Fortunately there’s an increase in parenting conferences and classes to help the otherwise untrained parents learn to lead, guide and cope with the surprisingly different little people that live in their house. However, there’s still not a Defensive Parenting 101 that gives you a discount on your insurance when you complete the course.

Kids are amazing little information gathering, experimenting, sometimes awesome and sometimes infuriating future grownups. They have no experience at being 3 when they get there. But they charge on ahead anyway. They deserve our respect for that.

Our parenting On the Job training needs to be one step ahead of the Littles’ On the Job exploring and experimenting.

Example: Your 4 year old wants to help with the dishes for – usually – 3 reasons:

1. He doesn’t see it as work yet

2. It’s fun to play with water

3. He loves being helpful when he gets praised by his hero parents or siblings.

a parent holds the hand of a small child

Unfortunately, he doesn’t know HOW to do an adult qualified job with the dishes. But boy, will he try! Watching them process how to help with various tasks can be great fun. My three year old son was going to set the table on day. He picked up 3 plates from the counter and headed to the table. A couple of steps into the process he stopped and put the plates on the floor, picked up one and set it on the table. Then he repeated the process with each plate.

Asked why, he said “they were too heavy and I didn’t want to break them.” Praise and hugs. Gotta love that!

Kids are interns at whatever they’re doing. Play is their work. Playing the grownup roles is creating their future in advance. They can set up a scene, play it out and decide they want a different outcome. They give themselves a do-over.

We used to tell our son his home was both a safety net and a launching pad. We also told him he’d be a great adult if we could get him there… but that’s another post.