I often wish I could travel back in time to change parts of my parenting style and certain decisions I made while raising my children. So often I just want to say, “Can’t I have a ‘do over?’” My husband and I have 3 girls, ages 20, 18, and 6. And, really, it wasn’t until our youngest came along that I realized I’d gotten my wish—in my youngest, I have the “do over” opportunity. But now that I have it, I’m left to wonder: What should I do with it? What will we keep in our parenting style and what will we do differently?
I’ve spent over 20 years obsessing about the role parents play in the future success of their children, especially in regards to the learning experiences parents can provide them. I suppose my fascination with this is an occupational hazard given my work as a teacher and proprietor of Tutoring 101. Thanks to this work, while I was raising my girls, I was also able to observe hundreds of local families and how their kids turned out academically. Many families were friends from church or the neighborhood, but I was also able to learn from parents I’d never have otherwise met. However, even the best of them, I’m sure, share my desire for a parenting “do over” at times.
For my “do over,” for my youngest daughter, I will probably draw greater inspiration from some of the “Tiger” Moms and Dads I’ve come to know as well as from the Montessori approach, which encourages kids to explore their own intellectual interests. I’ve seen how a more active parental interest in kids’ day-to-day schoolwork and extracurriculars can improve kids’ academic performances. Thus, for my youngest, I will not only more intensely and intentionally emphasize the importance of study skills and discipline, but also that of creative exploration.
These things may sound somewhat obvious, but a lot of parents end up losing some of that intentionality and discipline themselves over the years in favor of leaving homework and schoolwork up to their children and their children’s teachers. After all, for my first two girls, even I was skeptical about the merits of striving for perfection on homework because I was so focused on my children understanding the concepts. However, I realize now that I can emphasize both. I can be sure they understand the concepts while still taking that extra time to have them strive for 100% accuracy—it’s all a matter of me being just as disciplined and dogged about their education as I want them to be. In this same vein, I will also have them practice more in whatever they attempt in arts or athletics; I want them to explore more creative possibilities, but to do so with a serious and sincere effort. The most successful kids I’ve observed over the years are those who put in the most time on their extracurriculars and hobbies.
As for what I will keep this time around: I know I’ll keep my broad, personal emphasis on learning and knowing so that I may continue to serve as an example of a lifelong learner. My husband and I have always been dedicated to exposing our girls to a wide variety of things that interest us personally. Thus, we often engage them in family activities such as home science projects, reading, museum visits, and travel. I will also continue providing extra tutoring for them (though they already perform well above average) as well as continue my practice of engaging them in discussions of career possibilities.
All in all, however, I think my most important “do over,” will be in simply better helping my youngest to follow her passions. I’ve always encouraged my children and the kids at my tutoring business to find an area of study that fascinates them and to explore that field both in and out of school. I believe all people have unique gifts and natural talents to develop, but it all takes discipline. So, while I may never get a real time traveling “do over,” I know that I, like my children, am a lifelong learner and can constantly change and improve myself and my parenting style. By listening to my youngest more and not dismissing her interests as whimsy, I know I’ll not only be helping her learn and better engage with the world, but I’ll be helping myself to do likewise.
–Tanya Donaghey, Founder and Proprietor of Tutoring 101
Tanya Donaghey is the mother of 3 girls and has over 25 years experience in education.