Begin as You Mean to Go On

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Posted by vera | Posted in Birth, Parenting, Sleep | Posted on 01-09-2013

twin boysI had the delightful opportunity to spend an evening with a colleague’s family, which included their 2-year-old son and his new 10-week-old twin sisters the other night, and I was reminded of the incredible amount of power held by parents, when it comes to paving the way for their children’s future behaviour.

It’s no accident, in my opinion, when children are polite and well behaved, like that night, I witnessed how this magical seed is planted: While we were finishing up the dinner that my partner and I had prepared and brought to the family we were hanging out with, their two-year-old left the table (he was “done”, and wanted to go play).

In their family, these parents have decided they it’s important to eat together, and to ask to be excused when one is finished at table.  So, in gentle yet firm tones, they instructed their toddler to return to the table, and to ask to be excused.

He did so, wiping his hands and face on a cloth they had laid out for him, and then went off to play.

Later that evening, when it was time for bed, parental patience and consistency were once again on display as Mom gave advance notice of the impending bedtime expectation, and Dad went to follow up when Toddler tried out a few tricks to delay the bedtime.  A few removed “Thomas” toys later, Toddler could be heard crankily settling down to sleep.

I marvelled at Mom and Dad’s consistency; each parent had a sleeping newborn in a sling next to their bodies for most of the evening, and even though my partner and I had brought dinner, and tried to do most of the set up and clean up of dishes, it was still busy – between feedings, diaper-changings and, chasing after the family dog and the toddler, there was little or no “down time”.  Not to mention, the sleep deprivation that comes with new twins was evident in their tired eyes.

Yet both parents found the energy to continue to guide their first-born through the mundane but important daily routines that would lead to his becoming a polite, well-adjusted child and young man later on.

Parenting can sometimes feel like a grueling, relentless task, especially when one is facing additional challenges like looking after new born twins or triplets while continuing to parent one or more older singletons.  But it is a task that – if done responsibly and with pleasure – can bring enormous rewards.

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