One thing I notice about parenting is that if you aren’t careful, it can become so routine. Wake up, send kids to school or daycare, pick them up, eat dinner, bedtime, repeat. While there are many reasons to encourage routine, particularly for infants, I find it to be a hindrance in trying to bridge a relationship with your child once they are out of diapers.
I believe it’s really important to show your kids that you are actually a real person. Away from your home, apart from telling them what not to do all the time, they need to see who you are and how you exist.
The way I make this happen is by not just planning activities that cater to my daughter’s age. She is 14 so I have the luxury of being a bit more flexible, but I still don’t limit our activities to shopping malls and dinner dates.
I’m not opposed to bringing my daughter along to some of the more grown up things I do. She’s followed me to my photo-shoots. She watches the photographer do their thing and will even shoot some behind the scenes footage.
Or just the other night, I brought her to my friend’s birthday dinner. It was a Thursday and we didn’t end up leaving until 10:30, but it’s that important for her to see me out of parenting mode and behaving as a “regular” person. No, we didn’t get home till about 11:00 o’clock that night. And, yes, there was a bunch of grown ups drinking and even swearing (the horror), but it was more than worth it.
I think my daughter seeing me in these situations makes it easier for us to relate. She’ll hear me cracking jokes, she’ll watch how I make conversation, she’ll catch how I say thank you to the waitress and waiters every single time they pour a glass of water or bring a plate to our table. It reaffirms all of the things I preach when we’re at home and I’m back in parenting mode.
Raising a child is kind of like writing. The most foundational lesson any writing instructor will give is to “show don’t tell.” That’s exactly the approach I take with my teen daughter. Changing the environment changes the way she interprets the messaging because she’s no longer being told, she’s actually observing and seeing for herself why these lessons are important.
And you don’t necessarily have to leave your home to make this happen. I went to Seattle last month to visit my brother and his family. My nieces are adorable. The older one is three (although she tells you she’s much closer to four), and if you’re familiar with kids at that age, let’s just say they need a lot of attention.
One rainy afternoon, we were all just slumming around the house when my brother’s wife decided it was obstacle time. She used some of the kids toys and laid them out gauntlet style around the house. We all took turns running, crawling, and riding a bike that none of us should’ve practically been able to fit, and timed ourselves to see who got through the obstacle course the fastest.
Needless to say my older niece loved it, and they got to see their mom be a person rather than just an instructor.
I know I’m a fairly liberal parent and prefer to treat my daughter much more like an adult than the kid that she is. I don’t expect every parent to get it, but trust me when I say that I’ve seen a noticeable difference in the conversations with my daughter once she’s been able to get to know me outside of our own four walls. I say it’s worth a shot, even for the conservative parent.
The following was syndicated from Medium.