At the end of most nights I often reflect on my parenting that day. I try to do it in a constructive manner, I mean, what’s the use of spending the last hour or so of the day demolishing yourself? (It is easy to go down that road, so don’t.) There is no perfect parent — I get that — but I do feel like it helps me be a better parent to spend time considering what I did well and what I could improve. I know all of this seems so painfully obvious, but it’s easy to get caught up in the minute-to-minute issues and forget to step back and consider the whole picture.
Take, for example, my last experience trying to help my six-year-old daughter through her piano practice a few days ago. I thought I caught her when she wasn’t too tired or too involved in something else. She even seemed OK about practicing. Yay! However, as soon as we got going the dramatic yawning started, the whining started, and so did the floppy, I-suddenly-don’t-know-how-to-use-my-fingers started. We struggled through the practice and eventually quit early. Even though I think she got something out of it, it certainly wasn’t pleasant, even if I was trying my best to be soft-spoken and patient. Unfortunately, most of our piano practice is like this.
That night, while reflecting on this and another issue, I realized I had forgotten an important part of teaching: encouragement. It hit me like a punch. Here she is, having only played piano for 5 or 6 whole weeks, and instead of telling her what she is doing well, I’m focused on (and needlessly concerned about) the fact that she confuses some note names, or that her tempo is unsteady, or the other countless issues that she will eventually master. I’m very encouraging to my flute students, yet with my own daughter I feel pressure for her to master rudimentary skills immediately. Nonsense. Everything that I do with my own students, everything that my flute teachers have done with me, temporarily got thrown out the window. How could I have been so silly?! I was very grateful for my quiet reflection time so I could implement what I’ve forgotten and improve our piano time together.
Another brief and similar example is catching my children doing something well while they are playing, or drawing, or what-have-you and complimenting them on it. For example, my older two tend to erupt in shouting and arguing at the blink of an eye. I’ve started focusing more on telling them, when appropriate, that I like how they are sharing a toy, or how they are playing nicely, or whatever they are doing well, instead of (what felt like) constantly telling them NOT to do something or putting them in time-out, etc. You can change the mood of the whole house quickly and easily by simply complimenting an action or behavior that you like, thereby encouraging it. I’ve known this technique since the day my oldest child was born, but, again, I had briefly forgotten it. It took my nightly reflection to consider why their behavior was one way and not the other: I was focused more on what they weren’t doing “right,” and I wasn’t encouraging their good behavior.
This can apply to while you are practicing as well. A simple, “I like how you are playing quietly and nicely while Mommy plays her flute” encourages the behavior and helps your child understand what you like in their playtime. I definitely have the thought, “oh, they are playing so well, and I don’t want to disrupt it” ; however, they need to know when their behavior is good, as well as when it’s not.
I do love my nightly reflection time. It’s especially useful when I don’t feel so great about my parenting that particular day. I’ve always learned more from my mistakes than from my successes, and parenting is no different. My reflection time allows me to step back and replay my day from another perspective, thereby helping to resolve any issues I may be having or had had that day.