Thursday, August 30, 2012


 Mamakat's awe-inspiring prompt: Share something your child taught YOU about parenting.

When I was younger and going to college, I read all the child development books. I read all the behavior management books. I took many courses on working with children, managing children, etc. Once I began working as a school psychologist, I observed many children in their natural habitats and in the classroom.  I made recommendations to parents and teachers.

"Mama, I need to tell you something."

"Go to sleep, son."

All that time, there was a little voice inside my head. It was a smug and superior voice who said  "I will have the best behaved children on the planet, because I have amassed a vast and intricate knowledge of children and behavior modification."

"Mama, I REALLY need to tell you something."

"GO to sleep, son."

Then I actually had a child, my own little bundle of all that is good in the world.  When my child started becoming independent and telling me no while he toddled away from me, I started using the tricks of my trade.

"Mama, I really, REALLY need to tell you something!"

"Go to SLEEP, son."

Positive reinforcement? Been there. Negative reinforcement? Done that. Clear and consistent rules established. Discussion of why certain rules are important? Completed. Use of visuals to illustrate age appropriate concepts? Check. Ignoring unwanted behaviors? Check.  Use of 'broken record' when child uses distractors to delay?  Got those, too.

"Mama, I HAVE to tell you something!"

"Go to sleep, SON."

I broke out the sticker charts for potty training.  The boy started 'needing' to go to the potty every five minutes because he knew that after the tenth sticker he would get a treat.  Who knew that a two year old could figure the relation between the number of stickers and the treat and use that information to solve a problem? I consulted my books. 

"Mama, please, I really, REALLY need to tell you something!"


We started using coins, and a bank, and having him 'buy' items that he wanted with his coins.  This worked out great, until we realized that he had conned his grandmother into buying him what he wanted, so he wasn't all that keen on earning what we had purchased.

"Mama, I HAVE to tell you something!"

"WHAT????  What do you have to tell me right now, when you are supposed to be asleep?"

"I love you, Mama." 

"---? Awww. That's so sweet.  Now go to sleep!"

What has my child taught me, four years into this parenting experience?  My son, with no formal schooling, has taught me that while books on parenting can be helpful, there's no substitute for experience.  The more I 'know' about parenting, the more I experience the realities of raising a responsible, independent adult,  the more I realize that I don't know a damn thing.  And that is okay. 

This boy, this cherished and precious part of my life, who drives me nuts sometimes,  is my textbook on parenting.  It's the same, yet different, book that every parent writes with their own children, as they grow up, and older, together. It's a book that reveals all the secrets of the Universe that can be found in the eyes of a child, and in the love of a parent.  That is the best parenting book in the world.


  1. ...and that is parenting. You have one kid and your figure them out and things are great, then you have another kid, the polar opposite of the previous, and you get to learn all sorts of new stuff again!

  2. agreed! there is no book, no advice that can truly prepare you or educate you for parenting. Great post! New follower via Mama Kat! Hope you can come visit my page!


  3. I love that story!

    I feel like I am writing a fairly poor book right now I must admit. Where did I go astray and how do I get back on track, or are these kids just fine?!?!

  4. so very true. I taught at-risk pre-k for years and I learned that some days I can have all the patience in the world for other people's kids and none left for my own.

  5. Yes indeed! Oh, I was SUCH a parenting expert before I had children of my own!


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