I haven't figured this out yet . . .
Raising children is hard work. Possibly the hardest work there is. It takes physical strength and endurance, mental toughness, and intelligence to raise a child right. If you think that sounds like an exaggeration, you’re not a parent.
Due to the challenging nature of raising children, it’s possible to develop some pretty awesome skills that probably wouldn’t look too bad on a résumé. Skills like, multi-tasking, negotiation, organization, and good communication skills. If you don’t want to add them to your résumé, you can at least work on them to be a better parent.
You may be developing these skills without even realizing it. I didn’t really think about it until recently when my wife and I had to use some negotiation skills on our two-year old.
On some evenings, G has trouble deciding what he wants for dessert. Sometimes he wants cake and ice cream. We never give our kids an entire whole dessert, much less two of them. G’s grandparents would argue that cake and ice cream aren’t two separate desserts, but that’s not what we say.
I know what you’re thinking, how can this guy deprive his kid of cake and ice cream? That’s just mean. Not when you don’t have to deal with his reaction to sugar it isn’t. Even a small portion of both would be enough to keep him up a couple of hours past his bedtime and turn him violent. He doesn’t even get an entire cupcake unless it’s his birthday or Christmas.
Anyway, I’m not the only parent to face this predicament, and there are basically two ways you can handle the situation. You can give in to your child’s demands, and with all judgements aside, I’m sure many parents do. Or, you can negotiate. My wife and I usually take a hard stance on negotiating treats. You can either have what we’re offering you, or nothing at all.
This usually works because we have the power to enforce that, but sometimes we have to use other tactics, like offering either the cake or the ice cream.
My son’s smart enough to think that if he agrees to ice cream, he can ask for cake when he’s finished with the ice cream. It’s rarely worked on us, and it’s worth the fight then, instead of dealing with the sugar madness later.
Multi-tasking is another skill, and an absolute necessary one if you want anything done. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to spend time with your kids, clean your house, work (if you have a job), go shopping, cook, romance your spouse, and have time to yourself. You have to find ways of doing these things in the amount of time you have.
The easiest way to multi-task when you have children is to involve them in as many of the daily chores you may have. Shopping, cooking, and cleaning are the easiest to involve your kids in; they are for me, because my kids love to help with all of those things. At least then you’re spending quality time with your kids while getting some necessary tasks done.
When possible, you can even get your kids to help in the romance department. I don’t mean that in a creepy, gross way. A few years ago, on G’s first Christmas, I wrote my wife a poem in his voice and attached it to her Christmas gift. She cried, and it made me look good. Now we team up on virtually every special occasion.
Organization is a less required skill for parenting, but it sure does help. When we first started accumulating toys, we had them all willy nilly around the house. Pieces went missing, only to turn up months later, looking like they returned from toy hell. Organization may save your life, literally. I’m lucky I’ve never tripped and broken my neck on a gone astray toy in the middle of the night.
Organization is particularly useful when out and about with your children. Being organized ensures you’re not miles from home without enough diapers, wipes, or food. Maybe that has more to do with preparedness, but if you’re organized, you’re prepared.
Good communication skills are also just there to make your life easier. If you can find a way to successfully communicate with a toddler, you can successfully communicate with anyone. The study of Linguistics has a little term called, the communicative burden. It basically means that when you’re communicating with someone who speaks a different language or dialect from yourself, you exercise the patience, time, and effort to successfully communicate with them.
This works both ways, and since small children either don’t speak, or their language skills aren’t very polished, there’s going to be some level of communicative burden. Children are particularly difficult when they refuse to make eye contact, or even acknowledge the fact that you’re there attempting to tell them something.
I have, regrettably, gotten upset with my kids when they haven’t done something I’ve told them to do. If you’ve ever done this, and your children are younger than five, they may do as my children have often done, and cried. Why? Well, because no one likes being yelled at, but they may also have been confused and not understood, even if they were able to say they understood.
My wife has constantly reminded me that my kids don’t understand what I’m saying to them because I’m trying to communicate with them as if they’re adults, instead of explaining things to them in their terms. For example, when G would hit C, I would tell him not to hit and go into a long explanation of why it was wrong. He kept doing it, and I kept getting angrier and angrier that he was hurting his sister until my wife made me realize that I was over-explaining to him. Time out doesn’t work if your kids don’t understand why they’re being punished.
So the simple explanation of, “no hitting because it’s not nice,” and a time out, sufficed. He still did it, but he did it a lot less, and he started to understand why he was getting in trouble for doing it because I was no longer preaching at him.
Understanding the communicative burden is a great way to sharpen your communication skills, because not everyone you deal with will be like you.
Those are the skills I’ve found to be most useful at trying to work on, and if they don’t help my parenting, at least I may be personally edified.