Parenting Takes Practice

I will never forget a phone call I made a little over three years ago to Dr. Karyn Purvis. I had just finished reading her book, The Connected Child, and I was so excited to start “practicing” what I had learned. Little did I know that I was taking a step that would lead me (and our entire family) on an incredible journey.

I had spent the better part of an entire week using her strategies of “connecting while correcting” with all four of my kids. They were all out of school for the summer, and looking back I must have been crazy to try this when they were home all day. By the end of that week I was literally exhausted — physically and emotionally. I never imagined that this “connecting while correcting” would take so much time and energy. Threatening to put my kids in “time out” or taking something away was so much easier than this.

So when I called Dr. Purvis I pretty much told her that she was crazy and that this approach of hers would never work for us. I know what you are thinking — who am I to tell the expert that her methods didn’t work? Pretty bold, huh? But she was very gracious and reminded me about the part of the book that talked about this thing called “investment parenting.” She also reminded me that she never promised this would be easy or that it was a magic formula that would work overnight. She reiterated that it would take time and there were no shortcuts — at least none worth taking. Most importantly, she emphasized that it would take both Michael and me being ruthlessly consistent in applying this approach. So with that encouragement I went back to “practicing” again.

It’s funny sometimes that parents forget how important practice is, especially when it comes to using parenting strategies that focus on connecting even while we are correcting. How many times as children did we hear our parents remind us that “practice makes perfect”? And how many times have we said the same thing to our children. But for some reason, as parents we forget this. While we are quick to remind our kids to practice their soccer or baseball, piano or dance, math facts or spelling words, we rarely apply the same discipline when it comes to us “practicing” our parenting.

Three years after I called Dr. Purvis to let her know she was crazy, I am still at it, daily practicing how to connect with my kids in every situation, especially those that call for correction as well. Oh, I still get it wrong plenty of times, and sometimes I even have to say “I’m sorry” (something that doesn’t come easy for me as a mom, but that’s another subject for another day). I guess practice doesn’t actually make perfect after all, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t important.

As I have continued to practice over these last few years I have seen remarkable changes in my kids and their behaviors, and in me as well. My kids and I are much more connected than before, and what I was certain would never work is changing our family for the better.

Amy Monroe writes a regular column – A Mother’s Heart – on the Tapestry blog, where this article originally appeared.