Parenting from the Sidelines Requires Both Control and Patience


As you sat on the park bench a block from your home, you found yourself reflecting on the last 16 years. Today ended up being the last day you would be substitute teaching at the middle school where your daughters attended. It was announced last week that Montessori, a hands on, multiage educational program, would no longer be offered at the same building. The program was going to be moved to the middle school that is closer to your home. And while there are many advantages to no longer having to drive the five miles to the school where Montessori is offered now to sub, the length of the drive was always worth the education that your daughters received.

This afternoon on one of the outdoor park benches you cannot help but notice the small children who are at play on the playground equipment. They remind you of your young daughters when they were young. On those days you also sat watching while they played independently. Occasionally, you would have to intervene if there was a problem, but for the most part your daughters, perhaps using skills that they had mastered in their Montessori preschool rooms, were able to play well together. Rarely alone, you would join other parents in polite conversations as you watched children make new friends while they navigated tube slides and monkey bars.

The Best Parenting Is Often Silent and Unnoticed

Many transitions in life can be a challenge. New schools. New neighborhoods. New friends. And while there are many things about transitions that can be difficult, parents are forced to play an interesting role. Although it can be tempting to be the parent who is always intruding, always prodding, always fixing problems before they occur, the wise parents know that there is a better way. These wise parents have mastered the art of sitting on park benches when their young children play and understand the value of offering limited praise and avoiding criticism as they watch quietly from the chairs and bleachers of baseball, softball, and soccer fields.

The fact of the matter is a lot of parenting is being patient and silent and watching your children not only navigate a difficult play on a baseball diamond or take turns on a plastic tire swing at the playground. And while there are many parenting methods, a growing amount of research is showing the helicopter parenting is not producing good results. Helicopter parents and Tiger moms get a lot of attention by the media these days as everyone from teachers to politicians try to figure out what is going on in today\’s world. Interesting enough, there are a growing number of experts who believe that if we could go back to a time when kids were allowed a chance to be kids we might be in a better place. Some fear, in fact, that the aggressive parenting that is so popular today may be the root of many of the problems that we face today.

Silent and unnoticed parenting, however, does need to provide some direction. For instance, you actually have to get out of the house and take your children to the playground, instead of allowing them to stay at home string at their electronics. Unfortunately, the latest research shows that 66% of parents worry that their child spends too much time on electronic devices. The exact opposite of paying video games, physical play stimulates brain development. Studies have shown, in fact, that it is very important for children to have regular opportunities for a variety of gross motor activities. Even more important, research shows that children who do not get this interaction in their first six years will face a lifetime of limited brain power.

Whether you are at the end of your parenting years or you are just starting that journey, it is important to realize the simple value of a park bench or a set of aluminum bleachers. A place where you can sit and reflect on play days of the past or a place where you can watch your children be physically active and enjoy their time in the fresh air. A time when they can meet both new friends and new challenges.