I have turned into a life coach when I least expected it. I have met many life coaches in my day. When they first came onto my radar, I was graduating college, and the entire concept seemed made up. Like a profession for the affluent since most people can’t afford to stare into the abyss and ask themselves, “How do I want to live my life?”
And yet here I am. Perma-Life Coach. My clients don’t pay me, and they’re three feet tall.
When I was expecting, I read everything. There are hundreds of studies and methods dedicated to the best sleeping, eating, medical decisions, and social/emotional wellness of your babies. But then, something curious happens.
Suddenly, the expert is you. You are “the” expert. You know the millions of little nuances that make your child who she is. You know when the wind shifts ever so slightly in your child’s eyes. You know when to push and when to back off, when she’s tired, when she’s hungry, when her feelings are hurt, when she’s feeling mischievous, and when to make your very serious voice to let her know she’s pushing too far.
This is when I have felt a big transition in my parenthood. My job seems different now. It isn’t to teach her how to sleep or what to eat but to teach her some of the bigger skills she will need as she grows up and begins to have a life outside our nucleus.
If I had to write down what those goals are for myself, or more aptly for her, they would include communicating her emotions constructively, discovering her personal interests and helping her develop those, cooperating within a family, and being a good friend. The most important of these is confidence and love in herself and being true to who she is.
Teaching her all of these things happens daily in a way I can’t necessarily derive from a “how-to” best seller because of the intimate nature of these values and how they might apply to each child’s personality and internal learning mechanisms. But as a parent, I’ve developed a few key tools that have worked beyond the toddler years for my kids.
- I make sure to keep the house stocked with art supplies since creative work is very soothing for my kids.
- I ask a lot of questions. I try to limit my opinions or thoughts but rely more on questions. I stay as quiet as possible so my kids can fill the silence with their dialogue.
- When they are sad or have hurt feelings, I try to make sure they conclude something positive without undermining their experience. “I am sure she wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings, and I am sorry that you went through that. Are you open to telling her how you feel?” is one example. Often, I find they need to vent, like the rest of us.
- We have “meetings” about what we need and would like to accomplish, and we make a plan of action. We typically do this on Sunday to prepare for the week ahead. It allows my kids to voice their goals, and it provides space for the needs of the family to be met as a team. We stay flexible and discuss what worked and what didn’t at the end of each day.
- I try to model these behaviors as much as possible and am honest with my kids when I fall short. I explain what I think I could have done better. I’m not perfect, and they certainly shouldn’t expect to be either. All we can do is try again the next day.
Most of these have been collected over the years from my favorite resource of all: parents with kids older than mine. They’ve been through it, and I have never come across a mom who didn’t want to share her experiences or advice! Fairfield County Mom is a perfect example of mom-shared resources if you don’t know someone directly.