Parenting: A Job With a Never-Ending Learning Curve

Written by Christy Whitman October 26, 2012

As they make the journey from tiny infants to full-grown adults, our children pass through literally hundreds of distinct developmental stages. Along the way, they reach physical milestones, such as learning to crawl, walk, and talk. They reach emotional milestones where they come to understand the basic rules of social interaction, gain more control over their base impulses, and gradually expand their capacity for autonomy. Then there are intellectual milestones, which add depth and complexity to their thinking; in fact, brain development continues well into a child’s early 20s. Every child is unique, and so is the rate at which he or she passes through each developmental phase. Whether a particular stage lasts a single day or many years, it is our job as parents to adapt to each one.

Because our children are constantly growing and evolving, we as parents have the awesome privilege and responsibility to evolve right along with them. Parenting represents a constant learning-curve; a job in which we are continually challenged to reinvent ourselves, to remain flexible, and to develop new skills. Each new milestone brings a new opportunity to decide who we want to be in relation to our children, and how we want to interact with them.

To the degree that we as parents insist on staying the same while our kids are in a perpetual state of evolution, we will evoke resistance from them – and create a lot of unnecessary frustration for ourselves. When we apply the Law of Allowing in our parenting, our children’s growth inspires our own and helps us to unveil the next evolution of ourselves – as parents and as people – that is waiting to be expressed. I recently had an experience with my boys that drove this point home.

I walked into the living room one day to find Alex, who is just a few months past three years old, sitting on the couch with his two year old brother, Maxim. Seeing them, I had an immediately desire to join in. I walked over to where they were quietly talking and gave each of them a kiss. Both boys received my attention and love, and then Alex calmly asked, “Mommy, can you please leave so I can have some time alone with my brother?”

For a brief moment I felt my heart contract. I could have easily interpreted Alex’s request to mean that my boys no longer need me or want me around. Then, just as quickly – and thanks in large part to the fact that I had just done some reading about stages of childhood development – I realized that Alex’s behavior had nothing to do with me. It was a reflection of the fact that he is going through a phase where he is experimenting with autonomy and authority, and he was asserting his preference to spend time alone with his brother. Knowing that any attempts at imposing my will on them would only cause resistance, I said, “Sure,” and left them alone – reminding myself that our ultimate goal is to raise children who are self-reliant and empowered, and that this requires us to adapt and be flexible.

All of us – young and old – grow through different phases at different stages in our lives, and our intimate relationships demand that we accept and allow this process of growth to unfold. When we do, we receive one of the greatest gifts that our children give us: we remain young and on our evolutionary edge.

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