Parents: How Do We Learn ‘Best Practices’?

Isn’t it strange? We have coaches for sports, trainers for exercise, mentors for entrepreneurs–but, we get practically zero assistance for parenting?

I mean, wouldn’t it be helpful to learn “tips and tricks” or “lessons learned” or “best practices”? I don’t know if as a parent you’ve experienced something different, but we all could use a “parent coach.”

So, I wanted to write about three things that I’ve found helpful as a father.

First, I asked the head of the Newton Country Day School, Sister Barbara Rogers, this question: “You’ve seen thousands of fathers pass through this place–who were the best fathers, and why?”

Now, you need to know Sister Rogers.  She dresses like, and very much is, a CEO. She received an advanced degree in business from Yale.  She has devoted her life to educating young girls. She is insanely passionate about forming girls to be courageous and confident.

Her answer?  “The best fathers are the ones who have confidence in their daughters.” She elaborated to say that when a young girl feels that her father loves her, no matter what, and is already proud of her, then that girl will take that security into the world–and, do amazing things.  But, when it’s all about grades, looks, and accolades, the girl feels love that is conditional.

Recently, Sister Rogers mailed a letter to parents, mentioning this quotation from a 19th century educator:

We must remember that each one of our children is destined for a mission in life. Neither we nor they can know what it is, but we must know and make them believe that each one has a mission in life and that she is bound to find out what it is, that there is some special work for God which will remain undone unless she does it, some place in life which no one else can fill.

I think it would be awesome if every child became mission-driven and feels that his/her life has a unique purpose.

Second, I’ve read a few times With Love and Prayers, by Rev. F. Washington Jarvis. For many decades, Rev. Jarvis was head of The Roxbury Latin School, a boys’ school and the oldest school in continuous existence in N. America.

The book is a collection of his addresses to the Roxbury Latin student body. It’s filled with some pretty cool insights.  He writes that boys who do not get into their first-choice colleges are lucky (they learn grit).  He recounts encounters with alumni, who had perfect grades, went to Ivy League schools, and have high-paying jobs (but, are miserable when they find that career success doesn’t create happiness).

He is a man who doesn’t sugar-coat things and who encourages a long-term view:

My beloved children, now and in the years ahead you will suffer and fail and know despair. My prayer for you is that when you experience such suffering you will dig deep and from your suffering build the spiritual muscle you will need to cope with life’s many difficulties, and that in your own suffering you will grow to understand with compassion the suffering of others.

Third, I’ve found that it’s helpful to have friends with whom I can consult. The problem, though, is that this is difficult to do on regular basis. I mean, who wants to admit that they may have parented poorly?

I’m still working on this, but I’m thinking of starting a dinner group comprised of parents, whereby we discuss “Life Topics” (e.g., how to handle discipline, learning style differences, mood disorders).  Maybe, we read and discuss “case studies” or talk about TED Talks.  Maybe we read ahead of time a book and then gather to talk about it.

Worth thinking about. I mean, why not strive to be a great parent?

3 thoughts on “Parents: How Do We Learn ‘Best Practices’?

  1. Jo, i think you are right on with these points. I am a marketing executive at Hasbro and parent (of a girl), so i am thinking about these topics all the time, personally and professionally. Very interested in the dinner group, i’m in the Boston area.

  2. “I think it would be awesome if every child became mission-driven and feels that his/her life has a unique purpose.” Rick Warren would agree. You might check out The Purpose-Driven Life — maybe something to center your dinner group around?

    Also, Rev. Jarvis’s words remind me of the Apostle Paul where he writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble…” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

    Thanks for the encouraging and thoughtful post!

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