by Jody Pawel
Of all the jobs and professions in the world, parenting is the most important, difficult, and potentially rewarding. It is the only job that never ends; we are parents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 months a year, every year. Even when children are adults, we are still their parent. We don't make money by having children; we spend it. Our paychecks can't be measured by material standards; they are hugs, thank-you's, smiles, and seeing our child grow and mature."
Parenting advice usually focuses on the challenges parents face, mistakes to avoid and effective skills we can use. But every parent and parenting "partner" deserves a pat on the back for doing something positive, even on a small scale, that means a lot to a child. I want to make sure we do that here, now and then.
Is there someone in your child's life, maybe a coach, grandparent, day care provider or teacher, who has been a positive influence on your child? Is there someone who made a positive impact on you as a child or teen? Have you ever seen a parent handle a difficult problem skillfully? Ever seen children behaving well in a challenging situation? Well, speak up!
I want each of you to do any or all of the following things:
• Pick up a phone or pen and thank a person who did something nice for your child or for you as a parent or child. Be specific about what they did and how it helped.
• The next time you see a parent struggling with a challenging situation, reach out to them. If it would be inappropriate to speak to them, give them an understanding smile that says "Hey, I've been there. I support you."
• When you see parents do something positive, even if there was no problem -- in fact, what they did may have prevented a problem -- say something to them. I often whisper in their ear, "I really admired the way you ..." and then describe what they did.
Several times, strangers have come up to me and either compliment me on how I handled a situation, how well-behaved my children were or how well they got along. I can't tell you what that meant to me, especially as a new mother. Despite my training and knowledge about parenting, I also feel insecure and unsure of myself as a parent at times.
Because these comments mean so much to me, I make an extra effort to get over my shyness about talking to strangers to give others a compliment. (Yes, I can breeze through a media interview or speak to 200 people, but am awkward in social situations.) I encourage you to do the same.
If you miss an opportunity or want to share a story that will inspire others, tell us the story about a parent you observed "being good" in the comment section. Here's a story my husband shared with me recently:
"At the grocery store, I saw a dad in his work clothes with two young children. As they came in, he carefully spun the cart in circles and they were all laughing. Shopping with young kids can be an ordeal, but he found a way to make a fun adventure of it."
I hope that you, too, will make an extra effort to have fun with your children. The years fly by so fast, so lighten up and don't take everything seriously. Look at all the blessings your children bring and the good times you've had. These are the memories and "emotional paychecks" that will get you through the tough times.
Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is a second-generation parent educator and president of Parent’s Toolshop® Consulting. She is the author of 100+ resources for parents and family service professionals, including her award-winning book, The Parent's Toolshop at Parent's Toolshop® Consulting, Ltd. Since 1980, Jody has trained parents and professionals through her dynamic presentations and served as internationally recognized parenting expert to the media worldwide. Get practical parenting resources, including more information about this topic at Parent's Toolshop®'s archive.
Copyright © Jody Pawel. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.