If you know me, you know that I love to crystalize big concept into memorable and easy formulas so we can operate in our parenting from a place of self-confidence and knowledge.
On Valentine’s Day I had the great privilege to attend a healing music concert with six Latin American native artists singing live. Some parents, like myself, brought their children with them. These children never met each other before, but they had the wisdom and the self-confidence to connect and play together for about 3 hours in the most coherent way – without needing parents to make the rules, or lecture, or “supervise”. These children managed to self-govern like a beehive. It was perfection in action.
So, I left the concert asking myself: What led to this coherence? What kind of parenting did these kids receive that enabled them to behave so wisely and with such presence?
I came up with the 3T’s to answer my own question. Here they are:
- Parenting is a long-term game. Parents who understand this vital principle, approach parenting like a long-term investment. They are not looking for immediate returns on their investment; they are not focusing on the immediate behavior of a child, but on connection, empathy, playfulness and presence. So when things aren’t going as planned (for example: child gets a C in math despite their best effort and the tutoring; child lies despite you doing your best to be their best friend; child throws a tantrum in the store despite your best effort to avoid it) – these parents focus on the unmet needs of the child; they face their own limitations ( child’s and parents’ alike); and they focus on connection and listening.
- Time = Love for the most part. Parents who give their time to their kids on a daily basis are creating a foundation for deserving-ness, self-worth, personal empowerment, resilience and a belief system that says: “The world is a safe place. I am safe. I can count on people to have my back.” Children need their parents every day. The daily small interactions count more to the brain (in terms of subconscious programming ) than a big splashy vacation, or fancy gadgets.
- These parents are not in rush to a final “parenting destination”. They’ve learned to appreciate each day as it is, to enjoy the small joys of life like having ice-cream on a Monday night, watching a movie together, crying and laughing together, making mistakes and apologizing, being silly and playing.
- Trust is the foundation of any long-term relationship, and parenting is no different.
- Parents who focus on building trust are wise parents. They understand that trust is not a given, and has to be earned. We all need to earn our children’s trust over time. We build trust by:
- being honest with our kids;
- being vulnerable *when & if appropriate (*Don’t use your child as your therapist!)
- admitting our mistakes and apologizing;
- being in their corner when they make mistakes;
- not losing faith in their ability to recover from a failure;
- focusing on connection and not the immediate behavior.
- Building trust is very hard, if not the hardest. Studies show that most children, by middle school, have a strong belief that their parents don’t understand them, don’t care about them and are not on their side. Somewhere along the way the divide became a canyon. You against Me. Once here, children feel alone, unsafe and lost. Most problems in pre-teen and teen years come from this fundamental lack of trust between parent and child.
- Parents who parent with the long-term vision in mind are not doing this work alone.
- Nobody can do the hard work of parenting alone.
- Parents need a tribe to sustain them emotionally, mentally and physically.
- Relationships, trusted friends, a therapist, a coach, a close community are the necessary infrastructure that parents need to build so they can “endure” the challenges of every day parenting.
- Mental health is becoming a public conversation nowadays, which is great. Our society is slowly demystifying the myth of the perfect parent, wife or husband. There is no such thing.
- If you find yourself triggered often; getting angry at your child or partner often; feeling exhausted often- these are the signs that you need a tribe; you need support long term; and you may need coaching or therapy. PLEASE ASK FOR HELP TODAY. Your kids depend on you for the next 10-20 years.
Going back to my concert story, I deeply believe that those children who played together and negotiated the rules so well without any adult intervention, are being raised in families where TIME, TRUST and TRIBE are core principles- and they paid off that day.
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I will be attending the 7th Annual Vital Voices Mentoring Walk on March 5-th. Please consider signing up as a MENTEE, either in person ( in Miami) or on Zoom. If you can’t afford the ticket, contact the organizers for a scholarship. All details here.