25 June 2008

How do you learn to be a better parent?

(a postcard for a friend)

Is it possible to learn good parenting?
I hope so. I don't think I always learn what I set out to learn though. I've recently worked out for myself that what I want isn't to get more skillful at parenting stuff, what I want is to grow up and become a better person - good parenting is a kind of side-effect of wanting to live right myself.

Where do you learn from?
My children. Not in that if they are happy I'm doing a good job and if they are unhappy I'm doing a bad job - because I don't think happy is the only valid emotion and sometimes protecting them makes them temporarily very unhappy indeed. But certainly my children taught me to love, they taught me to trust, and they taught me to listen. If you've got the loving and the trusting and the listening then everything else is just background noise. The key to it is love.

Other parents. The best teachers are people who are that little bit more mature than I am I reckon, but to be honest I've learnt different things from all sorts of different people. Sometimes someone might not know as much in one area, or have less experience or practical skill in some things, and yet have such insight into something else that I just want to sit at their feet for a little while and listen to them making sense.

Can you teach it to someone else?
No. I don't think you can teach someone parenting really, I think the best you can do is to live along side each other and hope to learn something yourself. If you set out trying to make people good, you fail and they hate you. If you believe people to be already basically good and set out to share your lives, sometimes everyone learns something.

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