Parenting Advice From A Patient

Last month, I met a lovely patient for the first time.* On taking her social history, she mentioned that she had four grown children. I asked her how they were doing and what they were doing. She matter-of-factly and succinctly described four extraordinary citizens. All four children had earned degrees and were working in various service professions, things like teaching, nursing, public service. Three were partnered and raising families nearby.

I’m fascinated by this. I always want to ask, How did you do it, raise all of your children to do so well? 

And, I often do ask. Asking benefits me, yes; but many patients enjoy reflecting on this and discussing their lives and their families at a deeper level.

In this case, the woman smiled and said: That’s so interesting. It’s so true, though. Sometimes I look at them and wonder, How on earth did these creatures come from me? Just, that they’re all happy and thriving, it’s the answer to so many nights of prayer. 

She thought for a moment. We- my husband and I- always tried to treat each other, and all of them, the way we’d expect  them to treat others. We definitely had our moments; Oh, definitely, my husband and I have had our share of troubles, even needing couples counseling; but by and large, there was no sarcasm, no yelling, and no disrespect between us. We treated each other kindly, and lovingly, as much as possible. 

I’ve been reflecting alot lately on this. Our kids are so, so young. We have the power, now, to raise them well, or to totally screw up.

What I would give to see two educated, empathetic, and happy adults come out of this household.

How crushing it would be to raise a mean kid.

There’s alot of media attention nowadays on the concept of mean girls. If you do a Google search on “How not to raise a mean girl”, you get 30,000,000 hits. The first few pages are articles basically titled “How Not To Raise A Mean Girl”. I know this, because I searched it.

It makes so much sense to me that the most powerful tool we have available to craft emotionally healthy good citizens out of our preschoolers is… ourselves. We have to model what we want to see.

I’d like to think that we’re well on our way. Sarcasm makes me sick to my stomach. Neither Hubby nor I are well-suited to passive-aggressive behaviors: We wear our hearts on our sleeves. Hell, I post mine on the internet. Our rare arguments are recalled with humor, even when they involved inanimate objects being thrown: The Cookie Dough Incident; The Eggplant Incident.

And for me, any confrontation with suburban cattiness is generally enough to send me fleeing, literally and figuratively.  Physically out the door, and emotionally back into 1985, and from there to self-analyze the heck out of whatever silliness it was (see the “Postparty Analysis” post from two weeks ago…).

But, we are far from perfect. I know we both need to work on our discipline skills. Stay calm and in charge, do not get emotional, do not punish our of anger.  Sigh; alot of work to do there.

I was going to provide links to some of the How Not To Raise Mean Kids articles, but honestly, most echo the experience and advice of my lovely patient:

Be the people you want your kids to be. Your partnership is their first and best model for all the relationships that they will ever have. 


(*As always, this is not a specific person, but rather a composite of a few similar patients.)

2 thoughts on “Parenting Advice From A Patient”

  • Great advice, though I would caution against the antithesis—raising an unhappy/depressed/acting out kid does not necessary equate the parents being bad people. Genes and brain chemistry can’t be trumped by niceness sometimes, sadly. I’ve seen far too many parents feeling judged, blamed and becoming very isolated because of the mental health issues of their children.

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