When we talk about raising children we always consider what is says in Mishlei (Proverbs):
Chanoch l’na’ar al pi darcho. “Teach a child according to his way.”
Each child has his own strengths and personality and parents need to cultivate them. We should learn how a child works best and use that information to parent him.
But the more I teach this principle, the more I see that we can use it to refine our parenting style according to our own characteristics. The new mantra: “Parent according to our way.” We need to understand our personality, our strengths and our weaknesses and use this information to help us parent better.
Julie Morgenstern in her book Time Management from the Inside Out1 advises her clients to design a schedule for themselves based on their strengths. She asks readers to assess the following areas and counsels that there are no right or wrong answers.
Do you prefer:
- Concentrating in short bursts or for long stretches?
- Focusing on one thing at a time or multitask?
- A busy, fast paced schedule or a slow, easy schedule?
- Predictable plans or spontaneity?
- Working under pressure or long lead times?
- Making quick decisions or think things over?
- Working independently or collaboratively?
- Exercising alone or with others?
- Shopping alone or with others?
- Relaxing alone or with others?
- Working with quiet or with noise?
- Working with your head or working with your hands?
This information will help you plan a schedule that makes you happy and productive. If you thrive on a fast pace, you should try to fill your days with several activities; if you prefer a slower pace, you might limit your daily to do list to three or four items. Stop trying to fight who you are. Someone who responds well to very tight deadlines should try to schedule his or her time that way……. Paying attention to your natural rhythms and accepting them as a testament to who you are will result in a schedule that supports you instead of one that works against you.
While this is true across the board, how can we use this information to specifically help mothers of young children to plan their day?
Women who work better with their heads instead of their hands will find themselves exhausted with the physical demands of their 0-3 year olds. Being a mother of young children forces women to multitask, make quick decisions and work amidst lots of noise. Moms who work well with quiet, with long lead times, have difficulty focusing on more than one thing at a time and like to work alone are at a serious disadvantage. These women may compare themselves to other Mothers and feel that they come up short.
It is hard to “pay attention to your natural rhythms” under these circumstances. These women need to make extra efforts to take care of themselves. Hiring a babysitter, waking up early in the morning before the kids are up, using the babies’ nap time to catch up on their work are all some suggestions that can enable these moms to nurture themselves and schedule their time productively.
On the other hand, women who like to have people around them, like to shop, relax and exercise with others, need to make time for social stimulation. Moms of young children often feel isolated and lonely. Talking on the phone, making dates to walk or jog with the babies in their strollers and taking the children to the park where other moms hang out is a necessity.
Using your strengths to manage your time effectively enables you to make the most of your day. Using this information when you are parenting young children is an invaluable skill. It can ensure that mom’s needs are being met, the best way to ensure that you are parenting effectively.
Another bonus: Knowing how you work best will give you insights into how your child works best. This can truly help you in fulfilling the time-honored Jewish tradition of chanoch l’na’ar al pi darcho.
1. Morgenstern, J. (2004). Time Management From The Inside Out. NY: Henry Holt and Company.↩
Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP, works as a Parent Educator for Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau facilitating How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk workshops as well as workshops based on Siblings Without Rivalry. Adina also runs parentingsimply.com.