There are a lot of things that I thought I would be teaching to my child when I was expecting him. But I did not know that I would be learning so much. There are loads of other things I’ve learnt from observing him – the things that children do that we, as adults, have forgotten. But this one is about what I learned in the process of parenting.
- Empathy: It’s so much easier to scold, give advice or ignore especially with a young child, but I’m learning every day to empathise instead. A lot of times I just repeat what he says or vocalize what he may be feeling or even just nod. And every time I do that, I see that he opens up even more. It’s like he feels safe that he won’t be judged for what he will say next. Sometimes, however, my instant reaction is to tell him what he should / could have done and while that is necessary when I want to teach him something, it usually doesn’t lead to any learning – for either of us.
- Listening: Throughout the day, my boy wants to tell me stories, ask questions, tell me about what happened in the playground, about how he handled something, and as a full time parent, it’s been quite challenging to give him my full attention every time he speaks. It’s quite easy to pretend to be busy with the phone or the laptop, or half listen while thinking about something else. But I think he subconsciously gets it when I’m really listening and when I’m not. I’ve noticed that when I do consciously listen to him with full attention, he is a lot more agreeable. It’s like I’ve refilled his cup of love for that moment and he’s okay to be on his own for a while. And when I don’t, sometimes he gets persistent, louder or just whiny.
- Being present: I’ve generally been intuitive about how people are feeling, but being a parent has taken it to the next level. Very often, I know when he’s upset or sad or scared. In fact, I can anticipate when he’s going to have a meltdown or be emotionally overloaded. Being present has meant not reacting to that when it happens but understanding where it’s coming from. So many times when I’ve ‘disapproved’ of a certain behaviour, there was another thing that was causing it. Like when he was pointing a torch light in his baby brother’s eyes – he was just making sure no mosquitos were troubling him. Or when he didn’t want to share his car with his friend, it was because the other car made him feel a lot smaller. We’ve had conversations around the root causes and brainstormed on what he can do the next time this happens, but it has helped me stay really calm. Also, it’s helped me learn that a lot of times when people are upset, something else may be the underlying cause entirely, something that we haven’t seen on the surface level.
- Pushing out of my comfort zone: In order to be a role model for him, I have tried to push myself out of my comfort zone, whether it is speaking to strangers in the lift or jumping in the puddles or singing in the middle of a crowd or holding insects to show him there’s nothing to be scared of or impromptu dancing anywhere anytime, because I want him to be confident and because I don’t want him to bother about what other people think. These things haven’t come naturally to me. It’s like I’m conquering my fears just to make sure my son grows up fearless.
- Win-win: We teach this concept but never have I so consciously practiced it. Whenever there’s a situation when he and I want different things, and as a 3 year old there are a lot of such situations, instead of pulling the ‘because I say so’ rule, I try and get him to think of the problem and the options that are available and then choose the one that he thinks is win-win. So many times I think he’s not going to bite it, but he surprises me by usually picking up, or at least being okay with, the win win option. In doing that, I think I’m training not just his but also my mind to think win win.
I don’t know if being a coach has helped me be a better parent, or being a parent has helped me be a better coach. It’s probably both. But I’ve learned that conscious parenting is way better for my learning, and hopefully for his, than accidental parenting.