I hear parents talking to one another and give one another advice. I’m a teacher, and when I know both kids as students, it pains me to overhear the conversation. I think to myself, “That would NEVER work for the other kid! And yes, it TOTALLY works for your kid.”
During this time of pandemic, there is a lot of parent-to-parent advice going around: “homeschool” schedules, online classes and learning resources, balancing parenting with working from home. One quick thing we can do in online communication especially, when we can’t see each other’s faces or hear each other’s tone, is add these words at the beginning: “This is what is working for us right now.” At the end of your message, you could add: “Your mileage may vary” or “ymmv.”
Different humans are different, and that is true of children as it is of adults.
We need to be careful to treat children as autonomous humans. Sometimes parenting books and articles encourage us to think of children as a group that will respond to x with y. Input: output. Parenting strategy: result.
The best parenting experts acknowledge the individuals and the relationship while giving ideas about how to connect and how to use language. I’m thinking about Adele Faber, Janet Lansbury, and Jim Fay. Talking and writing about parenting is like talking and writing about management. You can write a book about how to manage other humans of any age. Here are two key principles:
- It helps to put the relationship first (before the to-do list).
- It helps to ask questions and genuinely listen.
Part of managing other humans is knowing them well by asking them what their hopes and concerns are, and even asking them what kind of support they want. Some people want to be told how to improve their work while others want to be told they’re doing great. Some people want to know about meetings in advance. Some people want it to seem impromptu. Some people want to have a long meeting to hash out a document. Some people want to revise a draft that is handed them to them. Some people want to sit in a room alone and get the work done without interference.
Different people are different, and that’s why we love them.