Many of the first things we learned about childhood and parenting are lessons that still have meaning for us today, as we parent our near-adult children. Sure, in the beginning we learned things about breastfeeding and diapers and how to juggle energetic and very needy kids (sometimes we really juggled them, right dads? But that’s another story). Some of these skills we may hope never to use again. (Really. No more diapers. Thank you.) But we also learned about what goes into making people out of these little creatures …. We learned about the stages of development and how a strong thread runs through the life of a child, a thread of love that we offer and never impose, a thread of care and assistance that we never force, but is always at the ready.
We learned that children change as they grow, and we are seeing changes today that we learned about 18 years ago, changes that we anticipated and prepared for, and in some ways orchestrated, thanks to the things we learned in our first parent ed classes.
When a young parent attends a mandatory evening of a parent education, and listens to the experts talk, what are they learning? It’s tempting to view such required events as wasted time. “How important is it to become an expert on this stage in my child’s life anyway?”, we might think. “I don’t need anyone to tell me how to parent my kids, and besides I’ve got fifteen more years of education (and meetings) to go! Shouldn’t I be saving up for the teenage years?”
But at these meetings, especially the early ones, we’re not just learning how to parent preschoolers. We are learning how to parent. And many of the lessons are for life. It’s not just because the early childhood experts get to teach you first, but because they understand the foundational aspect of what we offer our kids at this age.
Some of the lessons that last: how to talk to your kids so they will listen; positive discipline; setting limits; developmental milestones; conflict resolution; temperament; screen time; sibling rivalry; healthy parenting partnerships; and, how the brain grows and works.
Susan Stone Belton, parent coach and early childhood development specialist at Parents Place, spoke at one such mandatory parent education meeting last night. As she delivered her list of best practices to the room of preschool parents, she cautioned against thinking that this was all about preschool: “I would give the same talk to parents of 8th graders!”
We can vouch for that, and add that much of what we learned back in the day still means a lot to us as we watch our almost 18-year-old son finish high school and face the future. That is we still see him as a growing person who needs us (in a different way than he did when he was 4, to be sure) and who we love, as much as we can. But the really great thing is that we are also seeing the man that we laid the foundation for 15 years ago, thanks to the people who taught us what they know about how people grow.
This post originally appeared on the Parenting on The Peninsula Blog