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Reflecting on Parenthood: Top 5 Parenting Lessons from 2023

Updated: Jan 8

The year has been a rich tapestry of experiences, both as a parent and as a professional interacting with clients. These life lessons from clients and my own experiences have not only changed my perspective but also enriched my journey as a parent. The wisdom gathered from diverse sources has helped me navigate this complex path of parenting with more empathy, patience, and understanding.

I’d like to share 5 of the top lessons I either learned, my clients learned, and/or we all re-integrated this year into our personal and family lives:

1) Setting our kids up for success and building competence go hand in hand.

I have coached many children who are anxiety-prone or have sensitive nervous system responses. A pivotal moment for me was several years ago when I was coaching a ten-year-old girl. We were talking about neural pathways and how they develop our habits.

I said something like "You know, like, how you learned to brush your teeth and wash your hair, because you’ve done it over and over, and it’s a habit – you don’t have to think too much about it anymore… That’s how neural pathways are built; with repetition."

She said "I don’t brush my own teeth. My mom does."

"Oh. Okay…. (I paused contemplating what to say next…) How about your hair – washing your hair?"

She said "My mom does that too. My mom says that I don’t do it good enough. [I don’t brush my teeth or wash my hair good enough – she’s afraid I’m going to do it wrong.]"

My heart dropped inside my chest. This girl was coming to me for self-esteem and self-confidence coaching. And competence building is a key-component of that… This girl was also being bullied at school by "friends" and there was consistent messaging both at home and school that she wasn’t ‘good enough’ at stuff – including being herself – according to these friends. Phew! That really put things into perspective for me. I was coaching her parents too, and during one of our sessions, I addressed this with her mom after which her mom had a stark realization about how this was affecting her self-esteem in general.

In my own life, I had several early morning appointments this past year (when my hubby was out). I’d discuss the situation with my kids the night before, and set up their breakfast on the table and let them know what was expected. They also have their morning routine lists posted in their bathrooms with markers to check them off when tasks are completed. And lo and behold, at ages 3.5 and 6, they accomplished their tasks (while I took some calls in my basement office); I gave them self-leadership opportunities (with boundaries in place btw) and they went for it! They felt so competent and proud of themselves.

(Just as an FYI: Yes, my daughter is on the neurodiverse spectrum and my son navigates anxiety… and yes, they were completely safe… and yes, we’ve been doing competence-building activities since they were very small).

The key components of what I did to set them up for success:

  • Talk about what’s going to happen, the expectations, and boundaries IN ADVANCE.

  • Offer them tools like lists to follow or visual cues.

  • Let them imperfectly execute.

Competence isn’t built in one perfectly acceptable completed experience, but in repeated experiences imperfectly executed. [We cannot build a sense of competence in our kids if we expect them to execute without mistakes, or point out their mistakes and flaws when they do, or simply don’t allow them opportunities because we might have been told they are not ready, or we expect things to go smoothly (we are more attached to the outcome/result rather than the process) or that "parents should be doing it [things/tasks]" for them, or because we are trying to save them from uncomfortable feelings like anxiety, nervousness, fear or doubt?]

And finally, acknowledge and celebrate – using effective praise (yes there is such thing as ineffective praise – want to know what works and what can backfire in terms of praise? Early in 2024, you can get my E-book and course and learn what is statistically and scientifically proven to work and not, when it comes to praise; you’ll also gain access to the Video Masterclass if you prefer video learning rather than reading).

2. We can learn to give our kids way more credit…

I’ll be honest. I had a REALLY tough time with post-partum anxiety with little intimate support. And, with PTSD as a life-long friend, well, that’s a messy ball of wax. I struggled with everything from my children’s sleep, food, and expected socialization and all of that! And gosh did my hubby get the brunt of my scribbled-up emotions. I learned so many lessons the hard way including how allowing my mother’s intuition mixed with wisdom and self-restraint needed to be the winner in life-situations. (Key word: ALLOW.)

I also went through certain life-stuff to learn that my kids could handle a lot more than I stressed myself about; especially when I believed things needed to be "just right" to be okay. One of my mentors said "Trust the lessons in the imperfect circumstances."

For example, they could go to sleep really late a few nights in a row and still BE OKAY! They could handle the heat of Mexico and even sunburn and still BE OKAY! They could be particular eaters and navigate the buffet of an all-inclusive resort and still BE OKAY! They could avoid lunch because of whatever reason, and eat it two hours later, and still BE OKAY!  They could navigate bullying and negativity on the playground, and with each other, and still BE OKAY! (Does that give you a glimpse of the level of anxiety I had…?) (Caveat: each child is unique and what was okay for me and my kids may not be for your child – that’s okay too!)

This does not mean I didn’t DO THE WORK to help them handle life. They aren’t magically resilient (P.S. Don’t just let the phrase "Children are so resilient" throw you off – they need to be built up to be resilient).

So how did we make it so they WERE OKAY'? Oh parents –

  • Boundaries are a big one!

  • Repair after Rupture – huge!

  • Discussing personal and family values – ding, ding, ding!

  • Using visual tools to support their understanding of big life concepts - a must!

  • Limited screen-time access – a massive role in their resilience and well-being!

  • 70/30 ratio of nutritious food. (I mean I grew up in the 80’s eating cheese whiz, spam and fruit-roll ups – completely manufactured food during the daytime, and my mom’s healthy cooking from scratch at night – I’d say that’s a 50/50?) So, the 70/30 ratio is subjective.)

  • I do SEL stuff every day with them (Social-Emotional Learning).

  • I let them and myself take healthy risks – using the ‘Montessori’ way of life, let them peel carrots and cucumbers as early as age 2.5, and clean up after themselves.

