Before you start it, parenting seems daunting. You could be in for years of giving up your personal freedoms to one or more creatures who become more and more demanding as they grow older, while you run around trying to satisfy their insatiable appetite for your time and your money. Indeed, without using The Tao of Parenting, this could be the case, but it does not have to be.
Personally, I am a very happy parent. I love my kids dearly and consider them the highlights of my achievement in life and sources of unlimited pride and joy. I am not saying every minute is perfect, but I am saying that parenting is the best part of my life. If you ever needed proof this can be done, take me.
For those who have never been introduced the “Tao”, the word means “Way” or “Path”. As a philosophy, it was developed in imperial China by Lao Tze, who, using many mysterious and indirect expressions, said something along these lines:
Our aim is to stay centered. To do this, we must recognize the natural cycles of life – seasons, emotions, day and night, events, etc – and flow with them, instead of resisting them.
The martial art Aikido is based on the Tao philosophy and its movements are aimed at throwing the opponent off balance, while maintaining our own. Aikido practitioners start everything from a grounded and centered position.
One of my personal “Tao masters” is my kids’ primary school principle, Steve Tharenou. In the past 6 years, this man appeared at every event Ronit and I attended at his school. Day or night, school-wide or just in our child’s class, if parents were there, so was Steve. He came, he spoke, he shook hands, he exchanged a few jokes and then he left.
In all of these events, Steve also asked us questions that showed he was familiar with our kids and our family and remembered what we told him from time to time. This man is a true master, considering his school has 1,300 students in 7 grades!
The reason I am telling you about Steve is that if you calculate the actual time he spends on these events compared to the total time he works, it really is not that much, but the effect on the parents is huge, because we all think he is always there with our kids.
You see, Steve the principle figured out the concept of “quality moments” or “power points” and uses them skillfully for maximum gain with minimum effort. You can do the same thing as a parent. Here are a few pointers:
- Every weekday is the same – your kids come from school, you and/or your partner come from work, everyone is tired, everyone is hungry and everyone has stories to tell.
Kids go first. No matter how hard your day has been, put it aside and focus (really focus) on your kids the first time you see them in the evening. Smile at them, hug them, feed them, bathe them, ask them about their day and listen to them. You will see the change in them and you will hear it and it will not take very long, but the results will be just wonderful.
- Every weekend is the same – your kids wake up early and you want to sleep in.
Ronit and I told our kids to hop in bed with us when they wake up and give us a “good morning” cuddle. They hop in, get some attention, feel the love and hop out again to find something quiet to do until we (finally) get up. No struggle, no noise, no frustration, just love and consideration. For a bonus point, get a video for the kids to watch if you do not want them watching whatever is on TV, or prepare an activity with them ahead of time. For a double point, get them to make breakfast for everyone and go nuts with the table decorations.
- Every school holiday is the same – whatever you do, your kids are simply incapable of planning their own time. Until they are teens, their concept of time is shaky at best anyway.
Spend some time before the holidays and plan for everyone. Busy kids are great kids.
- Every year is the same – every school term, you will have opportunities to go to school and see your kids’ work or watch them perform. Every year, you will need to develop a good relationship with your kids’ teachers. Kids whose parents get involved in class enjoy privileges in the classroom others do not, so your focused action at key points of every school year count.
These are facts of life. Use them. Meet the teachers, smile at them and say a few good things about your kids before they start teaching them. Come to class events and parent nights and take an interest in what goes on at school.
- After shower, dinner comes, then comes bedtime – our daughter Eden used to see bedtime coming from a mile away and run in the other direction, screaming and shouting. We could not understand why she refused to shower when she loved water and enjoyed her showers, when she finally got in.
Then, it occurred to us she was seeing shower time as the beginning of an unstoppable chain of events that would lead her to bed, and she was trying to avoid going to sleep. We switched from “go take a shower” to “come and have a shower” as bonding time, followed by a family dinner, followed by a bedtime story. With our younger kids, this worked even better, because there was no struggle to undo.
- Every play is the same – when my kids play with each other, things go smoothly for a while, but then the pitch changes. Nothing done, things will quickly escalate to an all out war, with screaming and stuff flying around the room.
When you hear the tone change, walk over to the kids, get down to their eye level and softly guide them towards something new to play.
- Regular doctor and dentist checkups seem like nuisance when you go through with them, but they beat disease and major surgery any time.
Once every 6 months, have your kids checked, keep their immunization shots up to date and their teeth cleaned, and you can be at ease the rest of the time.
When you decided to have kids, I bet it was to have more love in your life, more pride and more happiness. Now you know how to have that with minimum effort.
Enjoy your parenting,