This week I gave a presenation for a symposium of childcare workers. It was wonderful to see so many people who work with young children show their care and love for their students! After the talk, one attendee approached me with a question. She prompted it by saying, “I know you were talking about what teachers should do in their classrooms–how they can communicate better with students–but I’m not a teacher…I run a daycare out of my home and I take care of just a few kids. But I was just wondering…” At which point she started to proceed with her question.
At which point I gently interrupted saying, “Wait a minute, wait a minute…you ARE a teacher!” She responded by saying that she did not go to school for teaching and was not a licensed educator.
I asked her, “Do you have children in your care each day?” Yes. “Do you interact with them regularly?” Yes. “Then you are a teacher. The children in your care are learning from you. And don’t worry about your official title, because children learn more from those who take care of them and interact regularly with them than they do from anyone who is simply their ‘licensed educator’.”
- Children learn from those who engage with them–giving eye contact, smiles, handshakes, and hugs.
- Children learn from those to whom they feel a similarity–a feeling of being alike or being the same.
- Children learn from those whom they feel are on their team–someone who is on their side, advocating for them.
- Children learn from those to whom they feel significant–a sense of belonging in the relationship.
- Children learn from those who exude love--when gestures of affection come from the heart.
- Children will learn from those who know them–a deep level of trust and connection.
This is true for anyone who is in regular contact and communication with children. You may not be planning lessons, projects, and homework assignments for them, but kids who interact with you are learning from you. You may not have a specific classroom, but instead any room in which you are present: this is where learning occurs. You may not be teaching derivatives, latin roots, or Mendel’s dihybrid cross, but every day, every interaction you are teaching the children in your care things they need to know to be successful in life.
- “I am important. I matter in this environment and in this relationship.”
- “I am nourished. I am getting what I need to grow.”
- “I am capable. I can handle challenges and recover from failures.”
- “I am autonomous. I have power over my choices and actions.”
- “I am safe. I will not be harmed.”
- “I am accepted. My feelings are normal, and my behavior is forgivable.”
These are the things they learn from you, their teacher, no matter what official title you may have. So if you think you’re not a child’s teacher, think again. You are. We all are. Children learn from the adults in their lives how to engage with the world, where they fit in, and the tremendous range of capabilities they possess. Academics aside, what lessons will you teach today?
Taking time today to celebrate the occasion (motherhood), but also reflecting on the past (pre-motherhood–what that was like!) and looking ahead to what’s yet to come. May the future bring us more of the little moments of parenthood that make today so great. Little moments, lots of love, and a lifetime of gratitude for these two kiddos that make me a mom.
The topic of parental judgement has come up in some communication I’ve recently had with other parents, and has made me realize: it happens. I think at one time or another we have all experienced a critical comment or two about our approach to child-rearing. Parenting is a topic that is varied, important, and extremely personal. No two children, parents, or families are alike, so neither are any two parenting styles. Yet, we often hear comments and concerns from others about about the way we’re doing things with our kids. Criticism, whether it’s given directly or passively, leave us feeling angry and offended, maybe even a little hurt or doubtful of the choices we’re making. It has happened to me, and it has brought me down.
But lately, it’s been bringing me down less and less. Maybe as my kids get older, there is less to criticize. Maybe I’m becoming more aware of other parents’ perspectives (hence, their own struggles). Maybe I’m just maturing as a parent.
The more I hear harsh or judgmental comments from others about some aspect of my life, the more I come to realize that those comments are more a reflection of the person’s own feelings than they are a criticism of me.
If we are not confident in our decisions in how we raise our families, we are susceptible to the weight that our critics will bear upon us. If we are not standing tall, there is room on our backs for the burden of someone else’s emotions. Because that’s where judgement comes from: emotion.
- Judgement comes from anger. Someone is upset–either about the issue at-hand or about something unrelated–and they’re lashing out with harsh words and a critical tone.
- Judgment comes from fear. Someone is afraid for your safety, a child’s safety, or their own safety; afraid of losing face; afraid of making a mistake; afraid of being wrong; afraid of being judged by others.
- Judgment comes from insecurity. Someone is trying to build up confidence in their own decisions by finding fault in yours.
- Judgement comes from hurt. Someone close to you is taking your choices as a slight against them.
- Judgement comes from guilt. Someone feels remorseful for a mistake from their past and surfaces in the form of “helpful” criticism.
So what do we do when faced with judgmental comments? We stand tall. Don’t give another person’s displaced emotions a place to rest on your back. Know yourself. Know your family. Stay informed. Be confident. Know that the critic’s feelings are about the critic, not you.
It can be hard to withstand critical comments; some are well-meaning, while others have no such intent. But we can always respond to speaker’s feelings instead of their words.“It sounds like you have experience with this kind of situation…That must have been very difficult…You are worried I’m making a mistake…You made the best choice for your family…You’re afraid this decision will hurt us in the long run…” Acknowledge their feelings, either out loud in conversation or silently in your head to remind yourself of where this person might be coming. They are coming from somewhere. But that’s their journey.
When we don’t take on the emotions of others, we have the strength to stand tall for ourselves and our families.