Mid-pandemic I decided to learn to play fiddle. I ordered one on-line and waited for it to come. I watched all kinds of videos so I could learn to play. When it finally arrived, I took it out of the case, pulled the bow across the strings (for those of you anticipating the next line – no, it did not make an evil hiss), instead it made no noise at all. None. Perhaps the faintest sound like dragging your finger across a piece of paper. Was it broken? Was I simply doomed to not be able to play this instrument?
How many folks have moments when they feel the same way as parents. Why is this not working as I thought it would? Am I broken? Are my kids broken?
Turns out fiddle playing, and parenting have a lot more in common than one might think. Like embarking on any new adventure there is a lot to learn. Since this is a parenting blog, I thought I would share some of the resources and supports that helped me in my quest to develop stronger parenting skills.
As a new parent, I was on the lookout for parenting mentors. I watched how the parents spoke about their kids, and how they spoke to their kids. If the children were already grown up, what was their relationship with their parents like?
A new parent I know expressed concern that her relative was telling her how she was parenting *wrong* by holding her baby too much. I asked how she felt about that relative’s relationship with their own kids, and if this is someone she’d like to learn from. The answer was a resounding ‘No!”, but this was the first time she’d considered filtering who had the privilege of sharing their parenting wisdom with her.
Parenting mentors are those people who parent their own kids (and other small people) in ways that resonate with your own values and parenting goals. My parenting goals included mutual respect, good communication (often boiled down in the toddler years to “use your words”), kindness, love and boundaries. Boundaries were very new to me at the time and still a work in progress.
I met folks at drop-in (now EarlyON) who turned out to be lovely peer-mentors and are still friends today. We shared values and parenting goals. It was so important to me through all the kid life-stages to have another parent to connect with.
While taking a series of “obedience classes” is often considered standard practice when welcoming a new canine family member, I think there is still a lot of stigma around choosing to take a parenting course. When my kids were little, Muskoka Family Focus (thankfully) ran a few different parenting courses – How to Talk so Kids will Listen (& Listen so Kids will Talk) and Raising Your Spirited Child.
I enrolled in those courses, and any other one-day workshop they offered. I needed skills. I wanted my kids to be kind, responsible, resourceful, inter-dependent members of our home and society, but I had no idea how to make that happen.
The weekly act of connecting with other parents, sharing challenges, and trying new strategies shifted the way I spoke and acted with not only my kids, but my partner and my wider family.
I learned to choose wisely what labels I give my kids, for example, they are not stubborn, but “committed to their goals”.
I learned to start with emotions and feelings before tasks and chores. For example, the days they come home slam the door, catapult their bag across the room and sit with a large “hurruff” – what they need is a “Wow, looks like you had a rough day”. What they don’t need is “how many times do I need to tell you to hang-up your school bag”.
Currently MFF is offering “Bounce Back and Thrive” (BBT) which is a resiliency-building course aimed at people who parent kids under eight. Six weeks are focused on building our own resiliency skill set, and then the next four weeks expand to include building resiliency in our kids.
It is 2023 – we all need these skills – and the best part of MFF’s offering – the course is FREE!
If I had to pick “THE” most influential person on my parenting, it would be Barbara Coloroso – and her work applies beyond my parenting sphere to my professional world too.She has a way of putting so much wisdom into quick and tidy phrases that served as good reminders for me.
For example, one of her phrases that I used frequently was “If it is not morally threatening, life-threatening, or unhealthy, let it go”. This quick reminder served me well to let my kids make choices that I didn’t like (think haircuts) and conversely to stand my ground when other choices represented a safety issue (like wearing a life jacket). My kids learned quickly that a “no” followed by “it’s a safety issue” would never change into a yes.
The other phrase we used a lot was “Tattling is getting someone in trouble; Telling is getting someone out of trouble”. On one memorable day, 5 kids came running into the house – with the usual – so-and-so did…., and I asked is this telling? Or is this tattling?. They stopped, looked at each other – sighed – said it’s tattling and went back outside. I never did find out what was going on. The difference between tattling – (getting someone into trouble – think taking an extra candy, or making a face behind your back) and telling – (think a cut arm after the kids were told not to play with knives) was a keystone discussion with our kids from toddlerhood to adulthood. There is lots I do not need to know that happens a party with teenagers. There are things an adult (or perhaps even the police) do need to know. It is not tattling if someone’s life is in danger. Using this phase provided a guidepost for what needed to be shared, and what should not.
There is so much more that I could share about Coloroso’s wisdom and her lens on parenting. I would encourage you to look her up. Here is a small video on punishment versus discipline.
How Can MFF Help You?
Community, classes and engagement with experts supported me in building my parenting skill set. What might support you in building your parenting skills? How can Muskoka Family Focus support and help? It is a work-in-progress, like my fiddling.
For those of you left hanging with the noise-less fiddle, turns out – I needed rosin. A LOT of rosin. I have since learned a few tunes, and with practice, I am learning a new tune every few weeks. I am much improved since that first encounter, and I have a lot of room to grow – both as a fiddle player, and as a parent.