There are many light bulb moments in the life of new parents. Most of them tend to be overwhelming – e.g., “These small creatures for which *I’m* responsible are going to have to be productive members of society one day?!”
But there are a few moments when you realize simple truths that make life just a little more bearable each day. I had one of those today.
I consider myself a decent parent. My kids are happy, healthy, learning, and loving. They’re not perfect, and neither am I. They don’t listen well, they make horrible messes effortlessly, and I both get mad at them and let them off the hook far too easily. But we all try.
You teach your kids the ways of the world by example and by instruction from a very early age. You write instructions into their brain and expect them to perform those functions as written. When they don’t, tempers boil, volumes rise, and hairs turn grey.
There’s only one small problem with this arrangement – children are human beings just like you, not input-output machines limited to following their programming.
When you program an electronic device to perform a function, it follows those instructions to the letter; that’s all it can do. When something goes wrong, it’s by definition the programmer’s fault, usually for writing an error into the program.
Kids are irrational bundles of feelings, senses, chemicals, and thoughts. They can be taught, yes. But they cannot be expected to rotely follow instruction; they’re not corporate drones yet!
That doesn’t mean we stop teaching or let our kids do whatever they want either. But given the circumstances, a little leeway is sometimes warranted. Children are going to react to circumstances in their own way, usually less predictably than adults, given their more rudimentary programming and processing capability. One of our jobs as parents is to teach them how to react, not just how to act. Part of that is by reacting to them appropriately so they see how it’s supposed to work.
I write this not to brag about my insightful parenting techniques, but mostly for my own sake. I could be more patient with my kids too. They’re just learning how the world works, and it’s my job to teach them and let them learn their own way, not hit CTRL-ALT-DEL, or worse, if they don’t get it right immediately.