I recognized that feeling oh so well. I took my first parenting class in 2008. I went to every class, did all the homework, and read the books. By the end of 6 weeks, I understood the strategies, but I could never remember to implement them in the heat of the moment with my kids. I would realize what to do hours later, often after losing it and giving up. I felt horrible; I couldn't get it right. So many times I wondered if I just wasn't cut out to be a nurturing, responsible, respectful parent.
I now know that I was stuck in "Conscious Incompetence." I wanted to be a parenting savant. But it seemed that when I was trying my hardest to be positive, encouraging, kind-but-firm, I would be back to nagging, ordering, scolding, and cajoling. The worst thing was when I’d notice that I was doing exactly what the books said not to do. With learning, I’d developed awareness. Then, fast on its heels, came self-criticism. And fear.
I kept reading, let ideas incubate, and managed. Had a third kid. Two steps forward, two steps back. I got a little better, but still felt stymied. Usually, I made it work by doing everything for my kids. Which would work briefly, then collapse. My parenting felt knee-jerk and didn't jibe with all the SEL that I read about (and, frankly, with three kids, we were outnumbered). So, my husband and I decided to take Julietta Skoog's Parenting from the Heart class, which teaches Positive Discipline.
And it was amazing. (Julietta is brilliant. Just brilliant.) That's when I learned about Conscious Incompetence, which is one of the Four Stages of Competence. Julietta explained that you move from Unconscious Incompetence to Conscious Incompetence, then onto Conscious Competence, and Unconscious Competence whenever you learn a new skill.
Can you ride a bike? Do you remember when you didn't know how? I do. It felt the same as when I'd watch a preschool teacher magically get 5 shoes on 5 wiggly kids, line the whole class up for the playground and go, all in 5 minutes. Unattainable, magical, impossible. But I learned how to ride a bike. What did it take? What all skill building takes—practice. But it also takes something more. I suddenly connected the dots three days ago at Monday Morning Meeting.
It was when QAE teacher Devin Liner introduced April's theme, which is Patience. Mr. Liner explained that "Patience is quiet steady perseverance.” But Patience is also patience with oneself and with others. Zap. Click. Whirl. AHA! Positive Parenting also takes patience! Patience with yourself and your children.
It really hit me when Mr. Liner shared Saadi Shiazi's quote: "Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy." This is so true of everything!!! Bicycles, math facts, spelling & phonograms, yoga, time management. If it is worth learning, it will be difficult to master until you master it. Then it feels easy.
So, to anyone who has had those feelings of self-doubt as a Positive Parenting novice, think back to when your child was learning to walk. Recall how patient you were, how compassionate, and that it took many missteps and crashes for your wobbler to become masterful. Give yourself the same patience.
And compassionately acknowledge that the more complex a skill, the longer it will take to master it. Human beings come hardwired to learn to walk and talk. We don't come hard wired to know what to do when our child draws on the wall with a Sharpie. Three days in a row.
The singularly good news to anyone who has picked up a parenting book or taken a parenting class is this: it gets better. Have patience.
co-Chair, SEL Committee