Becoming a parent is like going back to school … 24/7 … for the rest of your life. But it’s the best education you’ll ever get. While some of the lessons are hard, many are easy, fun, and exciting. Some are hilarious. Some are exhausting. All are fascinating, rewarding, and fueled by unconditional love.
The point is that being a parent is a lifelong learning experience.
When I decided to become a mother, I had also decided to go back to school. I found out I was pregnant two weeks before classes started. Oh, the educational adventure that was about to begin. It was like double-majoring in two fascinating subjects: in School Psychology in graduate school; and in Parenting Arts in my personal life.
These were completely different educational programs, yet there were parallels. For instance, I found it useful to be learning about child development, ages and stages as I was about to experience these first-hand. I also felt that some of the behavior techniques I was studying might come in handy someday, not just in the field, but in the home.
By the time I graduated, I had experienced pregnancy, birth, infanthood and toddlerhood, while writing papers, attending lectures, taking exams, preparing presentations, and completing field work and a year-long internship. Somehow I managed to read “The Assessment of Children” and “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” simultaneously.
While I completed my graduate program, my education in Parenting Arts will continue for a lifetime.
Here is a study guide that served me well in grad school and that can be used for a successful parenting education experience:
When I was pregnant, my doctor told me all kids really want is our time. Being there for our children is crucial, regardless of our busy schedules. It lets them know they matter.
Studies show that parent involvement is one of the greatest determining factors in a child’s future success. Parenting is a hands-on learning experience.
Develop patience and think before you act. Our children look to us for examples of behavior to model.
Study and Complete Homework
Preparation is key. Learn as much as you can about parenting, child development and about you own child. Learn from mistakes. Know where to find information. Read, research, ask questions, and find resources.
Give your children the attention they need and deserve. Ask questions. Look for signs. Know what they are doing and how they are feeling. Be involved in their lives.
Keep records. Document events and milestones.
Teaching others is one of the best ways to learn. Find teachable moments whenever possible. You are your kids’ greatest teacher.
Respect Your Teachers
Teachers may include other parents, school teachers, and professionals, and most of all, ourselves. We teach ourselves with our instincts, experiences, and acquired knowledge. We must respect and take care of ourselves.
Pursue Extracurricular Activities
Make time for yourself. If possible, schedule some time for yoga, a date night, time with friends, a good book, etc.
Find a Study Partner
We all need support, from a spouse, relative, friend, or support group. It is helpful to talk with someone who is going through the same thing you are, or who has been there.
Ask for Help
Like a student benefits from tutoring when struggling in a class, we can benefit from assistance when struggling in an area of parenting.
Learning about our children and our role as parents is a priceless endeavor. I can’t think of anything more worthwhile.