Kids Don’t Come Pre-Programmed; So Slow Down!
One of the most challenging parental lesson is the art of slowing down. By aligning realistic expectations with what can actually be accomplished helps us to balance parenting and getting the grown-up stuff done.
Let’s start with the basics. It is obvious kids don’t come pre-programmed. Somewhere in my earlier parenting days—while I didn’t actually think kids came pre-programmed—I also did not appreciate the magnitude of how much guidance children would need and the time that would actually take. I certainly didn’t think through how much time I might need to build into my day for taking care of life lessons, accidents, childhood illnesses, or the individual needs of each child. For example, some babies are easy as infants; some are not. Some are fussy; some easy going. Regardless, during those early days it’s a minor miracle that I could run to the store and take a shower the same day. Cleaning the house, getting the laundry done, and making a nice meal would have taken a small miracle. Getting ONE thing done other than sleeping, eating, showering (optional) is a major milestone. Slowing down and aligning realistic expectations helps us to stay relatively sane.
As children enter the toddler/preschool years, focusing on their desire to learn is key. Each child’s learning style is different. What can we do to plan the time needed for lessons we believe need to be taught? For example, I cannot tell you how many times I dressed my kids and put on their shoes so that we could get to an appointment quickly. I should have slowed down and given myself time to teach and help them practice learning these skills. I shudder at the thought of one of my boys - at age 20, wearing Velcro shoes because we had not taken the time to teach them to tie a lace!
Entering elementary school and beyond doesn’t get easier - even though kids are more capable. It becomes more essential to recognize the times they need us. Eighty-five to ninety percent of a child’s brain is developed by age 5. Although we may have rushed through teaching during some of the early developmental stages, don’t fear! Life will provide continuous opportunities to reinforce or teach the skills they need. Dinner conversations, helping or checking-in with homework, and attending special events cannot be over emphasized. Talking through our kids’ challenges will help them identify their feelings and think of problem solving strategies and boosts their confidence.
If I could counsel my younger self as a parent 10 years ago, I would advise myself to plan on the extra time and capacity it takes to take advantage of teachable moments (which show up at the most surprising times). This allows us to be gentler on ourselves as parents, lowers our stress by not fighting time constraints and allows the children to learn at their pace. Slowing down gives us the gift of mindful parenting instead of just surviving the daily grind - which is why children don't come pre-programmed after-all.