What is the most important part of parenting?

As an analogy, think of a geologist sifting sediment through a strainer looking for cool rocks. All the sand comes out the bottom, and the pebbles and rocks stay inside the strainer. People, and children especially, are the same way. Let me explain!

Before I was conscious — it’s kind of funny, I say it like I was asleep for years of my life — I was so concerned with the parts of parenting that I had no control over! I thought, my kids will be better if I discipline them better, or if I use XYZ parenting technique. But the Universe has a way of subverting our expectations.

You see, time and time again, I got little prods and promptings pushing me toward the path I needed to take: take the children’s feelings into account. Whether it was from Lily explaining how easygoing it was at her grandparents’ house, or from Mark in my classroom saying “I feel like she’s always mad at us!” — I’ve learned that kids pay attention to how they feel. And this is not a political statement, or it shouldn’t be. Children are small adults and they have never experienced anything before, so we should give them an edifying experience!

Of course, this is all distilled down to that most famous of axioms: “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And it’s true! The big rocks that stay in your child’s “strainer” are all related to how they feel. If they feel safe from belittling words or hitting or abuse, if they feel encouraged to be their best self, if they feel able to live and learn (and yes, even and ESPECIALLY make mistakes), then your parental mission is a success.

So do your best to provide a safe environment where your kids can grow, because they won’t remember if you always had the house clean, or if you forgot to sign a permission slip, or if you burned dinner one time or a hundred. But they will remember the feeling if you made home a safe place for children to grow. As you practice building that home, you will get better at doing it. Remember — you’ve got this!

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