Babar reminds me of what I'm capable of as a parent

Babar en famille. Paris: Hachette, 1938.

 “an 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: spontaneously and helpfully responding to difficulty with confidence, clarity and 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 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 ways to truly 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.

I approach learning new skills slowly. I realized that a sustainable environment is built by many small changes. My little changes could amount to big benefits. (Emphasis is on my.)

In other words, I let go of the idea of changing my child or anyone and instead focus on my behavior—on the thoughts I think, the words I say, the actions I take. This takes reflection, and time to just sit with myself to observe who and how I am, my mind that creates my response to others, especially my children and students.