By: Jolene Roehlkepartain
Every parent needs mentors. Each one of us needs wise, helpful parents as we journey through parenthood. We’ll be more successful if we have other parents who mentor and support us.
As a parent, it’s too easy to take the parenthood pathway alone. Everyone is busy. Sometimes it can seem like too much just to keep up with the daily schedule of getting kids out of bed and to school, doing your work or volunteer work, getting kids to and from activities, feeding the family, getting kids to bed, and having family time. Some days can feel like an insurmountable challenge to meet.
I’ve always worked hard to network with other parents. True, not all are helpful, but when you find the mentors, the wise sages, that’s when you know that you’re not alone and that you always have someone who has thoughtful things to say.
I remember having trouble with one of my kids at the preschool age. My child was headstrong and would not listen. When he got upset, he would hide under the dining room table and wail for 45 minutes straight. Right through dinner.
I was stumped. I was frazzled. I “googled” for advice and tried it, without any success.
Then I called one of my wise sage parents. This was a parent who was now a grandparent, who had raised four kids and had encountered all kinds of issues. Her advice? Well, she had two. The first one was: Let him wail. Eat dinner. Then do the dishes. Keep an eye on him, but let him scream it out until he was exhausted.
Her second bit of advice? Crawl under the table and sit with him. Be as calm as possible. Just be with him. Let him know that you’re not afraid of his tantrum and that you’re always there for him.
What amazed me was how both bits of advice worked. I didn’t do them at the same time, but I began to realize that sometimes it was better for me to give him space and other times, it was more effective for me to crawl under the table and be close to him.
Once my son was calm, we took the plate of food out of the refrigerator and warmed it up. When he wanted something else to eat, we were firm. This was what we were having for dinner. We really wished he would eat with us, but we also understood how hard it is to eat when you’re upset. We were compassionate but also set boundaries.
The tantrums didn’t subside quickly, but gradually they did. I believe this sticky situation in our household changed because of my parenting mentor. She had been through all kinds of situations with her kids and grandkids. She was patient and wise and knew how to show a better path for this rookie parent.
Since I have two kids, I’ve seen how I’ve needed parenting mentors at different times during my parenting journey. When my kids became teenagers, I sought out the wise counsel of a couple of parents who I considered mentors. We never used the word mentor, but it was obvious that these parents were doing just that—mentoring me.
Besides having parenting mentors for myself, I now try to be a mentor for other parents. I never give unwanted advice, but I get to know the parents around me. I build relationships with them. I find out what they love about parenting—and what baffles them. I talk about what I enjoy about parenting and what has bewildered me. I then encourage them to find a wise parenting mentor. A few have come to me, and I know others have found other mentors.
It doesn’t matter who the mentors are. What matters is that you don’t feel alone as a parent, that you build meaningful relationships with other parents and find parenting mentors who can make the parenting path much easier and smoother.
Eugene C. Roehlkepartain, Peter C. Scales, Jolene L. Roehlkepartain, Carmelita Gallo, and Stacey P. Rude, Building Strong Families (Minneapolis: Search Institute, 2002).
Recommended Resource: Parent, Teacher, Mentor, Friend by Peter Benson. This book makes a wonderful gift for those who guide and inspire you, your colleagues, and young people in their daily lives. Available at the Search Institute Store.