When I raised my three children, I did most of it on my own. I had no parents or sisters, and I didn’t even speak the language when I moved across the ocean to Germany to raise my family. My husband worked most of the time and he was gone for weeks, especially when we first moved there, leaving me with a one year old, a three year old, and a five year old. The American woman who helped us find our house in a small town near Munich became a role model and my first friend. The gift I received from her in raising my three children was the opportunity to take over teaching/parenting classes at a Montessori International school at night. Yes, I had a graduate psychology degree, but it didn’t help me when one of my children didn’t want to go to sleep at night, or my youngest refused to eat vegetables. I became a better parent because I learned from the books that I read and listened to the voices of women and men from around the world and the wisdom that they brought to my classes. It made me treasure my children and renewed my confidence in my own abilities.
What did I learn? Every being, no matter how small, is worthy of respect and love, just because they exist. A parent must have self-control and be more disciplined than a child if they are to calmly deal with a temper tantrum or just the daily challenge of being with little people. They have feelings and desires just as we do; they just happen to be in small bodies! The other parents in my classes and I brainstormed alternatives to hitting a child – give them a time out, walk away yourself, etc. We stepped back to think about “What are we teaching our children by our actions?” Remember that you know more than your child – you are their role model and it is your job to teach them how to navigate the world. Children do not listen to your words, they look at what you do and follow your actions. If you beat a child, they learn to beat others.
Does this mean that you never discipline your child? Not at all. Children thrive when they have reasonable boundaries established. It helps them feel safe when they know there is someone who cares to set limits on unacceptable behavior. The goal is to set the limits, be consistent, and do it in a loving but firm manner, without yelling or belittling.
When I taught those classes over eleven years, I encouraged each parent to listen to the small voice inside of them who knew their child best. Sleep issues were a big topic of discussion. Should you let children cry? Do they need their own bed? Our discussion group was silent as the mostly European parents listened to a man from India say, “I don’t know why this is such a big discussion – I am 30 years old and when I go back to India, I sleep in the family bed with my mother and father.” There are so many ways to parent!! Be creative, listen to your parents, your friends, but mostly listen to yourself. Your job as a parent is to listen to your baby, your child, your teen, and give them your love and your full attention. The time that you have with them is short, and yet it is the most important time in their lives because it sets their foundation in life and establishes their ability to trust others and form healthy relationships in the world.
About the author; Nina Kozain is a teacher, trainer and has been a counselor for over 25 years. She currently lives in New Hampshire with her husband, but she has lived in four different countries and still travels extensively.
Nina enjoys singing, dancing, learning, and especially spending time with her three children, granddaughter and her extended family and friends