After our first baby was born, I longed to be a good mom. I wanted to raise a happy well-adjusted daughter, to apply what the experts taught to the best of my ability.

In all honesty, I was secretly afraid of making mistakes that might affect her in some awful way for life. 

Sometime during our daughter's first year, I read a timeless Proverb.

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Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

The footnote in the margin defining the literal meaning of the words, stopped me in my tracks. It said: Lit. according to his way.

Train up a child according to his way. I paused. Set down my coffee cup and really thought about that for a moment. According to his way. Hmmm. What are the practical implications? I jotted down an idea that afternoon. One that proved to boost my confidence in as a parent, and the confidence of many other parents, too.

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Identify Your Child’s Unique Ways

The first years of life are all about getting to know your baby. Focus on seeing who they are and how they are wired. Seek to understand their special ways, enlisting insights from others.

When our daughter was a little over a year old, my Grandmother, a.k.a. Mimi, flew in to visit for a week. Mimi and I were good friends who shared a rich history of wonderful experiences together while I was growing up. She knew me well.

One afternoon Mimi shared an insight with me that was like a two by four between the eyes. Setting her china cup gently on the saucer she said, "Jessie doesn’t look at the world through the same set of eyes you do. Don’t assume she will approach people and situations like you."

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That thought had never occurred to me. My daughter was blond haired, blued eyed, and smiley, like me. I was a new mom, dog tired, trying my best to find some semblance of balance in this new world of parenting, working, house-keeping, and . . . feel free to add your other demands here.

I know you know what I’m talking about.

Mimi’s words flipped on a light. She was basically saying, Your daughter is not you. That old Proverb came back into view, 'Train up your child according to her way.’

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Separate Your Child From Your Past

I see relief wash over parents in the counseling office when they shift away from thinking their child should be a certain way, to learning about and understanding their child’s unique ways. We set ourselves up for frustration when we assume our kids are, or should be, like us. It’s even worse when our child’s disposition or style is confusing or embarrassing.

One young mom expressed concern about her fourteen-month-old son’s tendency to anxiously cling to her during their playdates with other families. He didn’t want to leave her and be with other toddlers on the floor.

She was worried about him being the only one too afraid to play. We explored her concerns together in the following simple conversation:

When your son is on your lap during playdates, what does he usually do?
He just sits and watches.

Does he mostly face the children or face you?
He faces the kids.

Does he seem calm or agitated?
He’s usually calm.

Could it be that your son is more interested in studying what is going on, and thinking about it, rather than being in the middle of all the activity?
After a long pause, she replied:
Maybe. I just want him to be able to make friends.

I understand. He is very young. Where is that concern coming from?
I just know how hard it was for me as a kid. I want better for him.

Ahhh. There it is. You just put it together. You’re looking at your son through the lens of your past. Here’s the good news: Your past does not determine your son’s present or future.
He has his own unique way and his own special path, completely separate from yours. He views the world through a completely different set of eyes. Maybe it’s safe to assume your son likes to observe and think about things. I have a hunch you’ll see these great characteristics expressed in many ways as he grows up.

 

One of the joys of being in private practice in the same city over twenty-five years is seeing families develop over time. As this little boy grew, he became a serious student earning academic honors. After attending a great college, he entered a top tier design firm on the ground floor, and now has a booming career as an Architect. His observation and strategic thinking skills are exceptional.

The fears his mom wrestled with early on never became a reality. He’s living happy, according to his way, surrounded by many good friends.

If I could sum up these two secrets into just two words it would be these: unique and present. Enjoy every moment you get to spend with your children and while you're getting to know them better, you might just be helping them to better know themselves.

What secrets have you learned when it comes to parenting?



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Pam Vredevelt

Pam Vredevelt is a Professional Counselor and Coach, Best-selling author of Empty Arms, and the Empty Arms Journal. Jessie Vredevelt Schultz is a business consultant and transformation coach. They co-lead Healing Your Empty Arms: A transformation experience after the loss of your baby or child, for emotional healing, personal growth, and spiritual renewal.



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