Parenting by the Book - Sort of!
By: Diane Meehl
I wouldn’t be a new mother again for all the flawless skin in L.A. True – those were very sweet days. Back then it was all new love - and I could pick out what they wore, make wholesome foods they’d actually eat and find utter joy in pushing my stroller around the park. But what I don’t miss?
Trying to achieve perfection in parenting. Doesn’t exist. Sorry, newer mamas and papas. I know - you were going to be the first!
Actually, I’m not sorry. Let me spare you some of the pain and agony – you can read all the parenting books by the so-called experts, and guess what? Your sweet cherub is still going to be far from perfect. He or she will pick his nose onstage, throw a tantrum at Safeway, swear in front of Grandma. Parenting is nothing if not completely humbling.
Most real moms and dads will tell you those books don’t help a lot when you’ve got to get three squabbling siblings out the door in the morning. Sometimes, we just do what we have to do – but of course, even as a seasoned mom, I still strive to do better. And sometimes that means we’re going to stand our ground and arrive late to school. Been there!
So I’m not as obsessed with reading all the how-to’s as I once was. However, every now and again I come across a book with some sound advice that doesn’t make me feel inferior and drive me to consume Twinkies. (If only we could now!) Have you read, Have a New Kid by Friday, by Kevin Leman?
First: confessions. My son walked by me reading the book and said, “Mom. You’ve been reading that for a while now. Do you really think it’s going to work?”
Ha, smart aleck.
Truth is, I am applying some of the principals, and when I do things consistently (not my strong suit!) it does work. Look – we’re all a work in progress and results may vary. After all, my husband would probably love to read a how-to on getting a “new” wife in a week, but I doubt I’m going to completely transform any easier than my kids will!
But, there are a few principles in the book I think we can all apply right away and learn from, such as:
Old School Tricks with a New Twist
Say it just once. It’s exactly the kind of advice your grandma would have given before the “use your inside voice” brand of parenting took root. When you say “no,” or ask them to do something, say it once, and don’t budge. It might seem very uncomfortable at first for us softies, but you’ll be amazed at the results!
Raise your Expectations. We all want our children to enjoy a positive self-esteem. But the truth is, constant praise for nothing seems empty. Encourage your child to do anything he can do for himself, and when he does it – then offer praise! (I spent too much time rewarding my kids for things I should have simply expected of them – now I try to attach praise to achievements, like improving their math grade.)
Change their attitude by adjusting yours. As a mother of a pre-teen and a bona-fide teenager (How did I get that old?) I can assure you there are more attitudes in my house than holiday catalogues in my mailbox. Dr. Leman really made me think when he asked, “What if your attitude changed? What if you didn’t pester her further after you’d asked her once? What if you just walked away and expected her to do it? No reminders, no raised voices, no anger on your part.” Seriously, this works. The power of walking away calmly is priceless.
So what works for you, Lucky Kat parents? Do you have any books to recommend? Feel free – just don’t ever expect perfection. Take it from me – because I’m still trying to be a new mother in 5 days – but I have to start over today!