I’ve written before about my distaste for lists of “easy tips” and “quick fixes” to make us better (or the best!) parents. But I do my fair share of reading on business building, blogging, platform building, and marketing, and it often feels like the advice basically boils down to “make it easy for your customer.” I struggle with that for a number of reasons, not all of which I’ll get into today. But a large part stems from the fact that the thing I help people with—parenting—is not easy. There are no easy tips that will make you a better parent in five days or less. And yet, we cling to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, this next set of suggestions will tip the scales. So in an effort not to take myself too seriously, here is my list of 3 Foolproof Tips to Better Parenting:
1) Stop looking for quick fixes
See above. There are no quick fixes in parenting. Humans have the longest childhood of any species on earth—we take decades to grow up, and your kids will too. People always say it goes by so quickly, but they only say that when they are wracked with nostalgia, lamenting time gone by. The daily, hourly, minute by minute raising of children takes a lot of time, and parents would be well served to prepare for the long haul. With everything from potty training to looking for colleges to resolving “What do I want to do with my life?” angst, parenting and all its assorted challenges will take a lifetime to sort through. Settle in for the ride.
2) Remember that parenting is supposed to be challenging
Just like getting along with your siblings is hard when you’re a kid and adjusting to your spouse is tricky when you’re a newlywed, parenting is a task that is challenging by nature because doing it well it requires you to put the needs of other people above your own. Putting others' needs first is always hard, no matter if you’re allowing the driver next to you to merge in front of you when you’re running late, or if you’re tabling your dream of pursuing the fast track to the CEO so you can spend more time with your family. Parenting will stretch you, challenge your beliefs, humble you, and bring you pain, anxiety, and self-doubt like you’ve never felt before. Embrace it; it’s all normal. Welcome to the best and most harrowing ride of your life.
3) Get help from real people
You can get lots of good advice from books, blogs (like this one!), Facebook memes, and YouTube videos, but if you really want to find a resource with a powerful impact you’re going to have to talk to people. Real people who’ve been through real experiences and can talk to you about your own real experiences in real time. Talk to parents who’ve been where you are; talk to those who are following in your footsteps. Find a mentor, a friend, a confidant, a coach (!) who can listen well, understand your situation, and offer wise counsel. In a world where we look to Google as the expert on everything, there is still no replacement for the wisdom of those who have walked this path before and know how to talk with you right where you are. Be vulnerable. Ask questions. Dare to believe that you are not the only one who has ever faced this struggle. Say something you are afraid you might regret with the faith that the right person will hear it and reach out to you in solidarity. People need people, and parents are no different. So stop looking up “How to teach my children manners” on your smartphone and use that thing to actually make a call—to someone who’s been in the trenches before and has some wisdom to depart. Nothing helps like a real live sympathetic soul.