Parenting advice is a dime a dozen these days. A part of it comes from well conducted studies and centuries of pediatric experience. Sometimes, even more convincing advice comes from a person’s entourage and originates from all sorts of personal experience that parents tend to generalize. This torrent of theories and information falls prey to its own diversity. Conflicting advice becomes commonplace and it can all become very confusing before you know it.
I knew all this way before becoming a parent. I’ve seen the frustration of other parents as they try to combine advice from many different sources. So, when becoming a parent, I gave this matter some serious thought. What if there was no advice at all? What would I do then? I brought it down to these three words which, so far, I’ve found to be a solid foundation for being a good parent: loving, patient, careful.
Be loving. Love can bring out the beauty, humor, playfulness and teaching of almost any situation. Children are amazing at sensing, reacting to and recording feelings. Before they can comprehend speech, this is the way they communicate with their parents, getting information about the world they have entered. Love is a powerful statement that they are safe. This brings the best in any child. Even when a baby is in distress, a loving parent will make the situation much more manageable for both.
Love transpires from every action. Even if a parent is stressed or worried, if the love is there, it will make the other, more negative feelings, much easier for the child to cope with. And besides, it’s important for children to see that their parents can be stressed or worried. These are facts of life on Earth. As long as the love is there, a child will use it as shelter whenever exposure to other feelings becomes overwhelming.
Be patient. Patience is a key ingredient in tackling most difficult situations. It allows one to keep one’s wits about. Love and patience have a synergetic relationship, enhancing and completing each other. The feeling of love stimulates the practice of patience. In turn, patience ensures love has a space to unfold. The disarming innocence and budding intelligence of a child is like a restless sea. Only the patient explorer will find peaceful land.
One of my patience-stimulating tricks is to think about parents who are in a much worse situation than I am in at a given moment. At times, my parents had to wash my (cloth) diapers with melted snow at the light of a candle. Other parents have children with serious issues or are themselves going through difficult struggles. There’s almost always something worse that could happen, so a poo in a freshly changed diaper at 3 AM isn’t such a big deal now is it? At least there was something to poo!
Be careful. There is very little room for error when it comes to children. Fortunately, this is instinctive knowledge. But it never hurts to emphasize this. One mistake can turn a happy childhood into a life-long relationship with the healthcare industry. And I don’t necessarily mean physical harm. Parents have to be careful to everything they expose their children to: environment, food, entertainment, people, chemicals and medicine.
Here’s an example of a recent mistake I’ve made. We recently agreed to perform a blood test for rare diseases on our son. If I were more careful, I’d have read more information about how the blood is extracted. I didn’t, so we went to the test and it turned out that the nurse had to drill with a needle in our son’s hand for more than five minutes while complaining that “they have tiny blood vessels”. It was completely barbaric and unnecessary in my opinion. Maybe children don’t remember what happened to them in their first years, but they are definitely influenced by it. That’s my belief. But because I wasn’t careful, I didn’t even get the chance to act on my belief (and skip the test).
Love, patience, care – that’s the only foundation any parent needs for their child’s education. It’s a foundation that will only allow good parenting advice to be built upon. And the marvelous thing about such a foundation is that it can be used for any undertaking in life and to life itself. Loving, patient, caring people will always go the extra mile, succeed in the final challenge and live to laugh and celebrate the teachings that life brought to them.