As the buzz has spread about No Regrets Parenting, more and more parents are jumping on board this new and exciting concept for making more of the time we already have with our kids, and finding more time along the way. The New York Times says, “Dr. Rotbart’s ‘No Regrets Parenting’ is something special” (http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/16/childhood-940-saturdays-and-youre-done/) and the Editor-in-Chief of Parents Magazine says, “Dr. Rotbart’s book turned my head around.”
This post is for you to send to your friends who haven’t yet read the book but who are asking you about No Regrets Parenting and why you have become a “believer.” Send them this overview made up of brief snippets from the book, and invite them to join the “movement.”
Each exhausting day with young kids can feel like a week, each week like a month, yet the years streak by at warp speed. The colorful mobiles hanging from their cribs morph into tricycles, which morph into driving permits. And then, poof, they’re gone. Sunrise, sunset.
How can we possibly be working so hard to get through each crazy, chaotic day with our kids and yet have the years fly by so quickly?
No Regrets Parenting is a how-to blueprint for time management with kids, crib through college. No Regrets Parenting teaches parents to navigate the mundane, grueling routines of parenthood, transforming them into special parenting events. No Regrets Parenting means understanding the important difference between minutes and moments. It is for those of you who shudder at the thought of your kids growing up too fast, becoming young adults before you’ve had the chance to fully experience their childhoods. No Regrets Parenting helps you create new, cherished moments with your kids, while still getting everything done!
First, some basic principles of No Regrets Parenting from Part 1 of the book.
Parenting philosophy – From Tiger Moms to moms “Raising Bebe,” parenting philosophies come and go. Don’t fret about which philosophy is best; there is no single “right” way. But, one truth applies to any parenting philosophy you may choose: your kids need you to be there. They need to see who you are and how you live your life. And in return, they will help you to better see who you are and how you should live your life.
The other biological clock – There are only 940 Saturdays between a child’s birth and her leaving for college. Though that may sound like a lot, how many have you already used up? If your child is five years old, 260 Saturdays are gone. How are you spending the time you have with them? Are they watching TV while you’re doing the laundry or preparing dinner? Are they playing video games while you’re catching up on e-mail? Readjust your inner clock: stop stressing over “minutes spent” with your kids and start accumulating “moments shared.” Use this mental trick to help. Picture them grown. Formerly tousled bedrooms are neat, clean, and empty. The backseat of the car vacuumed, without crumbs or Cheerios. Playroom shelves neatly stacked with dusty toys. Then wind the imaginary clock back from the future to now, and see these minutes of mayhem for what they are, finite and fleeting moments. Precious.
Guilt – Parenting is among the greatest sources of human joy; it is also the single greatest cause of guilt. Never feel guilty about the minutes you can’t spare, the times when you are too busy, and the moments that are lost to the realities of life despite your best efforts. No Regrets Parenting doesn’t ask you to be superhuman; it only asks that you set the right priorities for your time and make the conscious effort to be there as often as possible for your kids.
Best friend or parent – This is not an either/or situation. We can never lose sight of our parenting responsibilities even when those make us the bad-guy, which they frequently do. Don’t shy away from disciplining kids—they have to, and want to, respect you even if they “hate” you for a few minutes for telling them “no.” But, always be your kids’ best friends, too. Be there during their big and little moments, patiently advising and teaching. Show your kids they can trust you not just as parents, but as best friends.
Now, here are some simple strategies from Part 2 of the book for finding more time with your kids, and making the most of that time.
Double dip – Pick activities that you would enjoy doing without each other, and then do them together. Biking, jogging, swimming, reading, snow-shoveling, and leaf raking are togetherness opportunities. Learn a new language-on-tape together during car rides.
Weekly calendar meeting – Put your kids’ schedule for the whole week on your calendar every Sunday night. There may be important activities in your kids’ day that you can squeeze into your schedule when you know in advance.
Celebrate minor holidays – Why limit the special electricity of big holidays to a few days a year? You don’t need to cook a turkey or give gifts, but do something special to celebrate the kids’ half-birthdays, the first day of school each fall, the last day of school each summer, a good report card, the first lost tooth, the last lost tooth, your dog’s birthday, the first snowstorm, the first spring crocus in the garden.
Holding the flashlight – Never fix a leaky faucet, change a tire, check the oil in the car, paint the fence, or replace the furnace filter while your kids are on Facebook or watching TV. Arm them with a flashlight and talk to them as you work. The attic, basement, and garage are all classrooms for learning and opportunities for sharing.
Your daily dinner meeting – Breakfast may be the “most important meal of the day,” but dinner is the most important meal in the life of most families. Dinnertime is the one recurring interlude in the day’s disarray when the whole family may be able to coordinate their schedules and gather together.
Unplug the car – No, not the hybrid. Unplug the people in the car. No cell phones, Internet, MP3 players, or TVs unless everyone in the car is sharing the same entertainment. You’ll have to resort to talking to each other, teasing and laughing together.
Rate your entertainment – Movie nights, TV shows, and family outings all provide opportunities for sharing beyond the activity itself. Have each of the kids “score” the event on a 1 to 10 scale, and give reasons for their rating. There is no right or wrong score, but your kids learn to give, while letting you receive, honest and thoughtful feedback on their tastes and preferences.
Hobby sharing – If you have a hobby, share it with your kids. If you don’t have a hobby, kids are a great excuse to develop one. Together. Many adult hobbies are very cool even for the coolest kids. Radio-controlled cars (or boats and planes), jewelry crafts, fantasy football, fishing, computer geek stuff, cake design, moviemaking, electric trains, photography.
Walk, don’t drive – Whenever time and distance allow, walk. And while you’re walking, talk—about where you’re going, what you’re thinking, what they’re thinking, what you see on the way, what’s for dinner, who said what to whom in school today.
Charity – Plan your family’s donations of time and money with your kids. Research worthy organizations, local missions or shelters; do a charity walk or work a food line together.
Practice No Regrets Parenting. It will help you greet your kids’ leaving for college and other adult pursuits someday with a profound sense of satisfaction, knowing you gave them what they need to succeed, and gave yourself what you need to feel like a successful parent. To be sure, you’ll gaze into their empty bedrooms and miss them terribly when they leave home. But you won’t have missed them when they were still at home.
The days are long, but the years are short. And now is the time.
From: No Regrets Parenting – Turning Long Days and Short Years into Cherished Moments with Your Kids (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012). More at: