Parenting a Child Who is Nothing Like Me

I was a shy kid. Painfully, awkwardly shy. My preschool teachers thought I couldn’t speak. I could speak, I just didn’t want to, I was afraid to; I was a selective mute until the middle of my preschool year. Throughout school I was a rule follower and what some may disparagingly call a “teacher’s pet” but I would fondly call “a good kid”. I did well in school, got good grades, preferred reading over socializing, and did all that I could to avoid getting in trouble. I was a perfectionist and a high achiever. Typical first born, type A personality. One of my biggest fears was disappointing an authority figure. I was also terrified of drawing attention to myself. So, for most of my childhood, I flew under the proverbial radar, tried my best to follow rules, and kept myself entertained by reading books and writing my own make-believe stories.
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Toddlers are Psychopaths

Recently I came across a checklist called the “Hare Psychopathy Checklist” which is a diagnostic tool used to rate a person’s psychopathic or antisocial tendencies.There are several items on the checklist that are supposedly indicators of a person being a psychopath. Looking through the list, I was struck with how many of the indicators are also present in toddlers. See for yourself:

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What Textbooks Couldn’t Teach Me About Children

I have been working as a School Psychologist for 15 years now in a Preschool through High School setting. My degrees include a B.S. in Psychology, an M.A. in School Psychology and an Educational Specialist in School Psychology. My graduate program included courses in child development, academic and behavioral interventions, behavioral psychopathology, etc. Courses full of the information I would need to be an expert in understanding children and their behavior.
Let me tell you, when I walked into my first job at the ripe age of 23, I was an EXPERT in all things children. How they develop, how they behave, how to get them to behave, how to be a parent. I was ready to change the world. Until the world hit me in the face and said “You silly goose! You know nothing.” And I didn’t. Well, that’s not true. I knew some. But textbook learning is so different from real-life experience learning. I was definitely not an expert. And I learned quickly that children are individual little creatures with their own minds, their own temperaments, and their own agendas.

For the first few years on the job, I definitely had some ideas about what parents were doing or not doing that was hurting/ helping their children’s success. Looking back, I was such a judgmental little b—. What did I know about being a parent? Not much, it turns out.

Now that I am a parent of three children, one in middle school, one in elementary school, and one in preschool, I have learned that I was far from an expert when I first started out. I’m still far from an expert now.

Here are some lessons I have learned from having children that can’t be learned from a textbook:

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Living with a Horde of Hoarders

My family is currently in the midst of moving to a different house. We are in the decluttering stage and trying to move crap out of our current house so we can slap a “For Sale” sign in the yard and show it to move. I say “we”, but that is not entirely accurate. It is “I” who am doing the bulk of the work: throwing things away, taking multiple weekly trips to Goodwill, selling random things on buy-sell-trade sites, and packing boxes for the storage unit. It’s all me. And not because my husband won’t help, but more because he won’t do it right (aka: my way).The part of this particular project that is the most challenging is that I live with a bunch of freaking hoarders. I’m serious. I actually read an article entitled “Is Someone You Love a Collector or a Hoarder” that came across my Facebook feed recently to determine if I should be seeking outside help. The jury is still out.

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Cooking Karma

My 6th grade son is currently taking a Foods and Nutrition class at school, and now thinks he is the next Bobby Flay. The only things they’ve learned how to make so far are chocolate chip cookies and orange smoothies, but he is certain he is ready to make a pan seared trout with mushroom risotto. Other than the added chaos and mess in the kitchen, his culinary interest has been a fabulous development for me, as he is desperate to make dinner as often as possible. I detest making dinner, so I gleefully say “Go for it, dude!” The added amount of cleanup and dishes in the kitchen is worth it for me not to have to make another meal that everyone complains about.

He has been crafting weekly menus and looking up new recipes to try. He has started a Pinterest account and pins meal ideas. He watches the Food Network more than he plays Minecraft. He talks about knife cuts and flavor palettes.

Last night he made some sort of barbeque beef biscuit concoction for dinner. I thought it was very tasty, unfortunately, not all in the family felt that way. Apparently he was feeling that his efforts were unappreciated. The following statements comprised the repeating soundtrack to our evening:

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