My One Good Parenting Tip

When I was a school board member, we were asked to participate in a retreat. I had a less than cheery attitude about this. For starters, the retreat was three hours long. The evening, however, ended with us in the school library digging fruit into chocolate and talking. I learned so much from being a school board member; I received so much more than I ever gave. That night, what I took home was this: the facilitator insisted curiosity is a real force of nature — not simply a trait or a habit, but a genuine skill.

When I’m in a saner frame of mothering mind, I lean on this tool. Why? Why are you saying this? What’s the subtext? And then again, simply, why?

When I can hold to coolness — and I frequently fail — the why can carry me through. Send me your parenting tip?

Possible, unthinkable,
the cricket’s tiny back as I lie
on the lawn in the dark, my heart
a blue cup fallen from someone’s hands.

Dorianne Laux

IMG_4545.jpg
13-year-old’s baking

By Brett Ann Stanciu

Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.

16 comments

  1. Along the same lines, listening is something many parents, myself included, do not do nearly enough. Asking the open questions is important, but listening without judgement is the next step. We sometimes get wrapped up in our role to guide, that we don’t allow them to stretch themselves.

  2. My tip to new parents: Recall the days are long and the years are short. Use this to get through the days.
    In regard to your sentiments above Brett, see Sherry Turkle’s masterpiece, “Reclaiming Conversation”. A crux point is that if via tech/phones etc. “you never learn to be alone, then loneliness is the only emotion you will ever know.”

  3. That’s a great tip. I just requested Turkle’s book from the library; I’ll have to read this one. Tech might explain why so many teens I know complain about loneliness and don’t seem to know the real pleasures of solitude. Thanks for pointing me towards this book!

  4. My parenting tip is not mine, but I heard it long ago; I was with a friend walking along a beaver pond with her three year old who kept walking out on logs into the pond despite the bitter cold. I felt a kind of gut-level distress (probably a product of my upbringing) while she was placidly calm. I asked her why she could be that way and she said “I have spare clothes in the car and the pond isn’t that deep. I doubt he will fall in twice.” My take on this is to let kids fail, but set the parameters so it isn’t damaging. Failure is the best teacher they say, so letting kids fail means letting them build skills to succeed later.

    I have two actually: don’t be afraid to let your kids be bored. Ethan Hawke on NPR said that he regretted not going to church with his kids as he though there was an essential lesson in the “induced quiet boredom” of church for kids, which mirrors what I have found with my own kids in church. Especially now in this time of 24/7 connectivity allowing, encouraging and accepting boredom is essential. My parents would say “if you are bored I have chores” as a way to discourage complaining, while I just say “that’s OK. Boredom is good.” which is more or less the same thing.

  5. Oh me too… I blame my Protestant work ethic upbringing. I try and temper it with “you can empty the dishes or go play outside”, but sometimes the dishes just need to be done, you know?

  6. To me, there’s a balance in knowing when to ask why, and when to just them be mysterious to me. The older they get, the more I lean toward the latter.

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