If you are a parent of any child over the age of 1, you are probably experiencing the full throttle Parenting Olympics. You know – the cut throat competition to be the best, have your child in the most activities with the most stressful schedule, and make all the “right” decisions. This competition is beyond boring. The current system pits breastfeeding moms against non-breastfeeding moms. It pits the school of your choice against the school down the street. It is ridiculous in every way. Instead of a competition with other families, let’s take on more meaningful work inside our own family.
It is commonly regarded that it takes about 10,000 hours to “master” a specific skill. We have previously considered this in the context of marriage. What about in parenting? Any first time parent knows well that the learning curve is steep. There are a number of skills to learn from soothing a crying infant to teaching kids to tie shoes. Of course, there are more important foundations like the golden rule that get woven into every skill we teach. One critical consideration is what do we, the adult in the situation, need to learn or improve so that we can teach our kids these lessons?
How Can I EVER Master Parenting???
First, let’s consider how much time it takes to get to mastery level. A working parent might get about 25 hours a week to intentionally spend with their child. To get to 10,000 hours of intentional parenting practice at that rate, it would take almost 8 years to “master” a parenting skill! Perhaps this is one reason it gets easier to work through each age and stage with successive children. But then every child is different. I point this out not to discourage but to give ourselves a break. As long as we move with intention and purpose, we are doing the best we can.
Additionally, being a good parent is a moving target as children grow through ages and stages. And since parenting has been around since the beginning of mankind, it is easy to disregard the nature of learning to be a parent. We often end up repeating patterns of our own childhood, even if they are not best. Even if our childhood was full of love, what did our parents do that made it so?
Taking time to think about the trajectory of our family is one way to see what skills are most important to focus on. When we look at the long game of the foundational character of our kids, we can highlight a couple points that matter most. Then we can allow each child’s personality to shine through as they build from there.
For example, my greatest hope is that my kids go into the world knowing they are made of love and filled with kindness. The skills I focus on in parenting them reflect that hope. I’ve had to significantly work on cultivating patience myself in order to convey kindness and love. That skill is taking years to build but it is proving worth it. Also, make your intentions known. My kids keep me accountable when my patience grows thin. It benefits us all.
Changing the Parenting Mindset
The skills we are aiming to cultivate as parents are much less in the physical realm than most skills we “practice”. Parenting draws us much more into the mental, emotional, and spirit realm. We learn to fold laundry and bake pinterest worthy birthday cakes quickly. But learning communication and commanding our character in a way that shapes our family requires thought, intention, and awareness. The birthday cake has little significance if it is provided by a mother who yelled the whole time it was being baked. You get the idea.
The idea of skill mastery also allows us to think of improving our family dynamic and parenting in a new way. If we can think of one or two intentions with our family to work on purposefully, we can offer great change to the whole family. Perhaps I really want to help teach my kids positive ways to work through challenges. I can stay focused on that intention and offer positive solutions to the daily twists and turns. Find what resonates most for you and your family.
Try Your Best and Forget the Rest
There is no such thing as the perfect parent, thank goodness. But when we think of how we want to be as parents in a way that is intentional and thoughtful, there is a sincere opportunity. Now is not the time for being nothing more than a chauffer and police chief for our kids. It is time to intentionally move the whole family forward, one skill at a time.
Cole is a wife and mom of three. She has been a Registered Dietitian since 2005. Her journey through self-mastery and anchoring herself in her family has been the most important and on-going practice of her life. Cole loves being active with her family, yoga, cooking, and spending time in nature.