My parenting secret


A lot of people ask me what I did for my kids to make them do well in school.

In the first place, my kids would challenge the assumption that they are doing well when so many of their classmates are doing even better than they are. Still, the fact is that they are reasonably successful students (in my book, that means they love learning. It does NOT mean that they ace all their tests. I truly think that it is a load of crock to equate test performance with learning, but that is fodder for another post).

In the second place I don’t know if  anything I did actually had any effect. I am very wary of giving myself too much credit for the simple reason that the flipside would also be true- if something went wrong, it would be my fault! Much easier to hide behind smokescreens that go by the various names of divine intervention, fate and pure dumb luck.

But I know that when I say things like this I am not being helpful. Clearly my input has counted for something, and I want you to re-read the preceding two paragraphs before you read any further.

These are my parenting maxims:

  1. There is no such thing as quality time that can make up for lack of quantity. Being with my kids 24/7 allowed me access to their world, and gave them the time to figure out the key to success in mine. There were down moments when we couldn’t understand each other. But there was so much time to talk through those moments that everyone learned from them.
  2. Interaction is vital. From the day they were born I read to them, and sang to them, and held them, and talked to them, and listened to them, and played with them, and danced with them, and told them in so many ways that there was nothing else I would rather be doing. And there really wasn’t.
  3. Being open and honest breaks down barriers. My kids know they can talk to me about anything, and I will do my best to answer all their questions. No discussion is off the table, though sometimes we have to put off a certain discussion if other people around us are uncomfortable with it.
  4. There is nothing wrong with apologising if you have made a mistake. Sometimes I am in a bad mood, or I make a wrong assumption, or I am just plain unfair. Whatever the cause, if I think I owe my kids an apology they get it. And this opens the way for them to apologise freely if they have stepped over the line. Everyone makes mistakes. Ego hassles only lead to breakdowns in communication.
  5. The father is really the heart of the household. So far I have made it seem as though I did everything alone. Nothing is further from the truth. My husband was with me every step of the way. And still is. Now that my boys are grown up, their father is a friend to them as much as he is a guide and mentor, and the three of them have a very special relationship. My boys understand his anger even better than I do, and never hold his temper against him, because they know how much he loves them. From him they are learning what it means to be a good son, brother, husband and father. For he is all these to the various people who depend on him. Fathers teach their sons to be men of substance, and their daughters to value themselves.

And there you have it. My children are still work-in-progress, but so am I.  A million things can still go wrong, but from I each I will learn something that makes me stronger and wiser. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, just as there is no such thing as a perfect child. There are only people who love each other and see learning for what it is: a step in the direction of wisdom, compassion and understanding.

Anyone who thinks that learning is about tests, targets and success in school needs a reality check.

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