Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How to be the Coolest Parent in Town : Five Simple Habits to Adopt

So, you wonder, how does this author figure she's the coolest mom?

Well, I don't.  I know I'm working on it and although we all have our moments, I do know kids.  After many years of teaching, and teaching a variety of age groups, as well as having my own kid and watching my parents be the coolest parents in town, I have a few ideas of how to at least make a valiant effort. As a side note I would like to add that this article is NOT just for parents of elementary school kids and younger.  The vast majority of my experience with kids outside my home is with adolescents and teens.  The need understanding, structure, your time and your laughter too.

Cool Parent Habit #1:  Spend Time With Them.

Kids really just like to spend time with you, so breaking out that boring old kids game, sucking it up and playing it with them (yes for the umpteenmillionith time) on a regular basis goes a long way toward your winning the Oscar of parenthood - the label of cool.  Talk to them while you both do chores together.  You scrub the dishes while they dry, pull weeds together, vacuum while he dusts. . . Do something crafty together, be involved in a club together, you name it, if it is time spent together, it is time spent together.

Cool Parent Habit #2:  Be Silly (or with Teens, Have a sense of Humor).

Kids love the silly, the slightly off, crazy but simple things. For teens, its sarcasm and the ridiculous.  The more you do to make you both laugh, the cooler you will be and the sooner it will all add up to being the coolest parent in town.  It may, however, mean giving up the adult "cool" label, but what matters most - your relationship with your kids or how cool that group of guys sitting at the coffee shop think you are? 

Some Silly Things you Can Try:

Silly thing number one:  Sing and sing loudly.  As you sing, make up crazy new words to the song you are singing (or go with the ones your kid comes up with).  For example, my daughter thought "Paradise" by cold play was "pears, pears and apples" so now this is how we sing it. Another favorite - instead of "Rumor Has It" we sing about "Boomer" who, apparently "has it" - I have wondered what Boomer has though - a cold?

Silly thing number two: Be willing to wear diapers (clean of course), pots, bowls, and other assorted items as hats.  Do this at an unexpected moment not only during dress - up.  Which reminds me, be willing to dress up too at least once in awhile.  It is important that at least once or twice, this happens in public or at least with other friends.

Silly thing number three:  Get ready to become the world's best actor (at least in the eyes or your child).  Whether you are playing Rapunzel, or Robin Hood, cops and robbers, or something completely original, play along and really get into it.  Are you playing the part of troll? - be loud and make your voice gravelly.  And yes, do this outside too.  So what if your neighbors hear.  It'll probably mean they're more willing to send they're kids over for play dates with yours because they'll know you are tons of fun.  Sometimes "pretend" should be initiated by you when you suddenly become the great big, toe eating alien from planet snarf in the middle of a Saturday afternoon at the park.

Silly thing number four: Participate in strange physical activities.  While walking to the mailbox, pretend you are students at the academy of strange walks, walk backwards, hold a ballet class and do plie's and tondues while in line at the bank (even if you are the dad or have absolutely no dance background - in fact, this makes it better)  Dance with your daughter in the checkout line - even if the piped in music is horribly un-inspiring. As long as you aren't bumping into anyone, I promise most of the looks from the other people in line will mean they're thinking, "what a fun parent" or, "ah, how sweet".  Pretend you are spies together while you are searching for the tub of butter you need at the grocery store.  Sneak through the store as though you are on a secret mission and you are now searching through the hallways of the enemy's lair.  As they get older, this will become less an exercise in being silly and more of an exercise in surprising them with a little fun once in awhile.  Go ahead and start a food fight, or get down and dirty during the neighborhood summer water gun extravaganza.

Silly thing number five: Just look at the world around you as the miraculous thing it is.  When you see an ant carrying a bit of food back to its nest, squeal with delight and say, "oh my gosh, that piece of food is bigger than the ant carrying it!  Check that out!"  be completely overly dramatic about it and your kids will be swept into your enthusiasm with you.  The trick is to do this without any sarcasm, but you can do it.  As they grow you'll find more and more things that excite you both naturally.

Silly thing number six: Find games to play that help you keep your sanity.  When we were on a hike in the woods and trying to be quiet so we could see deer and birds and things and Alice just would not stop talking, I told her the fairies would only let themselves be seen if we watched for them quietly.  She was quiet for half an hour and only whispered when she saw a bit of something magical to point out to us. 

Cool Parent Habit #3:   Never Think that No Rules or No Chores, or Giving Lots of Things Makes you Cool.

Here is the thing about kids. They may pretend like they don't like structure, discipline, bedtimes and rules but all those things give them a sense of security. So rule number three for being cool - be flexible, but don't relax on boundaries related to health, morals and the things you value most. Letting them have their way and what they want all the time, will do the opposite of make you cool and hurts your kid in the long run - remember the characters from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

Cool Parent Habit #4: Keep Your Promises.

It is really easy to let life get in the way, but if you promised to do something with your kid on particular evening or told them you'd see them perform in the school play, show up to do it.  Once in awhile there are true emergencies but if you're keeping your promises most of the time it'll speak volumes to your kids about how important you think they are.

Cool Parent Habit #5: Listen

The last (but certainly not the least important) important thing to do to be cool - listen. No, I mean really listen.  Listen to them talk about their favorite band, princess or other celebrity.  Listen to their feelings, and how their day went each and every day.  Ask and then listen.  Leave your child knowing you care about what he or she thinks about, gets excited about and has to say.  Do not just tell and inform, but let them teach you too, ask lots of questions.  Paraphrase what they are telling you - especially if they are sad or angry and ask if you understood what they said correctly.  Its a great way to let them know you understand and care, even if you disagree. You might even learn something about your kid along the way.

If you're cool in these ways when your kid is a pre-teen, you're likely to stay cool even through the teenage years when they're rolling their eyes at you and telling you how very uncool you are (just because they can't admit to you that their friends really prefer hanging at your place - coolest parent in town).


Dad said...

I think you are cool! Dad

Balance is Best said...

Thanks Dad

A Magical Childhood said...

I love these! I'm sharing your list on my Facebook page. Thanks for the great reminders of ways to be silly (and some fun new ones to try!). :)

Anonymous said...

I love this! I agree completely and wish more people understood #3 especially.

Balance is Best said...

Thanks so much to both Alicia and themamamiablog.

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