I remember the first and only time that someone implied I wasn’t “good with kids.”
I was shocked, hurt and horrified. Worst of all, I questioned if this person was right. The questions ran through my mind... “Am I good with kids? What am I doing wrong? Why do others seem to have it all together? And what happens if I’m not ‘good with kids’?”
Getting kicked when you are already down is the worst. At that time, I was overworked, stressed beyond measure and “my well” was completely empty. I wasn’t good with kids because in that moment, I wasn’t good period.
Seven years later, I still think back to that juncture. It was both an important moment in my life & career and has led me to do this work that I love. Two points I learned then and often share in my coaching sessions with parents now are:
Not feeling good with kids or good in our interactions with children is definitely a sign that something is off. But this doesn’t then doom us to a life of bad interactions with children. We instead should take it as a signal that it’s time to make some changes, typically starting with ourselves.
Nobody is naturally good with kids. We aren’t born knowing how to be good parents or educators in the same way we aren’t born with the skill set we posses today as adults. Becoming “good with kids” doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, self awareness, practice, patience, knowledge, a willingness to change and help from “our village” (and that’s just the start of it!).
I share this story with you, because I too often hear parents question and compare themselves, parenting from a place of fear & stress and thinking that others have it all figured out.
I also share this story with you, because a big part of parenting with purpose and confidence, is recognizing what types of interactions we do and don’t want to have with children.
We often do this by assessing how we feel in our interactions with kids, but we also do this by comparing ourselves to others. Thus the whole “others being good with kids” concept, while we are just getting by.
So let’s change the perspective, because comparison can actually be a really fantastic tool when it’s used to build ourselves up instead of tear ourselves down.
What Makes us “Good with Kids”
When we acknowledge another as being “good with kids”, we are actually seeing a quality that we admire in that parent, educator, friend or family member.
We are appreciating what seems like another’s “natural” ability with children. It may be a quality that we already possess and are working on or it may be a quality that we wish to embody in our interactions with kids.
At this point, we can either turn this acknowledgment & admiration into negative self-talk (“I’m not good enough”) or we can mindfully choose to reframe our thoughts.
This may look like:
Noticing a mom being a really kind and empathetic listener with her children.
Acknowledging a teacher for finding that balance of being really kind & caring with kids while also setting limits & boundaries.
Admiring a family member, who has what seems like limitless patience, and wondering how she does it.
Seeing a family together at the park, no phones or agendas.
Instead of comparing, we can pause and ask ourselves what we are actually admiring in another and why. Mindfully observing and then reflecting is the key difference here.
This simple activity moves us from a negative mindset (I’m not good enough, others have it all figured out, etc.) to a more positive mindset (I really admire how present that father is with his children and I’d like to foster that ability, etc.).
It reminds us that being “good with kids” doesn’t just magically happen. It also reminds us that it all starts with us.
What are some qualities that you admire in fellow parents, friends, educators and family members? What are some qualities that you admire and acknowledge in yourself? I would love to hear from you!