It’s hard for me to believe, but my younger daughter graduated from Seedlings nearly three(!) years ago. Both she and her older sister, now 10, were part of Sunflower’s early childhood program when they were preschoolers.
My daughters’ time at Seedlings certainly shaped the big kids they’ve become today. And, while they were learning to experiment and explore and express themselves through play, nature and the arts– I was learning too.
Here are some of the most important skills and lessons I learned during my time as a Seedlings parent– all of which still help me today.
There is no one right way to be a parent (and you’re doing a great job)
Parenting choices are never one-size-fits-all. Each child is different, each parent and parenting partnership is different, and each situation is different. My experience at Seedlings gave me room to research and experiment and ask questions, and most importantly, the confidence to choose a way of parenting that was right for my family. And because my children are still growing, I’m still choosing and changing and learning as well. So this is a lesson that never gets old.
Another lesson that never gets old? Susan’s 80/20 Rule: Nobody is perfect. Everybody is allowed to have a bad day. If you’re being the parent you want to be 80 percent of the time, the other 20 percent of “bad day” parenting is not likely to scar your kids for life. So relax. Have a little compassion for yourself. You’re doing a great job.
Communication is HUGE
Seedlings taught me that the parent/child relationship (really, any relationship that’s important to you) should be based on love, mutual respect and– above all– excellent communication.
“Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” –Catherine M. Wallace
Parents learn the “hows” of effective communication at Seedlings (see our blog series, The Language of Sunflower), but it’s really not a matter of knowing the correct words to say in every situation, like a script. It’s more dynamic than that. It’s about listening as much as it is about talking. It’s about tuning in to empathy, acknowledging and talking about feelings, and being open and vulnerable and honest… even if that means saying “I don’t know” when your kid asks a tough question or “I made a mistake” when you’re having one of those 20 percent days.
Watch and learn from your children
At Seedlings, parent helpers are taught to observe the children and their play, rather than always becoming part of it or constantly trying to interject lessons. When teachers and parents get out of children’s way and let them play, a magical thing happens: the children learn–about the world, about relationships, about themselves and their own individual preferences and passions.
When we take the time to simply observe our children, we learn too. As a parent, it’s an enlightening experience to watch your kids, at any age, navigate the world and make capable choices– or make mistakes, make corrections and try again. I continue to learn so much about my own daughters by simply stepping back and letting them do their own thing. (But they know I’m always there if they need someone to talk to. See above^ about communication being HUGE.)
Make time for play, nature and art
You’re never too old to swing in the park or to get up to your elbows in a painty art project or daydream under an oak tree. In fact, school-age kids particularly need these experiences to counteract the stresses of the school day (and parents need them too).
Conflict is an opportunity for growth
In the first grade, my daughter Suzie came home exasperated about some disagreement her friends were having. “It’s like no one ever taught them conflict resolution, mommy,” she said.
Suzie understood that conflict can be a positive experience if you know how to handle it. Learning the simple process of nonviolent conflict resolution at Seedlings was a huge eye-opener for me too. I use this skill all the time with my daughters, and they use it with each other (my husband and I use it with each other too!)
My kids are people too!
Okay, so maybe (definitely) I didn’t need Seedlings to teach me that. But I think the whole world would benefit if more people truly got this lesson: all of us, adults and children alike, are mutually deserving of each other’s respect. We’re all people, after all. Some of us are just “newer” people, still learning the world. It makes me happy to think my kids and I are all in this life thing together, learning from each other.
Seedlings and Little Seedlings parents, what lessons are you learning? Tell us about one lesson you’ve learned at Seedlings this year in the comments below.
Post by Jaime Greenberg
Photos by Meade Peers McCoy and Haidor Truu