How My 5th Graders Taught Me to Parent

It’s kind of strange that I won’t be going back to my 5th grade classroom this fall.  As much as I’ve talked about my joy and excitement for staying at home (because let’s be honest, it basically beams out of my eye balls), I would be lying if I didn’t share that there is a part of me that...feels...yea, that’s the best way I can describe it...just feels...as the school year approaches.  I don’t know what I’m feeling. Sad?  Guilty? Regretful? Pressure? I can’t pinpoint it, but I feel it in the pit of my stomach every now and then.  And while I am 100% certain that staying at home with Caiden is the season I am meant to be in right now, it got me wondering, what is this feeling in the pit of my stomach telling me?  

So I did some reflecting. 

It really didn’t take long: THE KIDS. I’ll miss them.  Yes, the 10-11 year old boys and girls who are on the brink of puberty.  Who curse at you when you don’t let them use a mechanical pencil. Who are too cool to dance with you in the classroom but still want to bring their stuffed animals to “comfy day.”   Who roast you for your hairy arms (FYI I have really hairy arms...at least they’re blonde), and then need those same hairy arms to hold them when they are in pain. And the kids who have made me cry tears of frustration and tears of joy all in the span of one hour. 

I LOVE these kids, and I appreciate them more now than I ever have before.  For four years, I woke up every day with the intent to teach young minds. But jokes on me, because guess who was the one being taught?  *Insert hand-raising emoji* Every single one of my students has taught me an abundance of lessons and characteristics that I have found myself using every day as a mom. My students have equipped me with so many tools for parenting, that it quite honestly leaves me in awe.

Before I share these things that have helped me, let me start by saying I am NOT perfect.  I have been parenting for less than two years, people! I have so much to learn (and then some).  My goal is to encourage the mom out there who kinda feels like hiding in the pantry until the crying and screaming stops.  

I had this “ah-ha moment” as I was (failing) at momming. Caiden was going on day five of teething molars and spiking fevers.  He was needy, clingy, whiney, annoying, and I was OVER IT. To sum it up, every little thing he needed was ticking me off and I wasn’t seeking joy in any of it.  It was a rough few days and a pretty similar feeling I’ve had before at the end of a long day with 20 ten year olds. It was time for me to pull out my teaching strategies and apply them to my own life as a parent. So I boiled it down to two main things:

Positivity & Peacefulness.  Let me explain.

Poor some positivity on that kid.  And I’m talking WAY more than what seems normal. This is the number one thing I learned from my students (especially those students that required this from me daily.  Thank you, children whom I cannot name). Stop pointing out what your child is doing wrong, and start narrating the positives!  This can be hard when our kids are so young, but it is just as important for YOU as it is for your kid. Instead of, “stop throwing that,” “why did you just spill that?” “Quit whining!”  “Eat your broccoli!” It becomes, “look at you hold your plate with two hands!” “I can tell something is upsetting you, what do you need?” “Wow, you are growing strong by eating all your ____, try some broccoli!” (Fine, laugh at me with this one, but this at least makes me feel better and puts a positive spin on broccoli rather than trying to force it down his throat).  

Y’all I am NOT playing around with this positivity stuff, try it!  I was taught to have a 5:1 ratio of positives to negatives while teaching.  That means for every negative comment I make towards my kid, I should have at least five positive comments flooding his ears, eyes, heart and mind.  It took me four years to get this with teaching, so give yourself some patience and grace as you try to incorporate it. Start with one area of your daily schedule: mealtime, playtime, bathtime, etc.  Eventually, you will be narrating the positives and every difficult task becomes a little more joyful. I think you will start to notice that those same situations that go from feeling impossible and defiant, start to feel more hopeful and teachable.  When I think back to my students and their faces as I poured positivity into them, they would light up with pride. That light reflects right back into your own heart, and it’s a feeling that can’t be matched. I want the same thing for my own kid.

Respond with peacefulness.  First, breath.  Next, listen (possibly repeat 1-2 times) and then respond.  This, my friends, was the secret to not pulling my hair out.  I made the mistake my first year of teaching by responding too quickly out of my own feelings (have you ever done this with your child?). All this ever did was fuel the fire and make the situation go from bad to worse. It was the same for my students as it now is for my son.  If Caiden does something that makes my blood boil, like screaming as I walk the aisles of Trader Joe’s (come ON, dude. This is MY place!), or whining for me to hold him as I’m trying to workout, or whipping through my perfectly folded laundry like a tornado…I have to stop, breath, listen and think before I respond and ask myself this simple question:

Why is this upsetting me so much right now?  

When I react in frustration, anger, or annoyance to my two-year-old who does not know any better because he has been alive for BARELY TWO YEARS, I end up heightening my own feelings, and never really find a solution.  When I am able (remember, I’m not perfect) to stop and ask myself this question, it allows me to turn inward.  Why is this making me so mad? Why am I embarrassed? Sometimes it’s because I want to look like a good parent.  Like I know how to discipline my child and you better believe he will ALWAYS do what I say (sarcasm). Sometimes it’s because I want to get my laundry done and get my workout in because that’s what I “need” and that’s what was on my schedule.  No, mom, my child needs me. Slow down. Breathe. Listen to your child and to yourself, then respond. Show your kids peacefulness. Teach them how to respond so that when they get older and things don’t go their way, they’ve had someone to model from.  Offer them gentleness, give them choices, hold their hand, and sacrifice (for the 100th time that day) your moment to meet them in theirs. It’s worth it. The laundry will get folded. Trader Joe’s will still be there the next day, and your workout can be completed at the right time.  

I know this hard.  Like, really hard.  I’m working on it alongside you.  Throw some positivity in your next sentence.  Respond in peacefulness and just keep doing your best.  When it doesn’t work one day, it will work the next. These small changes can make small differences, and a lot of small differences, can create great things.  

We got this.

Xo, Jess

P.S. Thank you, Hodge Scholars. The lessons, stories, and moments you have shared with me are more valuable than you will ever know. You have made me a more conscious, positive, and peaceful parent. God truly was faithful when He placed you in my life.  

Some of the Hodge Scholars of 2018-2019. The last group of hearts & minds that taught me.

Some of the Hodge Scholars of 2018-2019. The last group of hearts & minds that taught me.