Babar en famille. Paris: Hachette, 1938.
“de Brunhoff charges this illustration of King Babar rescuing his little son Alexander with just the right soupçon of suspense. Readers shiver to see how close Alexander came to the sharp teeth of the crocodile, but also cheer when they see that it won’t snap him up after all. Other details like the royal crown drifting to the sandy bottom, the impeccable black shoes with white gaiters kicking up foam, and the famous green suit soaked, communicate the urgency of the situation as they comically defuse the tension.”
This image reminds me of what I'm capable of as a parent: acting with confidence and clarity in a helpful way with just a smidgen of humor. But that's not how it always goes in my world.
I remember feeling overwhelmed about how to handle certain parenting situations. My child would do or say something and I’d react using old skills that don’t work.
What do I mean by old skills? I’m not proud of this but I admit that my old skills included lecturing, moralizing, criticizing, pointing out what’s wrong instead of emphasizing what’s positive or going well, scolding, interrupting, denying, helping too much, ignoring, rescuing, laughing at or making fun of in the name of cuteness, giving advice, and minimizing. That’s a short list.
Then I got some insight. I discovered that there are other ways to be helpful and caring. I wanted to try new ways of relating, yet I felt like there was so much I needed to learn and change.
If you’re like me, I approach learning new skills slowly. A sustainable environment for trying new skills is built by many small changes. I’ve learned that my little changes amount to big benefits. The emphasis is on “my little changes.” In other words, I let go of the idea of changing my child and instead focus on my behavior, which includes my thoughts, feelings, and actions. I noticed that when I change my thoughts, my feelings change. And my feelings directly impact my actions.
I often blog about the new relating skills (parenting tools) I’m practicing. Simply type “parenting tool” in the search box at the top of the right-side column next to this blog post. Choose one and experiment with it. I’ve discovered that with practice I gain information that better informs my next experience.