  • We do/did a lot of reading -  not of fairy tales, but of books/stories that involved SEL-based material.

And here’s the clincher to all this: BELIEVING IN THEM AND MYSELF. I had to believe in them. Now my belief level didn't need to be 100% - LOL. I could have doubt, and still follow through – sounds odd, but if you think about it, some of the biggest things in life involve taking a ‘healthy risk’ (when do you ever ‘really know’ if you should marry that person – Lol [..nervous laughter)].

So, I had to learn how to believe in them. It sounds like "I should" just be able to do that – but I didn’t grow up believing in myself, so yes, doubt was part of the equation. Because I am a recovering perfectionist, I also had to intentionally shift my mindset to the idea that "no matter what, we’d be okay." (Funny that before having kids and getting married – I used to tell my hubby that – "No matter what dude – I know I’ll be okay." But having kids does bring up a LOT of stuff and doubt was one of those things.) And… the biggest pieces to our puzzle: COACHING AND THERAPY! (Let's get on that - I'm your first resource for coaching :) - reach out for support)

3. I can handle more than I sometimes feel I can.

Due to life-traumas, my own stress-response system is/was less resilient than let’s say… someone who has less trauma. But it’s because I’ve lived through a lot of "stuff" that I can handle many life challenges. It’s not pleasant. It’s not ideal. And it’s not that the traumas needed to occur for me to be able to handle life (in fact resilient children aren’t built because they endured trauma…), but, rather that, because it did happen AND I got the SUPPORT I needed to, that I keep coming through sticky life-situations. (Key word: SUPPORT.)

Many days it’s not pretty, and I recommit each day. A phrase I teach and practice with my kids is "I know I can do this, because I’ve done it before." I still struggle with sensory overload from having two very active kids and a noisy household, and I continue to navigate bringing in life balance and seeking out the tools I need to support myself and my family…

4. Parenting is like conducting a series of experiments week after week.

It's likely you’ve been given strategies or offered a skill to develop; you’ve given it a shot, and if it didn’t work, you might have felt defeated….?

Ahem... Been there done that my friend.

Here’s what I’ve learned after all the studying, reading books, and being trained and coached:

Experiment, experiment, experiment! In order to find what works.

And then your kids will grow and change, and you’ll need to experiment some more. When we assign ourselves to the idea that it’s a failure because one skill or strategy didn’t work in one particular instance or situation… well, then, we set ourselves up for emotional and mental suffering. But, if we reframe to the idea that: "Okay, so that approach needs to be tweaked…

How can I do this differently?" Our fantastic elastic mind will seek ways to improve our approach. A famous inventor said something like "I didn’t fail, I just found 999 ways how not to make a lightbulb."

5. Showing your fallible humanity and vulnerability to your kids will continue to be of importance as they grow up.

I was talking with a family member recently. His son is struggling. His son told his counsellor "Thanks but no thanks, counselling isn’t going to work." As my conversation progressed with this person, I learned that he (the father) holds a similar attitude/belief. I offered him the idea that there are many types and styles of support we can get for ourselves and our children. AND, a key component is showing our vulnerability: mom/dad get support too – I go to counseling/coaching/therapy etc. because I struggle with things and need support.

Counseling/coaching/therapy can be just as therapeutic/supportive in a proactive manner as they can be in a restorative manner. AND, sometimes we think we’re not struggling but then, after talking it out with a professional we learn that we might be…and healing or integration of wounds is necessary. (We all have emotional wounds…) And often, family or friends aren’t the right arms-length third-party container within which to process it all out…

I coach children who have a hard time saying "I don’t know." It’s so important to know that "not knowing" is totally okay.

I remember hearing the phrase as a child, "Well if you don’t know then who knows…" – I was being judged by my parents for not knowing! This phrase would really stick inside a child who might be sensitive or empathic (which many kids are…)

Saying you don’t know to your kids is okay. Sometimes you could say "I don’t know, and maybe we can find out." And other times, leaving it at "I don’t know" is fully okay too.

Admitting when we’ve made a mistake – oh this one is huge!

We don’t need to show up as the invincible infallible parent… that sets a high standard for our kids to live up to… Standing in self-responsibility = a big life lesson. If we mess up as parents, the first step is saying "I did it." I coach kids and parents on how to effectively repair after relational ruptures.

"Defense is the first act of war." – Byron Katie

As our kids get older, sharing (appropriate) stories of our own challenges and life experiences can be incredibly beneficial to relate with our kids, or provide a basis as to why we may carry certain family values or have certain family rules and boundaries in place; it’s much more effective than simply commanding obedience. I have teenage nieces and nephews and I noticed that it’s my own life stories of mistakes and mess ups, and subsequent learning and the changes I implemented or the supports I sought that make the biggest difference to them… I become more relatable to them.

Parenting feels like a constant learning and adaptation journey, where we need to recognize our strengths and vulnerabilities. As parents, we can embrace our vulnerabilities and show our human side to our children, as this continues to be essential for how they connect with us. We may need support to know how to set our kids up for success and cultivate a nurturing and understanding environment for their personal development – which involves both independence and teaching and modelling how / when to ask for help.

I honor you parents. Thank you for being here. Thank you for doing this work.

Let me know which of these 5 skills you’d like to work on, have more questions about, or are interested in learning more about. Email me – I’ll get it.

If you are looking for Parental Support, feel free to reach out for a Free Parent Coaching Consultation. I am a Certified Master Parenting Coach, a Somatic Trauma Therapy Practitioner, a Certified SEL educator, and Certified Kids Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence Coach. Visit this page, and Choose "Parent Coaching Consult" to book a time.

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