Gosh, what a cool experience it was last night to meet Dr. Laura Markham the clinical psychologist who spoke at the West Chester Preschool Parents Club. She is a nationally recognized authority on parenting. I have not ever met anyone yet who could put to words, organize into steps and explained with consistency the process by which I have raised my kids. I am not bragging. I have not been a perfect parent, but I am telling you that the net result of having done years of psychotherapy is that I have a default understanding, it seems, of an expert’s plan for raising kids. She tells us that emotional development is the foundation of cognitive development, and that in order to be the parent you want to be you must regulate your own emotions. This is indeed what I learned how to do in psychotherapy. She tells us that as a parent we always have the power to calm the storm of our children, or blow it up into a tornado. She tells us that children are programmed to love their parents, but not to respect or follow them. Her list of ‘connection power tools’ are staples in my interaction with kids, and not because someone told me to use them, but because they come naturally when we understand our own emotions. Her talk, although she didn’t say it directly, is about emotional intelligence, harnessing our own emotions in order to be clear in interacting with our children, showing our love and compassion for them, as fellow struggling human beings.
A long line of parents waited for a chance to discuss with Dr. Markham their own particular concerns. Impressively she took each in turn and in the space of a moment assessed their individual problem with their child, diagnosed it, reduced it to something understandable given that she’d laid the groundwork in her talk, and provided concrete guidance to take home and try. It was a glorious thing to witness.
As someone who has lived so much of what she preaches, the idea of loving your children as a means of interacting, since she professes roughhousing and laughing, hugging and listening, showing empathy and setting limits, and generally being the grownup in the relationship, I feel such gratitude to her for showing me that there is actually a reportable method to my actions, and not just a sense of doing it right or wrong. I love that. I love the idea that anyone can do what needs to be done to be successful with children.
And you know what’s kind of funny about the whole thing, both times I have gone to a talk at the West Chester Preschool parents Club, where there is a fantastic leader of parents laying it all out for an eager audience to hear, I literally bring my own presentation along in my bag. I do that on the off chance that the speaker cannot speak, or gets stuck in traffic, or has some other problem that causes me to have to announce that I can fill the gap with my own presentation. I have this dream because the woman who brought in Dr. Markham also had me in to speak to the West Chester Preschool Parents Club last year, and will do so again this fall. So she knows me and my talk and would theoretically have me take the stage to say something to the disappointed parents present. I guess that is my fantasy, that I could also have a room full of hundreds of parents, rather than the twenty at a time I usually have, ready to learn, eager to listen, while I tell of my understanding of my role as a parent and the power we all hold in the lives of our children. I feel driven to do that, to come back from the future of the parents with little ones now and gently show them that the actions of today predict their lives of tomorrow, and that they have the power to create the kind of happy family they dream of, as I did. Even though my training is school-of-hard-knocks, my story complements Dr. Markham’s work. I am the voice of someone who didn’t have the benefit, as few really do, of smart parenting, yet figured out how to get out of my own way so I could offer something better to my kids.
Which brings me to say that it is time for me to submit my query letter to publishers and start the process of having my book, You’ll Get Over It, Jane Ellen, out there. This is another way in which I hope to share my story of change.
Thank you so much, Dr. Markham, for making your life’s work one of helping parents and kids find each other.