Posted on 05-08-2010
Filed Under (Balance, Intentional parenting) by admin

When did parenting become such a competitive sport? You hear about it regularly in the news, where parents verbally (and sometimes physically) assault referees at soccer matches because they don’t like the unfavorable calls against their kids. You see it in our consumer culture, with companies pushing foreign language programs for infants and parents vying for the first spot in line to buy the latest “must-have” toy. You know parents who enroll their kids in so many lessons, camps and tutoring sessions that the poor kids don’t have a free afternoon all week. You might even be competing yourself.

 While we all want our kids to be happy and successful, the line often blurs between a nurturing parent and a pushy parent. I’m the first to admit that I’ve crossed the line myself sometimes, wanting my kids to succeed and “be the best they can be.” (Yes, I bought into the Mozart effect and stocked up on a few Baby Einstein CDs.) But for the most part, I’ve learned to back off.

Why? Because I’ve learned that competitive parenting comes at a great cost, with parents micro-managing their kids’ lives, pushing them to excel in everything, rescuing kids from their own mistakes, and planning all their free time for them. The result? Kids learn to look to their parents for all the answers rather than think for themselves. Kids grow frustrated and get easily bored when they’re not entertained 24/7 with a slate of structured activities. Kids feel intense pressure to succeed at school, at home, in sports and on the social scene. Kids struggle to deal with setbacks because parents try to remove all risk and pain from their kids’ lives. Kids don’t develop responsibility because mom and dad are always bailing them out.

Letting go of competitive parenting means taking it down a few notches. Nurture, but not to the nth degree. Guide kids toward making good decisions rather than always deciding for them. Help kids find and enjoy their passion rather than pushing them to excel at it. Allow kids to take risks and make mistakes instead of always rescuing them. And, perhaps most importantly, give kids the time and space to just be kids.

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Welcome to my first SPARK Parenting blog, which mirrors my journey towards a saner, intentional approach to parenting. SPARK means the Smart, Purposeful Approach to Raising Kids. It’s all about slowing down, finding balance, simplifying, being mindful, living out your values, focusing on your priorities, creating warm memories and enjoying family life more.

While my blog (and the whole SPARK Parenting website) focuses on intentional parenting, I am a realist. I strive for improvement, not  perfection.  This blog symbolizes the struggle between my head and my heart. I know what I should be doing, but, damn it, I don’t always live up to my own standards. I try really hard, but, like the commercial says, life comes at you fast. Sometimes I cannot believe some of the things that I say or do. Seriously, how can I write about “parenting with a purpose” when I regularly screw up myself? But then, I realize that is exactly why I can write about it. I’m just like every parent out there. I’m imperfect and so is my family. I understand the daily challenges, and sometimes I rise to the occasion and sometimes I fall flat on my face. But no matter how many times I fall, I get back up, dust my pride off and keep on walking toward my vision of what I want for my family. And that hope for the future makes all the difference.

When I write about my family and our experiences, I’m writing from the trenches. Our success and failures might be splayed out before you like road kill. The emotions will sometimes be raw. The way my husband, Kevin, and I have ineffectively handled a situation will be downright embarrassing. But every time we blunder through another “learning opportunity,” we just get up and try again. And again. And again. And that persistence makes all the difference.

Parenting, I’ve long-ago discovered, is a lifelong learning process. Just when I’ve finally figured out how to take care of my firstborn (Trevor, now 13) and help him thrive, he is now a tantrum-throwing toddler. Just when I’ve mastered potty training and time-outs, he is now a school-age kid. Just when I’ve figured out the homework battles and chore charts, he’s a yearning-for-independence middle schooler. God only knows what’s in store for me at the high school level. And the kicker? Just about everything that worked with our first son doesn’t work with our second son (Parker, now 9), so I’m back on the parenting learning curve again, trying to figure it all out. And that teachable spirit makes all the difference.

I love swapping parenting stories with other moms and dads. It helps to know I’m not alone and not the only one who messes up. It also helps me to put all those daily irritants and missteps in perspective and have a good laugh. For example, a few weeks ago, it wasn’t funny when I sat down with my 9-year-old to watch the Black Eye Peas’ video “I Got a Feeling” (thinking what a great dance song) only to see Fergie dancing half-nude in her thong. Whoops! What was I thinking?  Bad Mommy Moment! But now I can laugh about my latest gaffe.  And that sense of humor makes all the difference.

I invite you to embrace SPARK Parenting, and I hope that makes all the difference in your family.

Lisa A. Beach
SPARK Mom & Founder

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