Harnessing Your Super Parent Powers
Super parents are everyday parents. It’s not about the glamour of having a perfect life, a perfect house, and perfect kids. It’s about doing all the little things your kids need you to do every day, day in and day out. It is about loving them so much you don’t resent them for the time it takes for you to give them all they need to grow into the best version of themselves.
And these daily things our kids need are pretty ordinary and somewhat mundane. They are not exciting. The excitement of being a superpower parent is all in the slow and steady observation, much like planting a tree seed. It is not like a radish seed. It grows slowly and needs love, water, fertilizer, weeding and care for years before it is so large and strong it can take care of itself, pulling water out of the soil with its own deep roots.
While most parenting advice has nothing to do with science and a lot to do with the opinions of authors, I have tried to narrow down what science actually knows about our kids. What it takes to nourish kids, physically, mentally, and emotionally is not rocket science. I have no startling discoveries to share with you. Just common sense distilled into a sort of checklist.
Of course, being a superpower parent cannot really be distilled into a checklist. What our kids need can sometimes be elusive. One day, they may need you to push them forward, another day, they just need a hug. Being in tune with your kids is part of the superpower parent equation but ‘being in tune’ is a hard thing to quantify.
1. Listen (you have to use more than your ears)
We can start by listening to our kids. But the thing about kids is that they do not have refined communication skills, and even if they did, they often don’t even know what it is they need. Their self-awareness is still developing. So being ‘in tune’ with your kids does not just mean listening to their words.
You have to learn how to listen to their actions too. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase,
“Actions speak louder than words.”
We need to look at this phrase from the other side with kids. It is not just our actions that will be louder than our words, but it is also our kids actions, which we should learn to hear more than their words. What are their actions telling us? Because they may not have the words. They may not even have the thoughts. And if they try to use words, they may get it all wrong. Because they are not expert communicators yet. Surely, we all know adults who struggle to understand and communicate their needs with their loved ones?
How much harder is it for kids?
Listen again (your child is not the only one you need to listen to)
Sometimes you cannot expect to distill what your child needs into words…you just know. That is parental intuition and we should all be talking about and respecting that tool much more than we do. Parenting books can be handy for tips, tricks, ideas, and contemplations. But they can never replace the parent’s intuition. We should never follow the advice of ‘parenting guru’ when it is flying in the face of what our own intuition about our child is telling us right now.
So listening is not just about listening to our kid's words and their actions, it is also about listening to ourselves. Being ‘in-tune’ with your own needs can help you become better at translating and understanding your child’s needs.
This is often apparent when a behavior that seems mysterious to one parent is obvious to the other parent. A parent that gets angry if they are hungry can quickly identify the same problem in their child. While a parent who does not experience anger when hungry may be completely mystified as to why their child sometimes turns into this unrecognizable monster.
And listen again (the world is more than you and your child)
And this brings me to a third part of the listening equation. Parents need to listen to other parents. We need to support each other in our parenting decisions. Part of this support is being able to tell our stories and our struggles and troubleshoot problems with each other.
To be able to talk to other parents in an open and supportive enviornment we need to drop the charade that we know all the answers. Humbleness is required. You don’t have to open up to every parent you meet. It’s pretty easy to spot the dangerous ones…they will be loud evangelists for one of those parenting book authors and will follow every piece of advice to the letter. When you come across these parents. Just smile and run. Run away fast. Go find people who aren’t selling you perfection if you follow some code.
Find the parents who troubleshoot to figure out what their child needs. Listen to them. Share with them. They won’t have all the answers and neither will you, but you can still help each other. Because that other parent might be a hangry person. (Hangry, if you are not familiar with the term, means someone who gets angry when hungry.)
To find this kind of community you have to be this kind of parent yourself. No smug satisfaction over your own superior parenting choices. No pretense of perfect answers, perfect kids, perfect selves, or perfect houses full of perfect pets.
When a parent is opening up to you about struggles with their child they are not asking you to tell them what to do. They are hoping you have faced similar problems. The first thing they need is for you to tell them that they are not alone. They want to know someone else has the same problem or has ‘been there’. You can share your own similar story. Then, if they ask how you dealt with it, you can share. You can tell them the things you tried, what worked, what didn’t. You just lay your own troubleshooting ideas on the table and you let them pick them up or ignore them as they see fit.
Kids are humans, and that means they are complicated. Two children can have the same problematic behavior and need completely different solutions.
Some kids need a lot more of something than others. As the parent, it is up to you to figure out what that something is.
For example, there is no magic amount of exercise every child needs. Some might be healthy with an hour a day, others might need four (don’t argue with me on this one, I know what happens to my kid when he has less than four…it is a need.)
The more needs a kid has that are not being met the more likely they are to be labeled. We have lots of fun labels to hand out to kids who are annoying the adults in their life. But if all of the adults in their life came together, supporting one another, listening to each other and listening to both the words and actions of the child, we might actually be able to figure out what they need and give it to them.
When a child is getting everything they need they are not a ‘problem child.’
I know, some kids are just a lot harder to troubleshoot than others. Some have weird needs. I have that kid. I get it. Being a superpower parent means understanding humans. The first human you need to understand is yourself. Only then can you use that wisdom to understand your child.
Back to the checklist.
I gave you one thing so far.
Listen to your kids’ actions
Listen to yourself
Listen to other parents
Read stories to your kids
Feed your kids food
Get your kids moving
Put music in their lives
Get them outside
Play with them
Talk to them
Put them to bed…sleep is a need.
Easy right? Now just do these little things every day and you can be a superpower parent too.
Warning: Following this advice will not make you, your life, or your kids perfect. It will not solve all your problems. Only you can do that.