When my children return home from school, part of me yearns to ask 20 questions.
- What did you learn today?
- What was hard for you? What was easy?
- Where did you sit at lunch and with whom?
- Did you feel sad?
- Do you understand what’s going on in class?
I savor the tidbits they share, because I know that most of their school experiences will remain theirs alone. I glean a bit of information from conversations with grandparents or from pretend-play. A few stories trickle at random throughout the year. But it is not much. Even though I would love to hear the details of each success and tribulation, I embrace not knowing. I want to allow my children to have their own experiences and to let them keep these experiences for themselves if they so choose. I want them to be confident in being themselves.
Getting Out of the Way
As a parent, it is difficult to not intervene constantly. It is even more difficult for those of us with children for whom navigating Life 101 is challenging. When speaking, socializing, and interfacing with the world don’t come naturally, it is tempting to constantly instruct our children in how to speak, look, and act.
Yet few people like to be told what to do. When parents constantly push, prod, and offer suggestions, are we being helpful, or are we building a foundation for resentment?
Teaching our children to function in this world is one of our vital tasks. Sometimes, direct instruction is necessary and useful. Used too frequently, it is unconstructive and potentially damaging.
I believe that the best teaching method is example. Studies have shown that those children who see their parents read achieve greater reading success than those whose parents read to them. Seeing parents eat healthy foods leads to better eating in children then lecturing. Parents who exercise are more likely to have children who are physically fit.
At camp and in school, at tae kwon do and at music lessons, my children thrive without direct instruction from me. They acquire skills and knowledge that I do not have. They hike trails I never hiked and play instruments I don’t know how to assemble. They are strong, smart, and resourceful. I enjoy seeing their pride in their accomplishments. I am happy for their growing confidence. I continue to practice practicing non-interference.
In my book, Swan Mothers, Discovering Our True Selves by Parenting Uniquely Magnificent Children, you can read my story and those of other parents on conscious parenting journeys.