everyone, a keyboard (electric piano), 2 cars for taking them places and so on.
- Think of strong experiences you have had, which taught you good lessons in life, so your kids are lucky they do not have to experience them in order to understand. It was a horrible experience for me to be a sick kid. My kids are lucky I take responsibility for their health and prevent them from seeing too many doctors, being drugged with medication and missing school.
- Look at other parents doing things you disagree with and this will highlight your advantages. I have an open wallet policy. My kids have never betrayed my trust. I am very proud of myself for adopting this policy, because I never grew up like that and I hated it as a child.
- Find the differences between any unpleasant ways your parents treated you and how you treat your kids. This is probably a great achievement that you can draw lots of energy from. I grew up in a family whose life was ruled by what other people thought. I am very proud to conduct my life based on what I believe and feel, even when it is not the norm. I think it helps me raise more confident kids.
- If you cannot complete your list on your own, ask people you know for ideas – your partner, your kids, your friends and family members. Ask them what they think is your best quality as a parent. You will be surprised how many things you take for granted about yourself.
Remember, when you cook, you must know your ingredients and when you parent your kids, you must know (and appreciate) your qualities. Focus on the good stuff and make it grow. It is like magic.
Come back next week to make the list of 100 excuses for not living the life you want.
This post is part of the series Make a List:
- Make a list: List Making
- Make a list: About Myself
- Make a list: Friends and Friendships
- Make a list: My Lifetime
- Make a list: Things I am Happy about
- Make a list: Childhood Memories
- Make a list: Ways to say “I love you!”
- Make a list: What I like about me
- Make a list: Things to ask for my birthday
- Make a list: Improve My Life
- Make a list: Things to tell my parents
- Make a list: Beliefs about Money
- Make a list: Feelings I Want to Feel
- Make a list: If I Could Live Forever
- Make a list: Beliefs about Kids
- Make a list: Beliefs about Kids cont.
- Make a list: Events that have shaped my life
- Make a list: Ways to be kind
- Make a list: Be More Productive
- Make a list: Mistakes (and what I can learn from them)
- Make a list: Expectations
- Make a list: Beliefs about Traveling
- Make a list: Rules I Follow
- Make a list: Good Parenting Qualities
- Make a list: Excuses
- Make a list: Quotes to live by
- Make a list: How to use my time better
- Make a list: If I were Santa Claus
- Make a list: If I had one year to live
- Make a list: Things that Make Me Happy
- Make a list: Movies I loved
- Make a List: My Fears
- Make a List: Find your Happy-ism
- Make a List: Inspiring People
- Make a List: Books that have changed my life
- Make a list: Inspiring Movies
- Make a List: Things to be Grateful for
- Make a List: Ronit’s Gratitude List
- Make a list: Life Lessons Learned