Becoming a good parent is a process. These are some things I learned along the way.
I was asked to share my top three pieces of parenting advice with the “Between Carpools” audience. I want to start by saying how honored I am to share my parenting experiences and the things that I’ve learned through a lot of trial and error 🙂 I think just the mere fact that we are mothers makes us all qualified to share our thoughts and experiences. That is the context in which I am sharing; not as a parenting guru that has all the answers, because I don’t. I am a mom, period, and we can learn so much from each other.
I am going to touch on three things that have really changed everything for me! I say “touch upon” because these topics are so vast and could be discussed endlessly.
- Parenting Means Changing Ourselves, Not Our Kids
I have spent so much of my time as a mom trying to control and protect my children. Guess what? It doesn’t work, no matter how badly we want it to! Yes, we mean well, and we want what’s best for them, but it’s not effective and it will probably make things worse.
It wasn’t until one of my daughters was really struggling and I was introduced to an amazing therapeutic program run by Dr. Brad Reedy that I really started to understand this concept. So, what is actually in our control? When I started thinking about that, it was extremely sobering. Basically, everything that’s in my control has to do with ME. Not how my kids behave and not how they should feel and not what they do. It’s all about how I am going to react to a particular situation, what kind of role model am I going to be and how do I communicate with them.
Two changes occurred when I had this realization:
- A) I was like “Oh my gosh” that’s overwhelming, I actually have to hold myself accountable, yikes! it’s so much easier to focus on the things that we have no control over than the things we do!
- B) It was incredibly freeing. I do not have to own every bad decision my child makes, or every struggle they are having. Every child has their own journey and the way they are going to navigate it will be unique to them. What they need from me is a mom that is well-grounded and healthy enough to weather the storm with them. Be there! Really be there, without our own emotions, fears, and triggers getting in the way. How do you do that?! The million-dollar question! Maybe that can be the next article. What I can say unequivocally is the best gift you can give to your child is the gift of your own self-discovery. It’s the long short way. So very hard but so well worth it! It’s a lifetime journey that I have only just begun, we can do this! And if we support each other, then we’ve really got it made.
- Have Fun
For me this was easier said than done. I have five children through adoption, they are so wonderful and special, and they have really high needs. I felt so consumed by the daily grind of appointments, medical challenges, scheduling, therapies… the list can go on forever. Then it hit me one day that I’m not having any fun. I am not actually enjoying my kids’ company. That was an “Aha” moment for me. It wasn’t the way I wanted to live my life. I needed to find the joy amidst all the chaos. There are days when that doesn’t happen. But now it’s on my radar, and when I’m feeling short-tempered or frustrated, I know I need to shift my focus and just plain and simple have fun and remember why I love them so much! So, make that list of all the things you enjoy doing with your kids. And when you feel the walls caving in around you, grab that list and have some spontaneous fun! Your kids will love it and more importantly so will you.
- Learn from Each Moment
A wise woman once told me, everything is a learning opportunity. Now that seems really simple and it is, but it really changed how I looked at challenging moments. Let’s say I had a hard conversation with one of my children that didn’t go so well. Instead of thinking “I’m a complete failure, this is a disaster” (which was my go to), I started trying to reframe it “Well that didn’t go the way I would’ve liked it to go. Where did it go wrong? What could I do differently next time?” This is also a really powerful thing to teach our children. One of my girls hates taking tests; she doesn’t understand the point and thinks it’s a big waste of her time. She had a challenging test coming up and I offered to help her study, she said, “No I’m not studying, I don’t need to study, studying is stupid etc.” So I went back to “What’s in my control?” I can’t force her to study, I can only offer my support, but I’m not going to tie her down to her chair. That would be unproductive. So I let her be. Low and behold, she took the test and didn’t do very well. She got her mark and needless to say she was not happy. Once she was calm, we were able to have a conversation and I asked her, “What did you learn from this experience?” And, reluctantly, she was able to recognize that she does need to study, and she understood what she needed to do differently next time. Getting a bad grade could’ve been a purely negative experience. But if we just learn to reframe, everything is an opportunity for growth and change. How cool is that!
Chavie Bruk is co-CEO of Chabad Lubavitch of Montana, director of Bozeman’s Mikvah Mei Menachem and executive director of the newly launched Holocaust Museum of Montana. Along with her husband, Rabbi Chaim, they’ve adopted five children and enjoy living in the mountains where they’ve created a renaissance of Jewish life; bringing a piece of heaven to Big Sky Country.